Jamie Drake on Designing for Michael Bloomberg and China’s New Millionaires

Lunch with a New York-based interior designer who has gone global

I was joined for “Lunch” at Michael’s today by Jamie Drake and Michael McGraw, who besides being two of the best-dressed men in any room in New York City, have both parlayed their impeccable taste into formidable businesses.

Michael helms his own PR firm, The McGraw Agency, and represents an impressive array of tastemakers including Jamie, who is among the most well-known and respected interior designers here and abroad. When I found out both were free to dish at Michael’s today, I jumped at the chance.

Jamie Drake, Diane Clehane and Michael McGraw

I first met Jamie when he was being honored by Fashion Group International at the Annual Night of Stars gala a few years ago (Full disclosure: I’m on the creative committee). Best known for creating environments that are both glamorous and modern yet always reflect the individual client’s needs and tastes, Jamie is highly sought after by the well-heeled set stateside and around the world–most notably in China. His clients here in town include Michael Bloomberg (more on that later) and Madonna.

Unlike many other “name” interior designers who, after decades of hard work, opt to pull back and rest on their well-appointed laurels, Jamie is busier than ever. Next week, he leaves for China to attend The China International Furniture Fair in Guangzhou, where he will unveil a line of furniture especially designed for the Asian market under the label Jamie Drake for Theodore Alexander.

“I’m super excited!” said Jamie of his latest collaboration with the High Point, North Carolina-based furniture company. The new collection features pieces with “high lacquer and gilded finishes” and other “embellishments.” Sounds swanky, doesn’t it?

Jamie’s expansion plans into international markets also include the opening of 11 (!) Jamie Drake for Theodore Alexander stores in Asia next year. He’s also just signed “a letter of cooperation” with one of China’s largest development firms with interests in Asia, the United States and Europe. “Many of my designs are better suited to a global customer versus the American heartland customer,” he told me. And besides, “Asia is minting 100,000 new millionaires a year–that’s 100,000 new customers looking for high-end design.”

That’s not to say things aren’t going great guns stateside. In 2015, Jamie took on a partner, Caleb Anderson, and merged Drake Design Associates and Caleb Anderson Design to form Drake/Anderson. When I asked Jamie what prompted the partnership he told me, “I did it because I wanted to ensure we would continue to grow,” adding the only thing he didn’t want to grow was his stress level. “I wanted to take on a partner–not sell the company.”

The firm was named to the Architectural Digest AD100 list in December. Jamie had been on the list for many years, but it’s no small accomplishment to have the newly formed partnership make the list since so many firms drop off the roster from year to year.

Caleb, who first worked with Jamie as a college intern and then returned a few years after graduation for a few years before opening his own firm, was on “the short list of five possible candidates,” said Jamie. “I assumed he was going to say ‘no,’ but I took him out to lunch and when I asked him, he said, ‘Oh my God, I would love to do that.’ It’s been a wonderful merger.”

Drake + Anderson recently finished two apartments in the One57 building on 57th Street, perched high above Central Park, and are currently working on a full floor at 56 Leonard Street, in the iconic Herzog & de Meuron, building due for completion soon, as well as a 12,000-square-foot residence in Bridgehampton and a large apartment in the Baccarat residences.

The firm also has projects in Los Angeles, Texas, Florida and London. A soaring stock market has the well-heeled set spending as much as they ever have on their sprawling homes and posh penthouses. “It seems we’re prospering from things we abhor,” said Jamie between bites of his burger, referencing the results of the presidential election. “The decrease in regulation,” he noted, has made his clients optimistic about their bank accounts.

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