Tales from the Trail

Obama’s Oval Office re-do: tasteful seat of power or beige man cave?

September 1, 2010

OBAMA/The reviews are in on President Barack Obama’s newly redecorated Oval Office. And they are, like the earth tones of the custom-made sofas, mostly muted.

The morning after the spiffed-up office was unveiled — during Tuesday night’s presidential address to the nation, with Obama sitting behind the Resolute Desk — the Washington Post splashed its impressions on the front page of the much-read Style section, complete with graphics and commentary. “Very American and very appropriate,” said Margaret Russell of Architectural Digest; “tasteful and … very safe,” was interior designer Celerie Kemble’s assessment, both reported in the Post.

The New York Daily News stressed the provenance of many of the new furnishings, noting that the hand-painted striped wallpaper was made in the Hamptons on Long Island. NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America” both had spots on the White House makeover. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos — a former aide to President Bill Clinton, and so presumably fairly familiar with the space — disclosed he’s friends with the decorator, Michael S. Smith of Los Angeles.

CAVEMENMaureen Dowd, the stiletto-penned columnist for The New York Times, recalled Oval Offices past, including what she called the Belle Watling style adopted during the Clinton administration. Dowd went on to riff about the quotations from former presidents and Martin Luther King Jr. that were chosen for the new carpet’s border, and suggested some alternate ones, such as, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

There was some tut-tutting about the advisability of rolling out a new decorating scheme with the country in the economy doldrums, and the White House was quick to point out that no taxpayer dollars were spent on the project, which features products made in the U.S.A. Some critics said it looks like a den, a man cave or a hotel lobby.

American presidents redecorate the Oval Office to put their personal stamp on the place. What do you think this renovation says about Obama?

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (News photographers document the Oval Office makeover, August 31, 2010)

REUTERS/STR New (undated recent file photo of cave in southwestern France where archaeologists discovered signs of human civilisations dating back 50,000 years)

Comments
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Albert Einstein came to Princeton University in 1935 and was asked how his study or office should be.
He replied: “A desk, some pads, a pencil and a large wastebasket to hold all of my mistakes.”

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