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. PAM

    It's a documented fact that the Clinton's STOLE precious White House furnishings, china, etc. AND Bush's spent hundreds of thousands to gratify their outrageous egos, so I applaud the Obama's for realizing that redecorating the White House every four years is a HUGE waste of tax payer dollars. And I do hope that respect for precious tax payer dollars will extend beyond the task of redecorating. C'mon – ELEVEN BILLION dollars on helicopters? Go figure.....

    March 30, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Saretha

    Love the example he sets for our children!!

    March 30, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Kevin


    Guess what? It has been like this for decades. The other party always bashes the other party on White House renovations. This has been one of the most cherished rites of passage for the party that is not in office. So no, you can't have it both ways.

    March 30, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Gerda Edwards


    He's rejecting the "free" money from Joe / Jane Taxpayer and is relying on the private sector to take care of things??? Why couldn't he have figured this out a few hundred billion dollars ago?

    So will they donate it eventually (for the tax break), or take it with them so that the next Pres will be stuck having to fill empty rooms (at 2012 prices)?

    March 30, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Kevin

    Good for you Mr. President. I know it's only a symbolic gesture but it feels right and it makes Americans (those who honestly want America to rebound!) feel good about this country's decision to put you in office. I don't necessarily like all of your decisions thus far but you at least are stepping up and displaying leadership.

    Where were all these conservative, economic giant brains under Bush? If they are so fiscally smart (now), why did they allow Bush to take us down such a dangerous path and not speak out against him. Maybe they were scared of the VP.

    March 30, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. Iva Taylor

    I am proud of this first couple and proud that I voted for Obama. I now know two kinds of Republicans–the one kind that is silent and giving the present administration a chance and another kind who continually bark about our president for anything and everything he does. However, I have to admit, I wasn't always silent during the last eight years.

    March 30, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Joycelyn

    Am short of words. Wow!

    March 30, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Virginia

    Every day we learn something that confirms what we always thought, that we were very smart to elect President Obama.

    March 30, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Mike Syracuse, NY

    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? By the way, I'll bet a sixpack that the $100,000 gets spent anyway on something else. It's already budgetted, and I'm sure the White Hpouse won't just give it back to us taxpayers.

    March 30, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. WhoCares?

    "For example, his inauguration cost the taxpayers nearly $110-$110 million. "

    The inaugration was FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Did you see the millions there?

    March 30, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Kenneth

    oh my stated ("Wait, wait, wait. He made over $2 million last year, so he is a member of the evil filthy rich capitalist group that is ruining American society then right?"

    Ignorance is truly bliss. President Obama has never denied his financial status. He has simply stated that higher income families (including his own) can bare the burden of these economic times until we as a country recover. he never slammed rich people ... that would be foolish ... kind of like your statement.

    March 30, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. Steve

    I don't really care much for him, but its' pretty hard to find anything wrong with this.

    March 30, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Objective Thinking

    I don't plan on bashing Obama for this at all. I think it's the right move. But I will bash his supporters.

    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. But he deprived the rug company some business!!! So which is the right thing to do? Spend money and give a job to someone? Or save money? You can't have it both ways.

    My answer is that it was right to save money, but not spend it.

    March 30, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Tonya

    This is great. What a great teaching tool for children. Make good use of what you have. Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose.

    March 30, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. LISA

    Love those Obamas's!

    March 30, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Zaphod2000

    Let's face it. The rug in the Oval Office was hardly used by bush because he was never in the room working. He spent most of his time on vacation in Texas. No need to replace it.
    They have eight more years to think about a new one, if at all.

    March 30, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. wakeupamerica

    Amazing! Kudos to President Obama and the First Lady for leading by example and bypassing the traditional ways of excess in Washington. As President, he did not have to sacrifice his decorating budget but did so anyway. BTW, if they're spending their own personal funds to redecorate to their specific tastes, then it is none of our business how much they spend.

    March 30, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Cynthia

    Unbelievable! I am so proud of this President and his family!

    March 30, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Central FL

    I respect this principled decision by President Obama. God bless the First Family.

    March 30, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. keeth in california

    Great example! How will the right-wing haters spin this one?

    March 30, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. Ann

    Why does the White House need a redecoration? And lets be serious, he spends more than 100k on his continuing campaign. Refusing the money was just another Obama show.

    March 30, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. moderate

    My dear President. This is the reason i have voted for you and will vote again in 4 years.

    March 30, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Joseph

    Its about time they start acting like they should. But I'm sure people have forgotten that Mrs. Obama wanted to be paid to be first lady. And no I'm not a republican, just very upset about the way Obama is running things.

    March 30, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Debra

    So are they going to fore go the china also. It seems that the Whitehouse should have plenty of sets of china by now.

    March 30, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. Crystal Clear

    I think I want to be Democrat

    March 30, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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