I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I was senior editor at Washington Spaces magazine in 2008, when it was announced that designer Michael S. Smith would be decorating the Obamas’ private residence at the White House. We all knew that no one would ever see it until just before he left office. So here we are—and as most of us predicted, Architectural Digest got the scoop. I’m very excited to get my December copy in the mail, which will have all the glossy print photographs, but they posted several images online today. Here’s a taste, but there’s much more on the Obamas’ interiors, right here.
“They were unbelievably charming, gracious, and thoughtful, and those qualities were reflected in the design of their home,” Smith told Mayer Rus of AD. “It was very welcoming and comfortable, with books everywhere, and I immediately grasped the spirit of their family.”
Smith told AD that he looked to many previous White House designers for context and inspiration: ” ‘I read every letter and note from Abigail Adams, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sister Parish, Stéphane Boudin, Kaki Hockersmith—anyone who had ever contributed to the history of this building,’ Smith says. That immersion process extended to phone calls with Nancy Reagan and a lunch with Lee Radziwill, Mrs. Kennedy’s sister.”
At the same time, he was keen on Michelle Obama’s desire to showcase new talent: “ ‘Mrs. Obama often talks about bringing new voices into the national conversation, and that idea informed many of the decisions we made,’ [Smith] says. ‘We selected artists and designers who would never have appeared in the White House before.’ ”
“Michelle and Barack Obama’s emendations to the White House speak volumes about the sea change in American culture the two have championed for the past eight years. Adorned with an unprecedented array of 20th- and 21st-century artworks, their private quarters remain an oasis of civility and, yes, refined taste in a political arena so often bereft of both.”
The one thing I’ve always wondered all these years, amidst the gridlock in Congress, the great Recession, and all the other trials and tribulations President Obama has endured, is this: Where does he retire at night? Where can he escape? Well, it’s here:
As Smith told AD, “This is their sanctuary—private, elegant, and calm. You really want to make sure that the President of the United States gets a good night’s sleep.”