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. marygrace

    Way to go, Pres. Obama. Great example for us all including the last President. See 'W'.....this is how to be a leader!!

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

    Good thing. Obama is taking over 500 folks with him to the G20 meetings. That's a record!!! Apparently, 200 are security and others I guess are probably teleprompter writers.

    March 30, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. Realist

    All smoke and mirrors, diversion is the best tool and it is working to a tee. Look at all the comments on here alone. This is a guy who shakes your hand with a smile with his other hand in your pocket.

    March 30, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Randy

    I won't respond to all the Obama-haters, I will just say good work Mr. President..

    Attitude reflects leadership

    March 30, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. me

    The bushes took both the 100k and the 74k for some dishes... The Bush family is one of the most wealthy families in America, consequently the world. How do they justify taking our money?

    And how do the conservatives match that with the outright lie of Obama being an irresponsible spender?

    March 30, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. JL

    one day it will dawn on people....HE'S A MISER!!!
    he knows the value of a dollar.

    he grew up poor...

    March 30, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. S.M

    At least they have sense enough not to use the Taxpayers money unlike the GOP who would bleed us dry.

    March 30, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Michael - USAF Veteran

    Remember when the news media made a big deal out of the number of McCain's houses? Barack Obama is so out of touch with the American people during the roughest recession since the depression. Fix the economy first Obama then your Penthouse.

    March 30, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. jay

    Good for you Mr President, but can I have the money?

    March 30, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. philipbenedictus

    such inpiration for other leaders

    March 30, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. cspurgeon

    Very Good....I sure like this family...and still think hes going to be a fine President.

    March 30, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Howard in Aurora, CO

    Leading By Example, how cool is that ?

    March 30, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. Scott the Independent

    JUST IMAGINE IF YOU CAN John and Cindy McCain saying the economy is so bad that we will spend our own money to revamp our private quaters. It would NEVER have happened.

    As our economy started spinning out of control for the past 2 years and at the very beginning the Bush administration was spending billions and attempting to commit trillions, via the Iraq war, for another 15 years. Mrs. Bush was ordering hand crafted china for 10's of thousands of dollars at taxpayer expense.

    Yet, still there are those that are so BITTER (I went there) they have to attack even this – among the other things the Obama's have done to reduce the financial expenditure of the office of the President.


    March 30, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Thank god we picked the right person for the job this go round. Could you imagine Bush doing this, or worse having to be in office during this?

    March 30, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. Some guy

    "The taxpayers pay his salary, so we are still paying for it?"

    Really? Aren't you the same people who were bashing him a few weeks ago for all the money he EARNED from book deals? Do we pay Michelle's salary? A little consistency from the haters would be nice. Have a nice day! 🙂

    March 30, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Randy

    How about the $500k he excepted 3 days before he was sworn in. Now how about the 1 trillion a year he plans on spending the next 10 years. Wake up america we are becoming CUBA!

    March 30, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. sue

    What difference does it make how much they spend if it's their money? I say, good for them!

    March 30, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. PGraber

    He just did this to make up for all the other crap he has done. He stole the election, so he thinks if he pays for the renovations, we won't remember that he stole the election. Not me, baby.

    March 30, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Cary

    The White House is probably the most visited house in the US and should look presentable. Obama is doing a fantastic job.

    March 30, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. First Timer, New Jersey

    LRW wrote…'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.'

    Don't worry, the Obamas will take THEIR furniture when they leave in 7 yrs and 9 months. Remember, they still own their home in Chicago.

    Whilst this may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to enormous amount of the 'NECESSARY' budget put forth, remember "a penny saved is a penny earned".

    March 30, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. Larry

    My sincere congratulations to the Obamas

    The most real of Americans ...

    Prouder than ever to be one

    I fear more the knife in Cheneys hand, than any bomb ...

    March 30, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. Howard in Aurora, CO

    And when Obama gets the economy rolling again the proven "haters" won't have much to say then........... Obama, IS GOING TO PULL THIS OFF ! and all the proven haters (Booby Jindal, Rush Bimbo, Fred "The Idiot" Thompson, etc

    March 30, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. Nancy in Illinois

    That's putting his money where his mouth is! How refreshing to have a president who knows how to do the right thing. He didn't have to do this, but he's doing it anyway. Awesome.

    March 30, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Marissa

    The White House needs to look like the home of the leader of the Free World. It can't look like it was decorated from a budget-conscious issue of BH&G. (No offense BH&G). We should all be proud of it.
    However, setting a good example with prioritizing (keeping the rug–although I kind of understand why Bush wanted to replace it) and using your own EARNED money is a great gesture.
    Gestures cannot be underestimated as to their effect.
    Because of the Obama's conscious attempts to make it a real American home, I feel more a part of it as well.

    March 30, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. rufus

    nice gesture, but if he REALLY wanted to help the taxpayers, he would not have loaded each of us up with $200K in debt through his ridiculous deficit spending. Saving $100K is a drop in the bucket and he gets to appear magnanimous in so doing. What a showman! Wake up people and stop drinking the Kool Aid!

    March 30, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
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