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Decorating Dos and Don'ts For Obama White House

Decorating Dos and Don'ts For Obama White House

In the New York Times article "Free the Blue Room," writer and Domino magazine editor Deborah Needleman argues for a more modern aesthetic for the White House. Unfortunately, this is no simple task. Why? Because so many previous generations of White House first ladies have shown little imagination in decorating the capital home, since the initial redecoration in 1962 by Jackie Kennedy.


In order to revive the cringe-worthy decor of the White House, reports Needleman, Jackie Kennedy cleverly framed her dramatic makeover as an historical renovation, and had Congress designate the White House as a museum. Unfortunately, since this time, following first ladies have interpreted the preservationist mandate as something not to be tampered with. Thus, the White House's style has languished under a style that, while under Jackie's eye and stylish guidance, looked lovely, but in subsequent interpretations, has gone slightly sour.

To read more about Needleman's recommendations, and to see a video of Jackie Kennedy giving a tour of the White House, read more.

In the article, Needleman recounts,

As [Jackie Kennedy] understood, the White House, in order to truly be “the people’s house,” should reflect its living character as much as its history. Mrs. Obama’s appointment of Michael Smith, a Los Angeles-based decorator, is a promising start. He is well versed in the art of Gilbert Stuart and the craftsmanship of Duncan Phyfe, but is unlikely to shy from adding, say, modern paintings by Mark Rothko or furniture by Samuel Marx.

Needleman concludes that, "The White House ought to reflect the truth that people live surrounded by many historic periods at once — in our art, music, and literature as well as in the decor of the rooms we inhabit. To revive the spirit of Camelot, the Obamas need to show reverence for the past without living in it."

How would you like to see the White House decorated under the Obama administration? Are you a modernist who hopes decorator Michael Smith injects a sense of 21st-century life into the surroundings? Or do you think it's best to leave well enough alone?


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