designer Jamie Drake
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Meet the Designer

Design Hall of Famer Jamie Drake is known for his use of intense color and surprising juxtapositions. In addition to doing a stylish update of Gracie Mansion for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Drake decorated Madonna?s Los Angeles house and frequently creates notable rooms for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House.

yellow bedroom
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Color Strategy

MyHomeIdeas (MHI): You seem especially comfortable using strong color. Is there a strategy in how you use it?

Jamie Drake (JD): I do love color and utilize two strategies depending on the space. One is to envelop a room in one color: walls, upholstery, curtains, and sometimes even case goods all would be in the same color but with varied tones and textures. It is important to give it some relief, with either light or dark wood pieces or accents in another color in pillows, lamps, or other accessories.

My second strategy involves using shots of color in an otherwise more neutral room. I like to disperse the selected shade throughout a space, so the eye moves from larger items (curtains, chairs) to midsize (pillows, lampshades) down to small (tabletop accessories, a single flower). I often paint the ceiling a pale, pastel shade of the color to bring the eye up.

pink and green bedroom
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Of the Moment

MHI: What colors do you love right now? Are there any color combinations you?re tired of?

JD: I love the colors of spring, pastels with personality. Orchid, rose, angel skin coral, fresh kiwi mousse, May sky blue. I?m rather tired of chocolate and pale blue, but anything can be beautiful if done well.

dining room with blue glass chandelier
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Starting Point

JD: If you find yourself frozen in deciding what palette to choose when you have opted to jump into the color pond, the best place to look for guidance is your heart. Ask yourself truly what colors make you joyful! The answer is in you.

yellow living room
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Create a Balance

MHI: When you have to convince a client to sign off on a bold color choice, how do you make your case?

JD: I always stress the balance of color, how much as a percentage will be where in the room, etc.

plum foyer
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Size Matters

JD: Small spaces often benefit from a huge color blast. I will cover the entire room in one color with the variety of texture from paint, fabric, and accents providing interest. I find by coating a small space in one color, the room?s perimeter dissolves, creating a sense of increased space. I always leave one plane, usually the floor, as a contrast.

bedroom with teal curtains
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Sleeping Beauty

JD: Although conventional wisdom is to keep bedrooms in softer tones, my own bedroom is a full-on, vibrant chrome yellow: walls, ceiling, curtains, lacquered bedside tables, and chair upholstery. I find it invigorating to awake in, yet have never had a bad night?s sleep on the coordinated yellow bordered linens.

royal blue stair runner
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Historical Color

MHI: In Gracie Mansion, you used a particularly vibrant palette. We understand it's historically accurate. Really?

JD: The vibrant colors of the past are often a big surprise to people. At Gracie Mansion, all the colors used were taken straight from the Federal palette circa 1800-1820.

blue grasscloth wall covering
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Shifting Into Neutral

MHI: As much as you are known for using color, neutrals always factor into your schemes. Can you explain that balance?

JD: The tricky thing about using a lot of color is to make sure you ground it. I always include a dose of at least one non-bright color. Try crisp white, inky black, rich brown, or wood tones to create a sense of structure that will keep the room from looking too over the top.

gold mirror
Courtesy of Jamie Drake

Troubled Times

MHI: With the difficult economic times, are you worried people are going to pull back from exuberant color?

JD: In troubling times, I think it is more important than ever to find happiness at home!

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