There aren’t many interior design jobs in which a decorator is prohibited from visiting the property before starting work. But then again, there aren’t many residences like the White House.
So, when Michael S. Smith — President Barack Obama’s self-described “decorator in chief” — arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on Inauguration Day 2009, he knew he had to hit the ground running.
“You’re given all sorts of research material … you have photos and diagrams, but you don’t really know what’s going on in the rooms until you show up,” he recalled in a phone interview, adding: “One thing I didn’t anticipate — and most people don’t, if they’ve never been upstairs — is how unbelievably tall the rooms are.”
Smith renovated, redecorated and reimagined America’s most famous home over the course of the next eight years. Now, in his comprehensive new book “Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House,” the interiors expert reveals how he did it, whether selecting mahogany chairs for the State Dining Room or commissioning a handmade carpet for the master bedroom.
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