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. mk

    great, the most best country in the world will be decorated with crap from target. get real, and decorate the white house as it should be.

    March 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Emily

    Bravo Mr. President!

    March 30, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Dave NYC

    I love how much personal responsibility the Obama's are taking. They are a great example. But I have mixed feelings about the rest of the article:

    On one hand I'm outraged at how much tax payer money the supposedly "conservative" Bushes spent on decorations.

    On the other hand, I find it hilarious they had to change the carpeting after Bill Clinton used the office – I would want to change it too 😀

    March 30, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. Georgia Gal

    Lotta Muni

    While I do think that there are things in the budget that can be and should be cut, you do realize that sometimes you have to spend money to get things working right, don't you?? I'd rather him spend a lot of money on the budget (although I wouldn't mind if they made some cuts ... in fact I wish they would) than on a little money on redecorating which doesn't benefit any of us).

    March 30, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. tam

    Dam*ed if he do, and dam*ed if he don't. That should be the new GOP slogan.

    March 30, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Renee

    I'm happy to read this. Tax payer money should go to infrastructure that benefits everyone. And kudos to Geithner for flying coach.

    March 30, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Dev S.

    carpet for Oval Office designed by Laura Bush-$60,000

    trampling over the Bush legacy everyday- PRICELESS !!

    March 30, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. Georgia Gal


    That is so true.

    March 30, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. Lakayana

    Making Simple smart choices like this will add up big time in the long haul.

    March 30, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Bafun

    @ sue

    WOW!! obviously you were happy to pay for Bushes furniture, for the $ 74,000.00 china and the $ 60,000.00 cream carpet!! before you scream you could read the article!

    March 30, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. The Mamba

    Well, here we go – the republicans will find a way to turn this decision into a negative. We have to ignore those people and move forward with intelligence, integrity and common sense, and this one small but good example.

    March 30, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. vdavis

    i guess some of the people leaving negative comments here on this post didn't read the entire story or understood it... it clearly states the funds are provided to EVERY president and that the previous admin. purchased a $60,000... rug(designed by his wife) for use in the white house... it doesn't state however if President Obama was the first and only president to do such....

    March 30, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Kevin in Ohio

    Finally some sanity from this president. Now if he would just turn down the thermostat......

    March 30, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. Cheri

    Wow!! I just love this first family they make me proud.

    March 30, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. Moving Forward!

    @Matt Did you even read the article?? The President is NOT USING tax payer dollars for the redecorating!! He's using his OWN money and has REFUSED $174,000 of tax payer funds!! Now lets see if the rest of Washington is paying attention:)!

    March 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Dave

    Amazing. The Obamas pass up $100 G in tax payer money and pay for their own furniture instead... and Republicans STILL come on here and complain about THAT. There is nothing Obama can do that won't inspire crazy hatred from them. If he saved a baby from a burning building they'd find some way to complain about it.

    It's official: Republicans have jumped the shark.

    March 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. I respect my President & as a citizen, you should too!

    Why are people so concerned with what's going to be left as a bill to taxpayers generations from now when we are going through hell right NOW?

    I never understood that......if that's the case, everyone should go around screaming and angry that Eve even ate the apple.

    People, it's called "do what you have to do!" Let's see, taxpayers forced to pay the price for deficit spending NOW while we're in the middle of a recession or paying for it later after the economy has grown and paying a little extra doesn't seem like too much of a hardship at all?

    THINK THINK THINK! I get so sick of hearing these EXCUSES as to why people simply HATE the POTUS! You'd get more respect if you just be outright and honest with your reasons, because these sound bites and sugar coated lies are just RIDICULOUS and more transparent that the Obama administration could ever be! JEEZ!

    March 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. James

    Simply awesome, this is a President who leads by example and not stats quo. I like it.

    March 30, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. Anthony

    I does not matter what Obama does the Republicans will always have something negative to say because they have no clue what direction ideal what they stand for at this point

    March 30, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. Chaz

    Great! After the last administration's spend and burn policy, this is as refreshing as now having an intelligent family in the white house. No wonder the GOP is trying to stop every sensible measure to rebuild our country; they will now have to act more responsibilily when it comes to spending tax payer money.

    March 30, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |

    Has there ever been a time when the American President refused to spend the allotted money for his residence. Just once, give respect where respect is due. It is the Presidents' right to use these funds, he chose not to. He is not the first millionaire int he white house, he may be one of the few to have such a humble beginnig however. Give the man his propers. Give honour where honour is due. The former President was also a millionaire, he spent White House money on his residence. He and his father were filthy rich. No one complained when he or his wife refurnished...

    March 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. Eric

    Just because it hits the news doesn't make it a political stunt. The guy is doing what he can because he actually believes what he puts to the people. I think it's a lot more infuriating to hear how much our last President spent to spruce up his office. Being that the President is the very representation of our nation to the rest of the world, I don't mind some of my tax dollars going toward making him look good, Rep or Dem, but $60,000 for a rug? Wow. Sure, it's nice, but I think I would rather have the Saudi Ambassador remember the policies discussed than the quality of the flooring.

    March 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. President Obama Brings It!

    Barack Obama has never said that rich people are evil, "oh my". Those who take people's money that was invested and entrusted to them are. He didn't say that either, but I do. Nothing wrong with being rich. But at the expense of stealing from others, that's evil.

    March 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. Rob

    As a Republican, here's my response:

    I think this is a great move by the President. However, although I praise this decision, we need to recognize that Obama has had prior opportunities to save the taxpayers money – tremendous amounts more than $100,000 – yet that is overlooked. For example, his inauguration cost the taxpayers nearly $110-$110 million. Wasn't the economy struggling in January to warrant a decision to cut back on the inauguration?

    March 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. ANGIE

    Great Mr President. Lead by example. And since they are spending THEIR OWN MONEY

    March 30, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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