March 30th, 2009
02:41 PM ET
12 years ago

Obamas to use own cash to redecorate White House

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Texas Straight Talker

    Frankly, it's none of our business how the Obama's choose to decorate their home with their own money. No one tells me what to buy and how to furnish my house and we don't have that right either! Democrat, Republican, whatever, it's none of our business!!!!

    March 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. kevin

    small steps can leave the biggest footprints!

    March 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. amb

    The reason Obama is willing to pay out of his own pocket is because there really isn't any more Government funds after all the bailouts and spending the U.S. taxpayers monies.

    March 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Lucinda

    President Obama is working so hard to do the things he said he would do during his campaign. I'm sick of the constant criticism he gets, and wish more people would voice their support.

    March 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    I love how all the GOPers who took the opportunity to say "how dare he spend $100K of the taxpayers' money on redecorating the WH when we're in such a crisis!!!" are now resorting to "this isn't news" and "who cares?" because he trumped their nonsense.

    March 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. CD

    If he made 2 mill last year he SHOULD pay for this himself.

    March 30, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Carl Justus

    .We should congratulate the Obama's for actions that match their rhetoric. He wants belt tightening and every to be responsible for their actions. They are showing the way.

    Can you imagine Bush or any other republican using their own money to redecorate the Whitehouse??? They would probably borrow another billion from China to get the job done on a no bid open end contract. The Bush's could buy the Obama's ten times over.

    March 30, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. JoeShmoe

    I think this is just more grandstanding on the first Families part. Yeah, it looks good for them to pay for the renovations, but then they didn't get taxed 90% on the book deal(s) either. Hypocrites.

    March 30, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. Willa

    What a great example the Obama's are setting! I am a great believer that one shouldn't have to spend a fortune on clothes or furnishings. Good taste is what counts and for those who are fortunate enough to have it, it doesn't cost a penny.

    March 30, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. elana

    I'll just bet Cindy McCain and John McCain would have welcomed the 100,000 dollars since they ONLY have 7 or 8 houses, tons of cash, and other materialistic perks!!!

    March 30, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. NObama 2012

    BHO has enough cash to pimp is crib. Good for him!

    The rug is about the only nice thing to come from the Bush era. Nice job Laura!

    March 30, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Tabitha

    I swear, he can do nothing right.

    Oh wait, no, it was the LAST president that did "nothing" right which is why we're in this spot!

    I love how those of us who are grateful at least SOMEBODY, be it Obama, McCain, or Daffy Duck, is trying do to SOMETHING, are getting bashed as well.

    Sorry. Forgive me for wanting to keep my job. Forgive me for wanting to eat. Forgive me for wanting to be able to afford to put gas in my car, which thanks to Mr. "I DIDN'T REALIZE GAS WAS $4 A GALLON IN CALIFORNIA WHILE I PUT THE MONEY IN MY POCKET" Bush is what kicked off this mess to begin with.

    He may not be running things perfectly, but at least he's attempting to run them.

    March 30, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Tiger75

    Thats a good thing that he is doing, maybe other will follow his lead I can't ait to hear what the GOP have to say about him turning down the money

    March 30, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Rick

    You dumbocrats are amusing, if nothing else. After 8 years of hearing you spew the most vicious bile imaginable at George Bush, now, suddenly you've all become so sensitive about any trash talk.

    You reap what you sow.

    March 30, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. David in Houston

    Rock on, Mr. President!

    March 30, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. cowboy

    pam from oregon, you are a moron, the dems started all this mess by NOT listening to bush. barney frank and chris dodd should be hanged for treason. you need to do a little research before you start pointing fingers, typical liberal

    March 30, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Couldn't have said it better:
    "Get a life, people! The Obamas chose NOT to spend taxpayer money to redecorate. How can anybody complain about that? End of story."

    March 30, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. S Callahan

    I love it! He is role modeling for all the politicans and corporate leaders.......nice!
    Of course, this gives them great leaway to decorate at their comfort level and they should while being a respector of the significance of the White House.
    Nice move ...had to be Michele's idea (smile).

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

    Well done Mr. President! Keep cutting, like Congress' pay for example!

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

    I think its incredibly that the conservatives can spend more money on clothes in a election campaign than the liberals spend in redecorating The White House... I think the conservatives are starting to have their motivations exposed (abuse of power, reaping the benefits of exploiting others)... Government spending isn't so bad when we are replacing four year old top of the line furniture for new top of the line furniture huh Republicians... Government isn't soo bad when we are awarding contracts 200% above value to our campaign contributors.... You make me laugh GOP, please have another 12 year old give a speech "conservatism" and show us how to brainwash kids

    March 30, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Audrey in Georgia

    Bravo to the President and Mrs. Obama!!! But looking at pictures of the
    oval office, I think you should replace those two sofas, coffee table and
    desk with a more modern decor to reflect more of your style and the
    21st century. Let's get some pictures on the walls, too!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. KW, Vail AZ

    Either many of you can't read or you're just so anti-Obama that it doesn't matter, but the OBAMAS ARE SPENDING THEIR OWN MONEY, not tax dollars to redecorate the first family's personal quarters. After all they're likely to live there for the next eight years. Please find somethin worthwhile to gripe about. Real change is coming and there's nothing the "No ideas right" can do to stop it.And by-the-way, the inauguration was paid for with private donations.

    March 30, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. CNN Ed Henry Bu$t Was Handed To Him In A Platter of Doodoo

    Now it's about time the republiKLANS senators and their lackeys in congress give up some of the paycheck and quit asking for more pay raises!

    It's about time the RNC whinners put their money where their mouth is – and quit complaining about spending and big govt. while taking tax payers money for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!!

    When is John "tan boy" Boehner and Eric "Britney Spears" Cantor going to give up their paycheck and live by example? – instead of just spurting the gibberish talking points from their leader Rush Limbaugh!!!!

    March 30, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. Henry

    A class act.

    I am a cynic but this is way good!!

    March 30, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  25. Jane

    Finally we have someone in the White House who is showing restraint and responsibility!

    Congratulations to the Obama family!

    March 30, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
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