There are only six hours to redecorate the White House: what will the Bidens’ house look like?


The only clue that exists about the Bidens’ style is their preference for Georgian architecture, imported by British immigrants between the 17th and 18th centuries, in its most modern version. Source: AP

NY.- The White House moves take place behind the scenes. On the morning of the inauguration, when the outgoing president leaves the official residence to attend the handover ceremony at the Capitol, a frantic dance of furniture, pictures, clothes and other belongings. Staff members have about six hours to complete the prop change before welcoming the new tenants as if nothing had happened.

“The scene is like that of an accelerated cartoon”, described designer Michael S. Smith, creator of functional Obama-era interiors, during the presentation last September of his book Designing History: The Extraordinary Art and Style of the Obama White House. Smith slept the night before the Obama family arrived in a basement room of the mansion. It was a concession from George W. and Barbara Bush. Because the decorators do not have permission to intervene in the interiors until the day of the transfer of powers. It is then, also, when the tastes of the first lady, responsible for the decoration by obligation of the position, are exposed.


The Blue Room of the White House Source: AP

On January 20, the scene will repeat itself when Donald and Melania Trump make way for Joe and Jill Biden. The move will be more complicated this year. Top-to-bottom cleaning will be done of the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Room is, for health security reasons. But at the moment it is unknown who will be the designer chosen by the couple. Presidents have legal permission to decorate as they like, although they have been obliged since 1963 to protect the museum character of public rooms visited by thousands of people each year if a pandemic does not prevent it.

“With the decoration of the White House you can never win, there is always someone who does not like it”, Smith explained. His work stood out for filling the walls of the mansion with contemporary works for the first time in history, such as the abstract paintings by Josef Albers, the pieces between expressionism and pop-art by Robert Rauschenberg or the colorful work of the African-American painter. Alma Thomas. Even two lonely Edward Hopper houses hung in the presidential office.

Biden’s Georgian style

The only clue to the Bidens’ style is their preference for Georgian architecture, imported by British immigrants between the 17th and 18th centuries, in its most modern version. The president-elect’s well-known fondness for real estate investments, in addition to the occasional controversy, reveals a catalog of these typical properties of the wealthy suburbs of the United States. In this style are framed the residence they own in the luxurious neighborhood of Greenville and a vacation home in Cape Henlopen State Park, both in the state of Delaware.


The Red Room

The Red Room Crédito: The White House Historical Association

But the clearest example is the DuPont mansion that the then young senator bought in 1975 for $ 185,000 and sold in 1996 for $ 1.2 million. It is one of the many mansions built by the descendants of the billionaire French chemist Samuel du Pont. It would not be unreasonable for the Bidens to go to the specialists at the Winterthur House Museum, which houses the extensive collection of decorative arts of Henry Francis du Pont, Jacqueline Kennedy’s advisor and friend, just four miles from their home in Delaware. A possibility that the local newspaper Delaware Online pointed to and that augurs a commitment to the classic.

Presidential markets

The neoclassical interiors of the presidential mansion, which George Washington ordered built in 1790, have a troubled past. When the Kennedys moved in in 1961, the first lady found to her dismay that the treasures of the residence had disappeared. There was no trace left of the Chinese porcelain acquired by its first tenant, John Adams, or the extravagant Empire-style furnishings brought from France by James Monroe, or the grand chandeliers in Ulysses S. Grant’s Gilded Age interiors.


Furniture from the 53-piece set created in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellange

Furniture from the 53-piece set created in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellange Source: AP

For almost 200 years, incoming presidents were allowed to organize a kind of flea market with the furniture and objects of their predecessors if the official budget was not enough to adapt it to their liking. “This kind of garage sale was very unfortunate,” said William Allman, commissioner of the presidential residence from 2002 to 2017, in an interview with the White House Historical Association. This caused that furniture, tableware and all kinds of decorative objects were distributed among Washington mansions by buyers who did not always appreciate their value.


A Marine guards the entrance to the West Wing at the White House

A Marine guards the entrance to the West Wing at the White House Source: Reuters

Jackie Kennedy rushed to create the Fine Arts Committee that was in charge of opening a public call to recover the lost pieces and hired Lorraine Waxman Pearce, a young specialist in antiques, who became the first official curator of the House. White The team was joined by interior designer Sister Parish, legendary for decorating the homes of the wealthy with modernized interiors inspired by the English countryside. The relationship with both did not last long. The evil tongues tell that he got rid of the first for making decisions without consulting him and the second for giving Caroline Kennedy a kick under the table.

Melania Trump’s reforms

Following the assassination of JFK in August 1963, President Lyndon Johnson approved by executive order the creation of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the official post of commissioner, currently held by Lydia Tederick, appointed in 2017 by Donald Trump. “The main changes occur in the private rooms and the Oval Room, which are not subject to mandatory museum status,” explained Allman. To do this, they can use all the antiques recovered over the years and borrow paintings from the main art galleries in the country.


Furniture from the 53-piece set created in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellange

Furniture from the 53-piece set created in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellange Source: AP

The Trumps leave a White House with several of its renovated public rooms, but without having revealed if they adorned the private rooms with the ornate Versailles style of their Manhattan apartment-palace. Melania Trump hired designer Tham Kannalikham, an unknown interior designer who began her career in the offices of Ralph Lauren and has never given an interview.


The Green Room of the White House

The Green Room of the White House Source: AP

Despite the first lady’s notorious disregard for Christmas decorations – “Who cares? But I have to, right?” She said in a leaked recording by her examiner and former adviser Stephanie Winston, she has overseen the reform. of the three reception rooms at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

With the help of house conservators, he has replaced the wall cloth in the Red Room, the curtains in the Green Room, and restored the empire-style furniture in the Blue Room. The latter are the oldest pieces in the presidential collection acquired by Monroe from Napoleon’s goldsmith and European royalty, the Frenchman Pierre-Antoine Bellang, after the fire started by British troops in 1814. He has also restored the tennis and tennis hall. has replaced the colorful Rose Garden designed by the Kennedy’s gardener, Rachel Lambert Mellon, with a color gamut dominated by white


Melania Trump renovated the wall of the Red Room at the White House

Melania Trump renovated the wall of the Red Room at the White House Source: AP

Upon arrival at the White House, many saw a reflection of the Trumps’ overloaded taste in the décor chosen for the Oval Room, where they chose to keep the famous Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. However, the gold curtains were from the time of the Clintons, the classic beige sofas were recovered from the Bushes, and the rug with the bald eagle emblem, adopted by Benjamin Franklin in 1782, from the Reagans.

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