Let's Talk About Michelle Obama's White House Dining Room Makeover

My feedly doesn't show anyone talking about the new look for a private dining room that Michelle Obama revealed on The Today Show yesterday. There are plenty of comments on the Washington Post's piece about Mrs. Obama's decorating changes and my own Facebook feed has quite a few comments on it. Why haven't the bloggers I follow chimed in? I guess there are outfits to document and Overstock deals to share.

Here's a picture of the room as it was revealed yesterday. It seems to be taken with a wide-angle lens, so the room might appear to be a bit bigger than it really is?

So let's start with the positive comments. Architectural Digest editor Margaret Russell, who knows far more about design than I, said:

“This is a terrific reflection of what the Obamas are doing in the White House. It is very respectful of the past yet embraces today...The punch of art is just extraordinary. It’s elegant, fresh and full of life.”
This screen capture from The Today Show's segment about the room shows that it is a bit smaller than it appears in the official photos.

 From another person who knows a lot more than I do:

The historical objects are “mixed in a very appropriate way and a significant way with the 20th century artists,” said White House Historical Association president Stewart McLaurin.

I have written before that I LOVE it when modern art is juxtoposed with traditional furniture. In fact, I think looks far more interesting than when modern placed with modern or traditional is placed with traditional.

It seems like most people who are talking about the new dining room online don't like it. They aren't just saying they don't care for the rug or the curtains, they are saying (to quote a friend on Facebook) that "she RUINED the White House." The whole thing. Ruined.

Many are concerned with the buried remains of past White House residents. Our forefathers are turning in their graves. Jackie O. is turning in her grave. Grave turning abounds over a rug, two paintings, and some curtains. Of course, people are breezing right past the info about the White House curator and White House Historical Association being involved in the changes made to the room.

Here's what is so awesome: those curtains? The curtains that one commenter said look like Motel 6 curtains? Per Jenna Bush Hagar during her interview with the First Lady, the drapes were commissioned by Jackie Kennedy. She obviously had them in a different room. Here's how the room looked when Jackie arrived in 1963:

This image shows Jackie's radical changes, which included different colors, changed moldings, and some furniture changes:

By the time the Obamas arrived, the moldings were gone, the color was punched up, and the drapes are a bit more fussy.

Looking at this last photo, you can see that Michelle Obama didn't change any of the furniture or the chandelier. The paint was changed to a more subdued color that is definitely more popular today than the very bright yellow. The art was changed, the molding actually looks more traditional than what was there previously, and the drapes were switched to some simpler ones, again, originally procured by Jackie Kennedy. I don't love the rug, but seems fitting.

The comments make me think that people expect the White House to be an extension of Colonial Williamsburg, with everything frozen in time. I think it would be a shame if the White House's public rooms ignored modern culture. Shouldn't the White House showcase the very best of American art and design throughout our country's history?


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