This Is How the Obama Family Decorated the White House

Updated 01/10/17
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Barack Obama's legacy as the 44th president of the United States will live on in the historic SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, his action on climate change, and even the White House itself. Architectural Digest recently had the privilege of touring the space, speaking to First Lady Michelle Obama and the talented interior decorator Michael Smith about their design process and vision for the historic home. Smith, a Los Angeles–based designer, worked closely with the family during President Obama's eight-year tenure in the White House, creating a home that is as "worldly and relaxed" as the family that inhabits it.

"Because of Michael Smith, the private residence of the White House has not only reflected our taste but also upheld the proud history of this building. Above all, it has truly felt like a home for our family," Michelle Obama told AD. Smith promptly deflected the compliment back onto the first lady herself, naming her as a primary source of inspiration when decorating the home: "Mrs. Obama often talks about bringing new voices into the national conversation, and that idea informed many of the decisions we made.

We selected artists and designers who would never have appeared in the White House before."

Architectural Digest

And it shows. Replete with 20th- and 21st-century artwork, plush Oushak carpeting, and subtle modern touches throughout, the home gives a distinct nod to the Obama family's tastes without betraying the White House's extensive history. "To understand the context [of decorating the White House], 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," remarked Smith of his process.

With the help of White House curator William Allman, it's safe to say they struck a healthy balance between traditional and modern.

Head over to Architectural Digest for the full photo shoot, and share your thoughts on the Obama family's taste below.

Opening Image: Stewart Shining/Trunk Archive

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