One might imagine it would take an uncommon level of trust—and open-mindedness—on the part of homeowners to green-light their interior designer’s plans for a primary bedroom with a color scheme of orchid and cantaloupe. Except when it’s the rare client whose favorite pairing happens to be purple and orange and the designer is Jamie Drake, a master of unconventional, punchy palettes who never met a shade of purple he couldn’t deploy with panache.
Roughly a decade ago, Drake was enlisted by longtime clients to revitalize a historic Long Island estate anchored by a stately redbrick Georgian house that “had wonderful bones,” the designer says, “but really had never been updated since its construction in 1913.” Before getting to any chromatic flourishes—and there would be plenty, the couple’s bedroom included—extensive work was required to modernize the house for 21st-century living.
For starters, it lacked air-conditioning, and all of the plumbing and electrical systems needed redoing. A poorly conceived 1970s addition with garages, it was decided, would be demolished and replaced by a new poolhouse and entertaining wing. Plus, the owners wanted to make use of the home’s lower level for things such as a gym, a billiard room, and a wine cellar. But in planning the new geothermal HVAC system, it became clear that ceiling heights downstairs would only be around seven and a half feet. “We came up with the notion that we could actually lift the house on a web of steel and excavate down,” explains Drake.
Once the house was set on a new foundation, its chimneys rebuilt with brick matched to the original, and its century-old windows replaced, Drake turned his attention to the interiors. He worked closely with Caleb Anderson, his partner in Drake/Anderson since 2015, to retain the spirit and period details of the rooms while upgrading and infusing them with the sophisticated flair the duo is known for (and on full display in their first monograph together, Bold, coming out from Rizzoli in October).
In the entrance hall, Drake and Anderson preserved the marble checkerboard floor, each tile numbered and meticulously reinstalled. They rebuilt the staircase in marble rather than the preexisting wood, which Drake says “seemed like a total disconnect with the fabulous ironwork railing.” And while they based the room’s plasterwork moldings, overdoor decorations, and fluted pilasters on the originals, they “made them larger scale, bolder, stronger,” says Drake, noting that they also removed one of the pilasters for better rhythmic balance and to create wall space for art, a spot they used to display a graphic Roy Lichtenstein painting of sailboats.
The owners’ art, nearly all of it modern and contemporary, plays a tone-setting role throughout the house, serving as a foil for the traditional architecture. In the foyer, next to the Lichtenstein, one of Alexander Calder’s iconic mobiles floats above a sculptural metal piano by the London firm Based Upon “that looks like it got dropped in from outer space,” as Drake puts it. Neoclassical mirrors and antique ruby-glass sconces are mounted over Deco-ish consoles in parchment, bronze, and lacquer by Hervé Van der Straeten, adding to a centuries-spanning mix that Drake notes is “a statement of what’s to come in the rest of the house.”
While the entry mostly sticks to muted neutrals, visible through open doorways are spaces splashed with striking color, not least the living room, where the walls are skimmed in a plaster Drake describes as a “warm, embracing, vibrant coral-y salmon.” Centering the room is a large, robustly modern Vladimir Kagan tête-à-tête sofa, while sitting areas on either side feature the same diverse furnishings—a ’40s upholstered sofa and chair, biomorphic contemporary cocktail tables, an English open armchair—composed in “asymmetrical symmetrical groupings where everything is flipped,” says Drake. A spiraling circular painting by Blair Thurman displayed over the florid marble mantelpiece, with Tang horses standing atop antique English consoles on either side completes the picture of spirited eclecticism.
“We were looking to strike a balance, aiming for elegance and high style with some degree of formality, but not in a way that’s leaden and certainly not grandmotherly,” says Drake. “It’s high style that looks to the past but does not ignore the present.”
In the dining room, Drake and Anderson clad the walls in traditional paneling with a carved linenfold detail along the base, but they painted it all an electric cobalt blue and installed artworks by Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor, and Maya Lin, creating a vibe that’s anything but stodgy. The room’s monumental Suzan Etkin light fixture with blown-glass drum shades is connected to a hydraulic system so that it can be raised to allow for larger-scale entertaining with different configurations of tables in the space.
The library was given all new mahogany paneling, classical in style but also with a twist. The bookshelves are wrapped in parchment, “a contemporary take that lightens the whole room,” says Drake, who accented the largely neutral space with hits of eye-catching crimson in the chair upholsteries and the trim on the curtains.
No convincing was required when it came to the lavender backsplash, the purple reverse-painted glass cabinets, and the violet-upholstered breakfast chairs in what he calls “a contemporary take on a 1910 kitchen.” Ditto the dressing room upstairs, done in a shade of lilac.
The clients share Drake’s fondness for purple, and they happen to love pairing it with orangish hues, hence their bedroom’s distinctive palette, which is reflected in the curtains, bedding, chair upholstery, and Persian carpet, even in the Wayne Thiebaud landscape painting that hangs over an antique English chest of drawers. A window behind the bed that had been closed up was restored in order to recapture “the most beautiful view,” says Drake, who describes the grounds around the house as “a balance between formal gardens and more bucolic, rolling countryside.”
The century-old gardens have been restored and updated by landscape architect Janice Parker, a frequent Drake/Anderson collaborator. Together they refreshed the bluestone terraces and designed a new granite-bordered pool, all outfitted with Michael Taylor outdoor furniture. In these areas, Parker emphasized plants with lush, vibrant foliage and flowers, including Agastache, lavender, and phlox in shades of purple, naturally.
There’s also a sculptural bronze firepit ringed by curved granite benches that look out to one of Tony Cragg’s spectacularly twisting totems, shaded by towering cryptomeria trees, with the trellises of the historic rose garden visible beyond. Both outdoors and inside, the residence speaks to tradition while also embracing the new. Drake, who puts it all together with harmonious pizzazz, sums up the home up this way: “It shows you how true eclecticism can really sing.”
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