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. liden macoff

    All the goodies will come in through the back door of the White House.
    Can't believe some of the public is still falling for this charrlatian.
    He's spending your tax dollars left and right leaving nothing but debt in his wake. While he retires on millions.
    Listen to the laughter as you drive by the White House.
    Wake up America.

    March 30, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Good Job Mr. President Obama and Mrs Obama

    March 30, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. coolbeans

    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.'

    Yeah...of course you will be voting for Palin so that she can finish what the shrubs started!!! God forbid!!

    March 30, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Steve

    Us republican may have a complaint on this, sorry liberals. I know that all the furniture from previous presidents is stored in a warehouse. Now if Obama pays for his furniture, ie his desk, does he get to keep it after he is out. Will it be on the auction block for millions on his 100k after he is out? Is this a monetary venture? Maybe he'll just donate it, or does this pay for his ocean front retirement property, maybe I am wrong, I am observing the details, only time will tell, why isn't this aspect touched on in the article?

    March 30, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Debra Austin, Texas

    What the critics conveniently fail to say is that 1)the inauguration was for the people who elected Obama not for Obama himslef or his family; 2)the money in the stimulus is to jump start the economy for EVERYONE not a benefit for himself. What I love about Rethugs is their need to either say "you're as bad as Bush", even though they never criticized Bush for his spending while in office; or that Obama is benefiting personally which is just stupid. I think the Rethugs need to spend more time thinking through their attacks. They are as senseless as the Rethug proposals for the economy...oh, I forgot, they don't have any proposals for the economy sans cut taxes/spending.

    March 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. 30m-Democrat-voted Clinton then McCain

    The Obama's put on a nice show, don't they?

    March 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Simpson

    That's why Obama's MY President! And watching you silly people complain and cry every day with every action he makes keeps a smile on my face. It's gonna be a great next 8 years!

    March 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. bluesky

    If Michelle Obama spent $60,000 of taxpayer money on a rug, the conservatives on this list would be screaming about it. But let the Obamas save the taxpayers $100,000, and the conservatives say it's a "non-issue."

    Guess what, can't have it both ways.

    March 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Frank the Tank

    Can't say anything bad about the President on this one...

    March 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. reagan fan forever

    Ya know what? If they're using their own money to redecorate, then it is none of anyone's business how much it costs.

    March 30, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. jackson

    i hope the bush's china at least matched nancy reagan's $210,000 worth of china!

    March 30, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Lilarose, Bandon, Oregon

    This story does not surprise me.

    I think the Obamas are reasonable people and will not take advantage of things.

    I would love to see their quarters when finished, but of course that is private space.

    March 30, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Ms. M

    Lead by example Mr. President!! What a wonderful gesture.

    March 30, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Marge

    Well we have another president who isn't a show off like the past one.

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. Nobody Asked Larry But...

    What a great example. Terrific.

    And the Bushes? – $74,000 for dishes, $60,000 for a new rug. Obscene. But should we be surprised?

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. KLK

    It would be super fabulous if they did some "Design on a Dime" type decorating where they have a designer go to everyday places (like Target, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Kirkland's, etc) and find fancy bargain items to decorate the white house.

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. Will

    Just a tremendous amount of respect for the first couple. Great story. As for Cynthia who commented that $100,000 is nothing she must be rich and out of touch especially by saying this isnt news worthy. Mr. President I will glady walk by your side any day of the week. You are truly an inspiration to me. God Bless you and your family!

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. Renee

    I'd love to ask the Republican senators (who squawk about fiscal conservatism) how many taxpayer funds they have spent on their offices, trips and dinners.

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. wagon

    Belt tightening in Washington. That's fuuny. Turn down $100,000 and propose spending 3-trillion of money we don't have.

    March 30, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. Mike, Albany

    This is truly leadership by example. And by the way, Barron's this week, which is no liberal mouthpiece, has a positive view of the bailout. It's time for the republicans to back off and let INTELLIGENT people fix the economy.

    March 30, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. NXTH

    I applause the President for taking his own money to decorate his quarter. He's making a great examples for all executives.

    March 30, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Neppy Jones

    I think they (Obama's) are some awesome people. I guess they do know about taxpayer's money they pays taxes himself. I am glad they used their owned money they earned legally to decorate it the way wanted it decorated. And as far as the plane why use it all the other presidents have used it. The white house needs some lifting from the drab cold atmosphere it has had in the past. Way to go Obama's.

    March 30, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Philip

    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.

    March 30, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  24. Ghost

    The president's got to be something shady about this.

    Wow, I was only joking, but someone did find a way to turn this into a negative.

    March 30, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Jan

    Big whoopdee do. This is a drop in the bucket what they're 'saving' the American people.

    March 30, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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