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

Obamas to use own cash to redecorate White House

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. scott

    It's about time that an administration uses their head and not their power. With the turmoil in the economy I stand up and applaude the Obama's for their chose to refuse tax dollars to revamp their living quarters. But somehow I see the other party ( GOP – grandstanding old party ) trying to burst the bubble. Hey RUSH you see they are trying to fix the economy one home at a time. Lets all stand up as responsible americans and take the lead as our president has. And unlike most conservitive Republicans I hope this president does NOT fail. If he does Rush we all fail.

    March 30, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    @ JoeShmoe, who said "...but then they didn't get taxed 90% on the book deal(s) either"

    THAT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE ON ANY LEVEL WHATSOEVER. You guys are truly truly amazing. Check your own house first "my friend"...this economic crisis didn't start on 1/20/09....economists have been warning of this impending disaster for the past couple of years but nobody in the BUsh admiinstration listened. They were too busy buying new silverwear and china and redecorating the WH for thousands and thousands of TAXPAYER dollars.

    March 30, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Jennifer

    I think it is great, first they buy their girls a swing set to play OUTSIDE, encouraging exercise and being a normal child, now they want to decorate their way with THEIR money.

    They are using American designers, American artists, they bought an AMERICAN swing set.

    Maybe if other parents would be more concerned with what is going on with their children and their own lives the country wouldn't be as bad off as it is. KUDOS to the Obamas for keeping themselves and their children grounded!

    March 30, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. Bev

    Obviously from the negative comments in this blog, there are some who will never be happy no matter what the effort of the Obama family. This is a lead by example decision that should uplift this country. As ole Ben Franklin said, " A penny saved is a penny earned." Good for you, Mr. President!

    March 30, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. Shannon in MD

    "BHO has enough cash to pimp is crib. Good for him!"

    BHO? Um, that's Mr. President to you!

    March 30, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. Ubaid R. (Durham NC)

    He is setting such examples ..hard for the presidents to follow. It feels good to have an honest and open president.

    March 30, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. Can't Make it Up

    This is too funny. Everyone is applauding the Obama's for saving $100K in recordations, but the man is going to run the nat'l deficit up between $5-$8 TRILLION depending upon which economist you believe.

    Watching the herd run for the cliff with their heads firmly placed in their posterior is a sad commentary on Americans critical thinking skills.

    Save a penny to spend Trillions of dollars and everyone applauds.

    Only in America!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Dan

    If he spent the money, he's being wasteful in hard economic times. If he spends his own money he's grandstanding and a hypocrite. The real hypocrites are the people that complain sooooo much, yet have no solution other than the same talking points that came from failed policies. The people that believe one party has to be right and the other is always wrong are the problem. It's called ignorance.

    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Fran Teti

    The comical thing about all the GOP supporters in this time is their FEAR! The fact that we have the "one just man" in the White House has them terrified about their future. Keep coming to the mikes guys! Every time you open your mouth you confirm the fact that your motives are self serving and not acknowledging all the suffering that is present in this country. If you people would think about something other than YOUR money, YOUR taxes, YOUR luxuries, wouldn't it be a more supportive community. I really feel sorry for those who don't have the ability to put themselves in another's shoes. GO OBAMA!

    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Ian

    People that are this ignorant just dont get it......

    CD March 30th, 2009 12:57 pm ET

    If he made 2 mill last year he SHOULD pay for this himself.

    The fact of the matter is tha President Obama is using his OWN money when he could EASILY have taken the federal money allotted to him.

    George Dubya had WAY more than 2 million to work with, yet he chose federal handouts and also ruined the economy in the process. =)


    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Robert

    "Can someone explain how turning down $100,000, but putting out a budget proposal with a $1.75 trillion deficit is setting an example fof fiscal responsibility?"

    quoted for truth

    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. tigerakabj

    I'm sure just like the teleprompter nonsense, the GOP and their witless cabal will spin this one real well. Somebody that actually walks the walk and is truthful confuses them, makes them angry, and prone to senseless and thoughtless actions.

    Keep up the good work Obama. I'll enjoy your "socialist/marxist/federalist lol" policies over that policies-from-hell that took the country apart the last 8 years.

    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. Obama Fan

    They are good people. Lucky to have them!!

    March 30, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. JHK-CA

    Good for you Obama!

    March 30, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  15. Shannon in MD

    "Who pays the "Presidents" salary? So are we really saving anything? If maObama really wanted to save, he wouldn't spend anything on redecorating. What's wrong with the way it is now? This is not real "Change"..just more BS."

    Was it BS when the Bush's or any other President for that matter decided to redecorate?? And what do you mean by "are we really saving anything? He is using his EARNED MONEY! Think people!

    March 30, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. MzHeather

    All I can say is HE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!! He has the right wings and conservatives in an upheaval! And we all know that can only mean one thing!! Keep on keeping on Mr.President!

    March 30, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  17. Tom

    I'll bet the most of the GOP will find something wrong with this. All they have done is cry and nit pick everything he's done instead of offering any real solutions to the economic problems except more of the same that got us here in the first place. I don't agree with Obama on everything but I enjoy his leading by example. Way to go!

    March 30, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  18. Anton

    i don't care about politics really, but with all this attention around, don't you people see that what really happens here is development of personality cult? and as world history tough us many times over, nothing good can't coume out of this.

    March 30, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Steve


    They didn't get taxed 90% on the book deals they have because the book deals weren't financed by American taxes. Take your backwards logic to the FoxNews website because your ignorance is not wanted.

    March 30, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. liden macoff

    As if we did n't already know it. CNN is moderating the hell out of all the anti-Obama comments. Way to go freedom of speech.
    Cnn heavily slanting the news.

    March 30, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Ken

    I am not a big fan of Bo, I believe he is going to run this country into debt that will enslave our children to the government for generations. It is nice though, to see ANYONE in DC decide not to spend a few fractions of a percent of the money they pick from the tax payers pockets. Too bad that tens-of-trillions are being squandered, but at least we have that 100K.

    March 30, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. BJ

    So they saved the taxpayers 100,000 bucks...that works out to what, .005 cents taxpayer?

    Big whoop.

    March 30, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  23. Stickman

    So let me get this straight.... This guy spends more than ANY president in history and you guys are happy because he is paying for his own drapes? Maybe Americans are not as bright as I thought.

    March 30, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. thanks

    I don't think it's Amazing... and I don't think it's a Show..

    I think it is the right and responsible thing to do in these times. I think that people on both sides making a big deal out of it is a little over the top. But I do admit that it is small things like this that make the large percentage of americans that do not have a lot feel closer to being a part of America as a whole.

    This decision (among so many more important ones) is another example to the world that Americans can make sense and act with reason and responisbility.


    March 30, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. ran

    Just got to love the guy. Just think if more would do the same how we all would be better off. A lesson I am sure will be lost on the Republicans. Go President Obama.

    March 30, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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