March 30th, 2009
02:41 PM ET
5 years ago

Obamas to use own cash to redecorate White House

The current Oval Office rug cost over $60,000 and was designed by former first lady Laura Bush.
The current Oval Office rug cost over $60,000 and was designed by former first lady Laura Bush.

(CNN) - The Obamas are using their own money to redecorate the White House residence and Oval Office, the White House confirms, forgoing the $100,000 in federal funds that is traditionally allotted to new presidents for such renovation projects.

The first couple - who made well over $2 million in 2008, largely from book revenues - is also turning down money from the White House Historical Association, the organization that financed a $74,000 set of china for the Bushes.

New presidents have traditionally undertaken extensive redecoration efforts to their personal quarters reflect their own tastes, with a new Oval Office rug tradition ringing in as the priciest item. Former President George W. Bush spent over $60,000 on a new cream carpet designed by Laura Bush in 2000 to replace the deep blue rug that covered the space during the Clinton administration. Obama aides have said the president likes the Bush rug, and does not plan to replace it.

The decision to forgo federal funds, first reported by New York Magazine, is the president's latest belt-tightening move amid the sagging economy and widespread outrage over corporate excesses. Late last month, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced the administration had put an order on hold for a fleet of new helicopters that will cost at least $11 billion.

But it remains unclear just how much money the couple plan to spend on redecorations. In January, the Obamas tapped high-profile interior designer Michael Smith to spearhead the project.

In accepting the position, Smith said affordability would be one of the "guiding principles."

"The family's casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home," he said.


Filed under: White House
soundoff (364 Responses)
  1. President Obama Brings It!

    Awesome! I heart the Obamas.

    March 30, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  2. I respect my President & whether you like him or not, as a citizen, you should too!

    I'm sure somewhere in this "I back up what I say" piece about the Obama's, the Republicans will find a way to be awfully "disappointed" in their choice to reject federal funds for redecorating. Somewhere out there, I get the vision of a "die hard but really doesn't even know WHY" Republican typing angrily at the keyboard about how the Obama's will soon have the white house looking like a shelter or boarding house due to their poor taste and non-elitist desire to reject thousands of dollars. In another area, I see a woman, rather old and rather politically uneducated, but raised as a far-rightist, none the less, biting her nails as she waits for her comment,

    "This man is nothing but a hypocrite and brings disgrace to the Presidents before him by doing away with traditions, even if it DOES mean spending money on frivilous things while our economy suffers"

    to pass CNN's moderation because it's important for the world to understand why a story such as this angers her and her party.

    By the way, KUDOS to the Obamas. I respect and appreciate you and I pray that you endure possess, strength, diligence, and be steadfast in the midst of the useless comments and slander thrown your way so that you can ONLY focus on getting this country to where it needs to be. I pray that we all get to actually see the fruits of your labors by the end of this term so that nay-sayers can begin to have a change of heart...

    March 30, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Maryann Rose

    How great is this?!!!

    A President who talks the talk AND walks the walk!

    Wonder how the righties will spin this so they can criticize?

    I'll check back later to see.
    :)

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. Paula

    Another 1st for this President-hopefully all those Presidents who come after him will be mindful of our tax dollars also. A $60,000 rug? Good Lord!

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Brian Crooks

    What say you now, conservatives? Clearly, this is mostly a cosmetic decision, but it does look good to turn down the redecoration money and pay for it out of your own pocket. Bravo, Obamas!

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Laurie, Spokane, WA

    Non-issue. Give it a reat.

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. barking dog from Delaware

    Now thats an ugly carpet.The seal belongs on a wall ,not the floor.

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Now what!!!

    OK President Obama haters!!! Sounds like they are in touch with the pain the American people are feeling.

    No other president what have done that. Regardless of the state of the economy!!!

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. cheryl

    $174,000 savings on renovations! I love it. Where I and many Americans with common sense come from, it's called making due with what you have. And the fact that they [the Obama's] are using their own money shows that the government money is better spent else where.

    March 30, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. Kiyaki

    Lead by example Mr. President. I wish people are watching you and taking notes..

    March 30, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. Obama 2.0

    That's my Prez! He just keeps snuffing out GOP talking points, Ha.

    March 30, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. AnnMM

    We know the right winger nutters will find a problem with this. I'm just waiting with baited breathe to hear what the looney toons will come up with.

    March 30, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. Cathy Brandes

    Good for them. We have come a long way since Nancy Regan wanted the American public to pay for new china!
    I agree to wait until the new puppy is house broken!

    March 30, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Lotta Muni

    Foregoing $100,000 which is a drop in the bucket next to the trillion (that's $1,000,000,000,000) his budget sticks the taxpayers with each year for the next decade. Nice going Barry!!

    March 30, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. Shari, NY

    Can't please everybody Mr. President! Some people will still vent that you are spending your own money and not the funds you are entitled to.

    March 30, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Mike from Vancouver BC

    Just imagine what the GOP would say if he used tax-payer's money to decorate. We'd never hear the end of it.

    March 30, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. KC

    They should....they have the money and they want it redecorated. Times are hard so redecorating seems a bit wasteful.

    March 30, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  18. sue

    Oh WOW!!!! Let's have a real PITY Party!!!!! Why the hell should we pay for the Obama's personal home furnishings? Where the h- is their furniture hiding???? I want new furniture too, but No One has me on a Bailout Dole to refurbish. The real working people PAY THEIR OWN HOME decorating. AND we don't have the rich overpaid vultures helping us!!!!!!!

    March 30, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  19. sensi johnson

    Thank you Mr. President! Now that's a new precedent. Did I hear no more federal funding for white house decorations???

    March 30, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. brooklynsdondivo

    He sure is a businessman. Way to go President Obama!!!

    March 30, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  21. Sandra

    AT LAST.... Someone with just a little COMMON SENSE! Now if all our CEO's would follow the lead, the rest of us might not have to choose between housing, food, or medical care.

    March 30, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Fair is Fair

    The best way to cover up real issues is with a diversion. Obama is a smart man in this respect.

    March 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. I'm so proud!

    Me too, I'm very proud of Preisident Obama and all that's he accomplished in the past 60 days. It's going to take a minute to get out of this mess, as it did not happen over night. I hope they will give us a peek at whatever changes they make inside.

    March 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. GG

    Bush had no choice but to replace the Clinton rug. There's no telling what was on there that we didn't know about.

    March 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. I respect my President & as a citizen, you should too!

    I can't WAIT to hear the comments about "disgracing former Presidents" and "soon turning the White House into a shelter or boarding house" because of the Obamas' "we back up what we talk" mentality about this.

    Somewhere out there, some die-hard Republicans are scratching their heads and raging fumes as they tap away angrily at the keyboard with comments like "this is a stunt" or "they have poor taste and do not hold the White House to the standard in which it should be held" or "how about he just do away with his salary altogether if he REALLY wants to prove that he cares about our economy" and so forth.

    I pray that by the end of this term, there will be substantial, recognizable fruits of their labor shown so that these "look away and close eyes" people would just have a change of heart and give this family a chance.

    March 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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