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. Michael

    A politician who practices what he preaches? IT'S A MIRACLE!

    March 30, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Morgan Smith

    At least we have ONE person with some moral values on the Hill.

    March 30, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. RSB - St George, UT

    God Bless the Obamas!

    March 30, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Debby, NJ...foot soldier 'til 2016

    Why the hell did Duba need a $60,000 rug for and we won't begin to talk about the china that his wife probably has taken to the Texas Ranch...hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    March 30, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. worriedmom

    And this is suppose to impress me. Sure wish he would look at the taxpayer money he is shoveling out to fund everything else!

    March 30, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. norma wilkinson

    The President is once again showing his intention to do the very best he can to bring our country back to the best it can be.Refurnishing the White House with their own money may set a fiscal pattern for future familys of the mansion. Once again, you who are finding fault with every thing the p[resident does, please remember that he has been in office less than three months and it took us eight years to get into this mess. If it were you in that position,you"d be hollering lowdly to be allowed time to do the right thing.Onward and upward.God Bless America.

    March 30, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. johnny

    @ LRW March 30th, 2009 12:22 pm ET

    I would hope that he doesn't spend too much of his own money to redecorate since he will only get to live in the place for another 3 yrs and 9 months.

    Hahahahahaha!!!! To be replaced by what GOP superstar? Too funny!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Sean

    It's great that the Obamas are showing modesty and control in this current crisis, but too much shouldn't be made of them eschewing the new helicopters. I understand that $11 billion sounds like a lot of money spent maybe for nothing, but those helicopters keep my dad employed and without a new order coming in, my dad's contract for the past few years is running out of money and he might be out a job. So congrats for control and belt-tightening, but sometimes a little spending helps a lot of people out.

    March 30, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. karen-Phoenix

    As a 40 year long republican who voted for and donated to President Obama, I am sooo pleased I did!!! Love everything the man is doing!
    National Health care, energy jobs that stay in the USA-wind, solar. and of course Public Education is a must!!! This is a great move. He is a man from the people, for the people and understands us.

    March 30, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Dan in NY

    The Conservatives here are criticizing the President, saying he's just grandstanding. How come they had no problem with Bush FINANCING a $74,000 set of China? Why is it OK for the Bush family to spend $74,000 on dishes, but not OK for the Obama's to spend their OWN money to decorate their new home?

    March 30, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. DMeezy

    In response to someone below saying that nobody tells them how to decorate and this isn't our business.... It becomes our business when we are essentially paying for it!

    However, in this case, we are not! Hurray for Obama! I think the case of the traditional new carpet is an ego trip thing in making it "your own"..and it's dumb. I'm glad Obama is rising about it!

    March 30, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Stacy

    Look at my president leading by example!! I love it!! Go ahead and find something else to use against him and he'll find a way to beat that to.

    March 30, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Joanna

    That probably a smart move.

    March 30, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Jeffrey Root

    Although I do not agree with many of his decisions thus far, I respect him for this one. You cannot say this isn't a good thing can you?

    March 30, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. sue

    We did not vote for Obama but, so far I like my President! He seems like an honest and caring President. "A Government of the people, by the people and for the people" Lincoln That's President Obama!!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    A refreshingly responsible and unselfish action from one the Republicans love to characterize as a big spender. OBAMA 2012!

    March 30, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Gen Patton

    Let's see 100,000 versus 3.6 Trillion. Gee, thank you Mr. President, you saved 0.00000278% of your budget, for the American People. All Hail President Obama.

    March 30, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Rick

    Waste of Dollars. You think that you will save the economy or its just another Obama smoke screen to spend the millions that should have never been given to you.

    March 30, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. Politically Speaking

    Laura Bush designed a nice carpet.....I would keep it too!

    March 30, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Anne

    They're setting a great example- keep it up!

    March 30, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. Billy

    I am seeing a big change in "attitude" in the White House" an I like it. Not that I have anything against older people but doing the same old thing is I think a thing of the past. Meghan McCain said it herself, this is the new age! Hope the republicans will listen to her.

    March 30, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Realist

    save $100k, spend 10 trillion. Good math, if only his budget reflected the same principles I could get on board. Way to go for the publicity. Everyone knows this is a stunt, you cant deny it, but at the same time something is better than nothing, good job Barry. And all the people who are using this to knock Bush for the rug and china, you don't even want to see Clinton's bill...every president does this, regardless of party. Barry didnt use the 100k decorating fund but did the 150M inaguration, Beware the smoke and mirrors people, all policiticians are the same, regardless of party.

    March 30, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. K. Owens

    Excellent move President Obama! You're not just talking the talk ... but walking the walk. Thank you!!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. john b

    Brilliant PR work. He spends 100K out of pocket, he's saving the tax payers money...let's forget about his proposed budget and spendulus.

    March 30, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  25. George

    Super things come from super people. God bless the Obamas and God Bless America.

    March 30, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
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