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. veronica

    God Bless our First Family!!

    And thank you President Obama for running for office.

    March 30, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Carl

    Just think of the money they could have saved if they had foregone the Inauguration Ceremony and just been sworn in at the White House......
    Somewhere between 200 and 300 million!!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Li

    It is great to see a president doing what he said he was going to do. I have been in support of Mr. Obama's decisions 99% of the time since He's been in office. I can't remember the last time I said that about any politician. So he must be doing something right. Keep up the good work Obama. Brush aside the haters.

    March 30, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. LMC in Seattle

    No matter what the President and his family do, someone will find fault with it. I think what they are doing here is fine–they are trying to lead by example. The same people who find fault with them for not buying a new oval office rug would find fault if they did redecorate with a new rug. To say that I didn't care for Bush is putting it mildly, but I tried not to find fault with every second of his life.

    It has been barely over two months since the President took office in one of the worst economic times since FDR took office. It is going to take some time to come out of this and people need to be as patient as possible. I know this isn't helpful to people who have lost their jobs, but we need to keep in mind who was asleep at the wheel when our economy went down!

    March 30, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Josh

    For a 8 years we looked for someone to lead US; it looks like we finally have the Leader we have been waiting for.
    Thanks God Almighty.

    March 30, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Gerda Edwards

    Mike Syracuse, NY @ 12:40 pm ET
    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?
    It doesn't. But based on the Obama fanatics' responses, he continues to fool them - which is what counts when you want to get votes.

    March 30, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. That Other Jerry

    On the serious side–good decision, politically and practically, in these times. Now for fun–if they are serious about redecorating affordably, why not license all the designs they use to some manufacturers? Given that the Obamas are so popular, no doubt lots of people will want to have a chair or lamp just like they have in the Oval Office. Imagine the economic stimulus that will provide to furniture factories and retailers. "The White House Collection–exclusively at Kmart!"

    March 30, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Don-Minnesota

    This should be real interesting...I only wish we could see it and approve it before hand.

    March 30, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Flight

    What a great man... leading by example. I love it.

    March 30, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. Tina

    Oh for pete's sake. Go ahead and spend the $100K. Please replace the rug. I think it is ugly. I hope you make the oval office look like it did when Clinton decorated it. I liked the blue theme.

    By the way, can I have the $100K since you aren't going to use it? You know I'm still waiting for my bailout, I'll consider the $100K a downpayment on my $5 billion bailout.

    Good luck with the decorating. Post lot's of pictures on

    March 30, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. No Hillary = No Obama

    That's a narcissist for you.

    March 30, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. frank

    saving pennies.............but spending trillions! what a hypocrite
    ridiculous vegetable garden just for show....these things don't make a difference
    your policies are going to screw up america for decades

    March 30, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  13. Maggie

    Hey, CD, if the Obamas SHOULD pay for this out of their own pocket, then doesn't it follow that ALL OTHER presidents should have paid for redecorating out of their own pocket?

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

    For those who think this act was a positive one good, for those who praise or think negatively, you are promoting the wrong message

    March 30, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    For those of you who don't understand or follow the news, Obama has always reminded people that he is in a higher tax bracket and it's only fair that he should pay more. The Obama's place their values in the American people and not "things" and we all could learn that lesson.

    March 30, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. Laura

    i love this. it makes it so much more obvious how much of a 'real person' President Obama is as compared to bush. like for example, there is no reason to replace a $60000 rug...and the Obama's get that.

    March 30, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  17. EMC-NY

    $100k isn't a dent compared to the billions wastes in what he has spent in just the first 2 months of this psuedo "presidency!"

    March 30, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. Li

    Objective Thinking: "When the Obamas spend money on an interior decorator, the supporters said it was the right thing to do because it gives the interior decorator a job. Now when the Obamas don't spend money on a new rug, his supporters say he did the right thing by saving cash.. ...You can't have it both ways"

    This is the kind of single mindedness that has go us into this mess. It would be nice if Objective Thinking could rap his thoughts around the whole picture and not just what's in front of him. By the Obamas spending there own money it is injecting new capital that wasn't on the table had they spent the govt funds. All this does is free up that amount of capital to be spent elsewhere. Its not like it will be sitting somewhere in a coffer not being put to good use. This way they can spend those funds more wisely that's all.

    March 30, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Jessie

    Here is a man who is practicing what he preaches. It starts from the top.

    March 30, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. JS

    I am not fan of Obama's, but I respect this decision. However, let's keep in mind that the renovations to the White House every four years are as much of a "stimulus" to the economy as some of the things included in last month's stimulus bill. For example, a $60,000 rug will keep several people employed for quite some time. Not replacing the rug will probably cost some people jobs.

    My person's wasted government spending is another person's stimulus.

    March 30, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. DC

    I suspect if he pays for the rug himself, he will be able to take it to his Presidential Library.

    March 30, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. Dave From Philly

    No matter what he does some peolpe will alway find fault with him. I don't recall the last president turning anything down.

    In fact Pres. Bush was estimated to be worth $15 billion when he became president. And that was 8 years ago.

    I would be surprised if Pres. Obama was worth more than $4 million.

    March 30, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. Kevin A

    Geez. You could hang conservatives with a gold rope and they would still complain. The bush family could by the Obama's 20 times over. He tries to walk the walk, and he gets criticized. Not only did dubya spend all that was allocated, he was on vacation the whole friggin time. Me thinks he probably paid some foreign decorator to do the work to boot. Obama is THE MAN!

    March 30, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Kent-California

    President Obama, you are not only smart but pragmatic.

    FYI – 1. If The President buys items to be used in the White House after he leaves office, he can write them off on his taxes.
    2. If he chooses to keep those items, he can auction them off after he leaves office and make millions.
    3. If he chooses to use the alotted taxpayer money($100k) he'll be scutinized and reticuled.
    4. Former first-Lady Bush purchased White House China from private funds, that have been raised over the years to cover such expenses.
    5. White House Helicopters – Former President Bush initiated the order for the new Presidential Helicopters. President Obama put the program on hold due to cost overruns.

    Bottom Line, the Presidency of the USA is not about one person it's an institution. Systems, protocols, security and costs have been determined well before the current President took office.

    March 30, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. Joy

    While the main stream media is so hopped up on the Obamas' paying for their own redecorating – WATCH WHAT ELSE IS REALLY GOING ON. Sneaky, sneaky.

    March 30, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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