Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
I ♥ to daydream- inspirational city images

Entries in Jamie Drake (1)


Living with History: Gracie Mansion

Gracie Mansion, New York City

Last weekend, I attended an outstanding program at the Museum of the City of New York entitled, "Living with History: Restoring, Redesigning, and Reviving New York’s Landmark Interiors."  It was a half-day symposium that highlighted several extraordinary projects that have successfully managed to bring historic buildings back to life.  It was presented in conjunction with the New York School of Interior Design.

The museum staff did a superb job of selecting some of the liveliest speakers that I’ve ever heard talk about historic preservation.  From start to finish, the presenters were passionate about their projects.  Each gave solid evidence as to why some of New York’s most iconic buildings are truly incredible gems that must be protected and celebrated.

Donald Albrecht, the museum’s Curator of Architecture, and Design, stated that the museum decided to host a symposium to showcase, “preservation as a living tradition. How do you take interiors and bring them up to date to modern times? How do they change in the broader sense?”

Originally I was going to write a general post. However, due to the depth of each project, I’ve decided to write a series of separate entries that will appear over the next several days.

Jamie Drake's Gracie Mansion

Jamie Drake of Drake Design AssociatesJamie Drake, a celebrated New York City based interior designer, gave an illustrious talk about his work on the renovation of Gracie Mansion in 2002.  The ceremonial residence of the Mayor of the City of New York was built in 1799 by Archibald Gracie, a shipping magnate.  Over the years the house was expanded by Mr. Gracie, and Mr. Drake jokingly referred to it as “the McMansion of its day.”

Overlooking the East River, the 11-acre country estate was appropriated by the City in 1896, and incorporated as a part of the newly built Carl Schurz Park.  The mansion was used for a variety of purposes, including the first home of the Museum of the City of New York, from 1923 until 1932.  

Eventually Parks Commissioner Robert Moses convinced city authorities to designate it as the official mayoral residence.  Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his family moved into the home in 1942.  Nine mayors have lived in the mansion.  However, the current mayor Michael Bloomberg does not reside there. For the first time, the building is open to the general public, and about 40,000 people visit annually.

The home had not been renovated since Mayor Edward I. Koch’s administration in the 1980’s by interior designers Mark Hampton and Albert Hadley.  Mr. Drake was hired by Mayor Bloomberg.   There were $7 million secured in private funds to complete the renovation of the four-bedroom, seven-bathroom home which was his first historic preservation commission. While doing the project, Mr. Drake said that he learned what it meant to be a preservationist, by doing in-depth research about the home, and its former occupants.  Mr. Drake said some of the challenges included the fact that there was little information about the Gracie family, and only one room in the house had maintained all of its original moldings to do paint analysis.

Sitting Room, Gracie Mansion

Mr. Drake chose a Brunschwig & Fils striped wallpaper, with an overprinted border, for the foyer, which is furnished with antiques from the collection of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy.  Previously the fireplace had been covered up.  Mr. Drake said that the floor was restored by members of the Alpha Workshops.  The nonprofit organization trains people with HIV/AIDS in a variety of the decorative arts.  Trainees learn gilding, decorative paint finishes and faux finishes, color theory, and wallpaper design and production.  Mr. Drake is currently the chairman of the board.


The Parlor, Gracie Mansion

Mr. Drake showed this photo of the home’s parlor.  The John Boone chairs are upholstered with Green Schumacher velvet.  Brunschwig & Fils rosette-patterned silk on drapery swag, open-arm chair and sofa.

He described the room:

The house is a living, breathing house.  It is open to the public, but it is not a museum.  The furniture arrangements are still contemporary for usage and conversation. We did purchase many pieces for the house’s collection that were period antiques.  All of my decorative schemes were based on historic precedent.  This patent yellow was popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The wallpaper borders in this room, and the wallpapers throughout the house were based on documents from the Nancy McClelland historic wallpaper company. The fabrics were woven to order, and those off the rack were all historically correct. The carpets were woven to order from a mill that has been in existence since the 19th century on original looms.

The Dining Room, Gracie Mansion

The scenic Zuber Les Jardins de Paris wallpaper was installed during the mansion’s 1984 restoration by Albert Hadley.  Most of the lighting throughout the house is either English or French, which would have been typical of the nineteenth century. 

A circa 1810 French chandelier, from H. M. Luther Antiques, was added to the dining room to complement the wallpaper.  There is also Scalamandré trim and silk taffeta drapery.


The foyer of the Susan E. Wagner Wing leads to the ballroom and reception area.

Mayor John Lindsay had a wing added to the home in 1966 that was designed by architect Mott B. Schmidt.  Mrs. Wagner requested the addition to meet the concurrent space needs of entertaining and raising a family.

Mr. Drake decided to use a blue runner to compliment the faux limestone gold walls.   A blue-and-gold wool carpet by Patterson, Flynn & Martin highlights the space.

Gracie Mansion is open to the public on most Wednesdays by reservation. For more information visit their website here.

Additional Links:

Alpha Workshops

Brunschwig & Fils

Jamie Drake

Museum of the City of New York

Photos: Architectural Digest