March 30th, 2009
02:41 PM ET
11 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. I voted for change!!!!!

    The Obamas are great examples!!!! Of course, there will always be critics to say something foolishless about decisions made. Im proud of my President and First Lady.

    March 30, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. Kimberly in Arizona

    These are the IDEAL people for the White House. I love them more every day. If bush was HALF the president that Obama is ,this country would be in a LOT better shape. I am SO proud of this man and his AWESOME wife!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. Rumsfeld

    I continue to be proud of the man I voted for as POTUS!

    March 30, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. David

    I am a republican, a conservative, not a "hater" (which just seems to be a convenient thing to call anyone who disagrees with you), and I'm not going to criticize Obama for this move just because he's Obama. This shows character and took class.

    I am going to read it in balance with the rest of what has been going on now however. Look at the big picture. Millions (more than Bush) of taxpayer dollars were spent on his inauguration. His economic policies are saddling us with trillions of debt per year for the foreseeable future.

    Is it nice that he is forgoing the $100k? Absolutely. I applaud him for it. But before you start worshiping him, remember the rest of the story. Look at the big picture. If he wants to come across as a president who understands the tough times Americans are facing and who is careful with taxpayer money, he'll have to prove is responsible with amounts larger than "just" $100,000.

    Ok, I respectfully disagree with the president. Call me a hater.

    March 30, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. Philip Grant

    I am convinced that there is nothing President Obama can do that
    will please those of you that hate him so much you can't stand it.

    March 30, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Ebony, Gaithersburg, MD

    What a couple...they don't just talk the talk the truly walk the walk! And to all the spectators, why can't you just admit that this President is really about the people and has no hidden agendas. He may not be successful in every change he puts forward but can you just admit that his intent (regardless of the outcome) is for the people.

    I am so proud of my President... keep up the GREAT work!

    March 30, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. ap

    The Obama's both grew up in families of modest means and EARNED every penny that they now have. Bush grew up with a silver spoon in mouth and was GIVEN his money by his daddy.

    March 30, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  8. Barriett

    What a hard hitting informative article! That is journalism. I would much rather here about this stuff than Obama's excuses for why he's not responsible for anything.

    Oh and BTW....
    I'm waiting for the comments about how this either is news or that its another example of nonsubstantive arguments by wacky conservatives trying to ruin the country. Thanks for typing most of it out for me Bill.

    March 30, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. carolflowery

    i dont give a crap

    March 30, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Thebe

    Hehe! Republicans say "No" to the president saving the taxpayers' money. Indeed, the Republicans do hate America. Now it's verifiable.

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  11. DX in TX

    This is about putting your money where your mouth is. I have such admiration for the Obama family.

    To all of the critics:
    President Obama could solve the economic crisis, capture BinLaden and mail each American a million dollars and you know would still find a reason to hate him, so get over it...He's your president like it or not.
    God Bless the Obamas

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Johnny from VA

    Who cares? Apparently he is the new CEO of GM, that is much bigger news.

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Mississippi Mike

    Wait, I thought we are supposed to hate rich people. If Obama can afford to redecorate the White House himself, wouldn't that make him rich, too? I'm so confused.

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. PJ

    The boy has got class, have to admit. Maybe we should get Rush to pay for it since he has way more money and hot air. If Laura picked it it is classy and beautiful. What party whose name starts with an "R"? Keep going BO, show them that the people come first.

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. greg

    oh my god ,, the OBAMA ,, i saw a light ,, and it was him.. he asked .. am i ready... obvious , 49 million real americans were not...

    March 30, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  16. George Arlington, TX.

    This is the best news I have heard. He is my hero.

    March 30, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. mm

    Obama should've used tax payers money... a few more republican heart attacks would be welcome

    March 30, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. LaTonia Wilson

    The Obama's are the truth. I love President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. What a team! The GOP's can take that to the BANK! Finally we have a Great Human Being in the White House. May God continue to bless the United States of America.

    March 30, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Carrie

    Na sayers will find something wrong with this too, The party of NO will spin this someway to make this look bad , maybe like many people are hurting and the Obamas are spending money on redecorating etc etc You know the drill!

    But I say great , I believe any President moving into the WH should foot the bill for the private residential areas of the house if they want to change it , why should tax payers do this for any administration. Maybe this will become the norm in the future.
    Glad he is happy with a 60 K rug in the oval office , Why waste our money . he is senseable at least.

    Wow , is what I think of this fine family .... they are a great example of what we all should do to help the economy.
    They are really showing us change we can believe in!

    March 30, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  20. atypical

    Their actions are to be commended. it is unfortunate, however that this is seen as the exception.

    I think it time for the people to be more vocal, to unanimously call for a prohibition on excessive spending in the White House.There is no need for 60k rugs and 75k china, etc. . .. No need.

    Politicians are in the habit of feigning disgust and disapproval over unnecessary spending,but typically they are examples of the worst violations.

    Truly, we have allowed ourselves to be distracted and complacent long enough. Can you feel a change coming? Question is what kind of change are we wanting and to what degree are we willing to participate?

    March 30, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Tyler

    I'm stunned by all of these bitter, hateful comments.

    I think this is a superb display of leadership by example. It may not amount to much in the big scheme of things, but it is the gesture that counts. Bravo Mr. President. You're awesome!

    March 30, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Wise

    To all those who consider $100,000 to be insignificant I have an old Saying which is: Many tiny droplets make a huge ocean ! Way to go Obama !!

    March 30, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. Just Shut Up!

    Look, I like this, but it seems to me that Obama is doing the same thing he's doing with his budget projections. "I'll half the budget I triple."

    Saving $100,000 is literally not worth a spec of dust when you're spending $3.6 T.

    March 30, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. Linda32

    Some of the comments on here are laughable. One person is complaining about the Pres not giving rug makers jobs, another is complaining about what he will do with the furniture after he leaves, another thinks its not enough money saved and the best, complaining about his paycheck.

    Guess what! $100K does go a bit and the billions plus that you love to complain about is going to help YOU, your community and our country. President Obama is laying the ground work to make sure our country will be propose for years to come. How about you think of the alternative.....we've had 8 yrs of that example.

    A truly good and smart man is in the White House, how proud am I!!!!!

    Also, he is stimulating with his own money.

    March 30, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. Tina

    Whether or not this is our business is not the issue. I'm glad to know our president is turning down this money. It is senseless spending in times when our country needs this money most and our president obviously realizes this. I applaude the Obamas in their decision. Those of you who are cynical about this good news disgust me.

    March 30, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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