A Welcome Change to the White House Interiors


By Emily Waldorf


Laura Bush and Michelle Obama meet for the traditional tour of the White House that the outgoing First Lady offers to the incoming First Lady

President-Elect Barack Obama promises to bring change to America but will Michelle Obama bring change to the White House interiors?  The responsibility of decorating and maintaining the historic 132 room White House has always fallen under the domain of the First Lady and is filled with potential pitfalls that are easily attacked by the public.

For example, Jacqueline Kennedy and her decorator, Stéphane Boudin were criticized for making the White House too French and Nancy Reagan was attacked for overly lavish spending during a recession (her china alone cost $210, 399).  Interestingly, despite widespread criticism of the Bush presidency, Laura Bush escaped public scrutiny when the tasteful albeit “safe” rooms that she redecorated with Kenneth Blasingame were recently revealed in Architectural Digest


The always elegant Jacqueline Kennedy

As the head of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, the First Lady is expected to work closely with the White House curator, art historians, assorted furniture and decorative arts specialists, and, of course, her personal choice of decorator.

So who will Michelle Obama appoint as chief White House decorator?  Though the President-Elect’s transition team hasn’t responded yet to inquiries about decorating plans, Penelope Green made a few guesses in her delightful article, “What Will Change Look Like in the White House Décor?,” in The New York Times.  She speculated that Mrs. Obama might select Oprah’s decorator Nate Berkus, who is popular with other high-profile Chicagoans.

Ms. Green also cited comedian Andy Borowitz’ suggestion that Mrs. Obama might follow the template her husband has laid out for his cabinet appointments:  “That whole team-of-rivals approach…so instead of one decorator there will be eight: four Republicans and four Democrats, none of whom can stand each other, and (she will) make them each do a room.”

In all seriousness, I anticipate that whatever redecorating decisions Mrs. Obama makes, they will be a breath of fresh air and a welcome change to the White House.

If you are interested in learning more about the White House interiors, I highly recommend the History Channel’s show, “The White House:  Behind Closed Doors,” with Laura Bush and the charming and extremely knowledgeable Americana dealer brothers, Leslie and Leigh Keno.


President Nixon dining en famille in the President's Dining Room

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