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The Obama family’s residence inside the White House

The White House has been the official residence of the President’s family since November 1800, where its first residents were President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams. Since then, its interior has gone through many monumental changes driven by various First Ladies.

From Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, we take a look at how their decorating tastes influenced the White House over the years, the designers responsible for bringing the aesthetics into the historical building, and the residence of the Obama family.

Edith Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Designer: Architecture firm McKim, Mead & White

Besides arranging for the construction of a new West Wing in 1902 to house the presidential offices, Edith Roosevelt also reworked the interiors of the White House. Her collaboration with architecture firm McKim, Mead & White adorned the White House with understated elegance – which includes a gallery of portraits of past First Ladies and a collection of presidential china.

Jacqueline Kennedy (1961-1963)
Designer: Stéphane Boudin of Parisian interior design firm House of Jansen

Mrs Kennedy’s decor choices pay homage to different periods of history. She worked with Henry Francis du Pont of the Winterthur Museum to add antiques, fine paintings, and artefacts to various parts of the house. Each room was decorated to represent a different period of history — with The Blue Room inspired by the French Empire, the Treaty Room mirroring the Victorian era, and the Green Room featuring Federal-style interiors.

Hillary Clinton (1993-2001)
Designer: Arkansas-based decorator Kaki Hockersmith

Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had an affinity for classic American art, and celebrated America’s top artists in the White House by displaying a distinct collection of paintings and pottery. This included the 1930 Georgia O’Keeffe oil painting Mountain at Bear Lake, Taos and Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1886 painting Sand Dunes.

Michelle Obama (2008-present)
Designer: Los Angeles-based interior designer Michael S. Smith 

Michelle Obama’s refined taste is prevalent in the sophisticated interior design of the current White House, which has been described as the perfect residence for the Obamas — worldly and relaxed.

Smith, who was introduced to the Obamas through a mutual friend following the 2008 elections, said in an interview with Architectural Digest: “They were unbelievably charming, gracious, and thoughtful, and those qualities were reflected in the design of their home.”

“It was very welcoming and comfortable, with books everywhere, and I immediately grasped the spirit of their family,” he added.

It is apparent that each piece adorning the residence is carefully curated to embody the cultural richness and history of the house and America as a whole — whilst reflecting the taste of Mrs Obama.

(All photos courtesy of Architectural Digest)

1

President Obama with his daughters, Malia and Sasha, in the Treaty Room — seated under a painting by American contemporary painter Susan Rothenberg.

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The Treaty Room is filled with memorabilia, including one of the President’s two Grammy Awards, family photos, and a personalised football. The namesake table (far right) has been in the White House since 1869.

The wall features artworks of George Catlin, the first white man to depict Plains Indians in their native territory, along with an overmantel mirror from the 1850s. The floor is covered by a 1930s Hereke carpet.

3
The Treaty Room entrance, where Sir Jacob Epstein’s 1946 sculpture of Winston Churchill is displayed on a circa-1810 New York card table.
4
The Yellow Oval Room is washed in hues of smoky brown, green, gold and blue. In the foreground, you can see an antique Denis-Louis Ancellet desk where the 1978 Camp David peace accords were signed. Once again, pieces of history are blended into the White House’s interior.
5

Smith worked with William Allman, the curator of the White House to stay within the traditions of the White House, “while at the same time adding strategic modern touches.” To do that, Smith introduced an array of abstract and contemporary artworks — particularly in the private rooms — without disrupting the gravitas and historic character of the building. In the West Hall, Alma Thomas’s 1973 Sky Light complements a circa-1895 English mahogany pier table.

6

The Center Hall is home to legendary photographer Peter Schlesinger’s ceramic urns, along with paintings by Sam Francis and abstract expressionist painter Hans Hoffmann — one of the most prominent names in the post-war American art scene.

7

Giorgio Morandi paintings are hung above a circa-1903 A.H. Davenport & Co. armchair in the master suite.

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The Family Dining Room features a similar palette to the Yellow Oval Room, with its walls covered in green-striped Jasper fabric, with accents of red and bronze.

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Late-1960s Robert Mangold works hang on the walls of the Family Dining Room, complemented by Christopher Spitzmiller ceramic lamps.

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What’s in the Family Sitting Room? A Sean Scully artwork, a Roman Thomas sofa, a Baker floor lamp, and a Jasper side table.

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The Family Seating Room. On the far right is American conceptual artist, Glenn Ligon’s Black Like Me #2.

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The Old Family Dining Room is given a modern touch with works by Robert Rauschenberg (left) and Alma Thomas.
13

The Old Family Dining Room’s fireplace has intricate details which feature America’s national emblem, the bald eagle.

14

The Solarium on the White House roof.

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.