March 30th, 2009
02:41 PM ET
6 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. AndyL

    Save a couple of hundred thousand and squander away a trillion. Yeah great job there Obama.

    March 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. Obama 2.0

    I like the rug too, I am going to get a small version for my oval office ;)

    March 30, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. bj, Texas

    What about the $240 million spent on his inauguration? The dem cooks through a hissy fit when W spent $40 million on his. Can the teleprompter in chief pay back $200 million and call it even?

    March 30, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. beevee

    The Obama's are setting a fine example of how true leadership should be leading the country in every way. Hope they do it throughout their eight years' stay in the WH.

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. reggie

    That's the least he could do since he's been taking away money from the rest of us with his crazy "bailouts" and taxing/spending. Obama is on track to becoming one of the worst presidents in history.

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. kerry

    Are they hiring? I am looking for remoldering job....

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  7. uglywart

    Leading by example, wow!! What a concept, hold on here comes the haters.....

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  8. CHANGE.COM

    That is change we can believe in! It's called leading by example.

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. Georgia Gal

    Sue,

    You did read the article right?? We aren't paying for the redecorating. The First Family is.

    March 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Fred

    What a "class act" but what should we expect from this couple...as Laura Bush was designing and buying a custom made rug and new china days before they were leaving office-spending the tax payers dollars as if it were their own..no that is not right..they never spend their own money on anything...

    March 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Steph

    Whoopee!!! ...I guess this makes up for all the other taypayers money he is stealing for his cronies on Wall Street. and for his tax cheating democrats-

    March 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Tom, Cary NC

    Hey, they can afford it. After all, Michele was paid $600K a year for her last job....a job so 'necessary' that they didn't bother to replace her. Anybody else have a position like that? I'd like one....

    March 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Had It

    Laura Bush spent $60,000 on the rug? How much did the Bushes pay for everything else with our tax dollars?

    How much did Cheney spend of our tax dollars for his temp. home furnishings?

    THEY did NOT pay with their money – THEY used our tax dollars.

    March 30, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. DT

    Awesome move president show us that people higher up give a crap. I cant wait for the Republicans to try to attack him over this...

    March 30, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. Independent voter

    This is cool. I don't agree with all of Obama's decisions so far (even though I voted for him), but choosing not to spend taxpayer funds to re-decorate the White House to their taste is a good sign. Obama wants corporate America and the auto unions to be reformed and stop excess/unnecessary waste, and he is leading by example. Way to go, Mr. President!

    March 30, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. marty

    He is the first and best for every thing.
    It is your house, so spend your money and decorate the way ycou like, there is no need to tell how much you spend. when you are ready to move, take your stuff with you.

    March 30, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Aurelia

    Let's hope we find Made in USA tags on the new decorations. Hard to find, yes, but they are out there.

    March 30, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    @ sue

    WOW!! obviousely you were happy to pay for the Bushes furnishing, for the $ 74,000,00 China and for the $ 60,000.00 cream carpet in the Oval Office!

    March 30, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Gary

    Way to lead by example!

    March 30, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Freed_From_W

    "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."

    You should probably add in that it wasn't the Obama Administration that ordered these, it was the Bush Administration.

    March 30, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. LUISA FROM NYC NOW IN MD

    Now what do you all naysayers have to say about this? This is just ANOTHER exmaple of President Obama putting his money where his mouth is. He's asking us ALL to bit the bullet and he is ONCE AGAIN leading by example. I thank my God every day that it is President Obama that is at the helm during these times and NOT the two bozos we previously had to answer to; who by the way, lined their pockets with gold at the expense of our economy and the blood of our soldiers and innocent civilians.

    Can someone please tell me when will CNN be covering the Bush/Cheney trials?

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  22. Ron - Saint Louis

    Why are all you hatemongors bashing President Obama? EVERY President before him has redecorated on the taxpayer's dime and for the first time we have a guy who is going to PAY OUT OF HIS OWN POCKET!

    Yes, it is a drop in the bucket but it isn't the cost as much as the symbol it represents. Revolutions have begun over governments doing far less while the masses suffered.

    My suggestion is to take all that whinning, hate filled energy and use it to make a positive impact on our country during this time of crisis. Don't matter anymore who did what, who was asleep at the helm, or who benefitted from bad government oversight and sloppy laws, that is an issue for another day. Let's just get America fixed and stand behind the leader that then majority of American's voted for in November.

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. natalia

    I think Mr. Obama and Mrs. Obama are genuin people....and they will stay like that. I like them and support them.

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Credit taxpayer account: $100,000 for remodeling
    Debit taxpayer account; $10,000,000,000,000 for Obama's projected budget deficits over the nexy 10 years.

    Yes, great example you're setting Barry.

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. Jenny Creiger

    I love it, Obama keeps Bush's rug. I wonder if that bothers Bush?

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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