• Tell Your Friends

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that it’s ditching the color-coded terror alert system that was put in place after Sept. 11. Instead it’s going to a two-tiered system that’s supposed to be more concise and (probably) scarier than stoplight colors ever hoped to be.

Homeland Security Terror Alert System

Which made me wonder…what will happen to those poor colors, now that they’re out of a job?
How About Sending Them To…

  • Tell Your Friends

The holiday spirit has arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The official White House Christmas Tree, a Douglas-fir, dazzles special visitors in the Blue Room. And the National Christmas Tree, a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce, is swathed in LED lights on the Ellipse.

Photo: NPS

If you’re like me and can’t make it to D.C. this season, then be sure to catch HGTV’s White House Christmas 2010 special. It airs tonight at 8p/7c. Host Genevieve Gorder provides an insider’s look at how dozens of volunteers joined forces with White House staff to carry out this year’s decor theme, “Simple Gifts.”

The lighting of a National Christmas Tree dates back to 1923. (The Easter Egg Roll to 1878.) Annual traditions and Oval Office renovations remind us that while it may look the same on the outside, the “people’s house” is constantly evolving on the inside.

Recently I talked with Ulysses Grant Dietz and Sam Watters about their book, Dream House: The White House as an American Home. They were wildly fun to interview, and their book is a true page turner, for interior design and gardening fans alike. (This is from someone who found high school U.S. history studies to be a complete snore.)

So enjoy this excerpt from my conversation with Ulysses and Sam, pick up a copy of Dream House and don’t miss tonight’s HGTV White House Christmas 2010 special.

AM: I imagine most people assume the White House has always been gloriously decorated, with each administration doing complete renovations. But in your book you describe attempts to decorate the White House as “wrestling a leviathan into submission.” Tell me about some of the design challenges in the first 100 years of the White House.

The Answer After the Jump

  • Tell Your Friends
Tomorrow begins a new era in American history as Barack Obama is inaugurated as our 44th president. One of Michelle Obama’s priorities has been to make sure her family feels comfortable in their new home, The White House. It’s not unusual for incoming First Ladies to make changes in the more than 200-year-old residence. Take a look inside the 1961 White House in this tour with Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy explains how she worked with a committee to make interior design choices. The Obamas chose California native  Michael S. Smith  whose style has been characterized as “a delicate blend of European tradition and American modernism.” The First Family will be in good company. Smith has designed spaces for Cindy Crawford, Steven Spielberg and many other notables. Smith’s first task: the daughters’ bedrooms.  I hope we get to see a little of Smith’s work and how he spent his $100,000 budget, courtesy of Congress.  

All this talk of White House renovation begs the question: what would HGTV designers do in the Obama’s new residence if they had the opportunity? Just like Barack Obama, Kim Myles was chosen as the best among her peers. As an HGTV Design Star and now host of Myles of Style, Kim continues to prove that she is a winning designer. Her take on The Lincoln Bedroom is another example of why Mrs. Myles won the popular vote.

Kim Myles' concept: The Lincoln Bedroom - Back to Basics

“The current Lincoln Bedroom hides its most famous feature — the bed — behind layers of fussy fabric, busy prints and stodgy color,” Kim says. “I’ve chosen to bring  the room back to basics and combined classic and contemporary elements.”

Taniya Nayak  is one of HGTV’s Designed to Sell‘s talented designers who knows how to stretch a buck. By the look of this sketch, however, it is obvious that Taniya had a little fun and went beyond her usual $2000 budget for the show. This Green Room is opulent but also environmentally-friendly.


Taniya Nayak's concept: The Green Room - Literally

Taniya Nayak's concept: The Green Room - Literally



“The stone, fabrics and flooring are all made from green products,” Taniya says. ”Sustainable living is a way of life now, and what better place to implement that than in the Green Room of the White House.” If the Obamas want to improve their digs without breaking the bank, they couldn’t go wrong with Taniya or Design on a Dime‘s Frank Fontana.

Frank Fontana‘s interpretation of The Red Room is red hot! Every President needs a little zebra print in his life.

Frank Fontana's concept: The Red Room - Colonial Funk

 “My concept for this design is something I like to call ‘Colonial Funk.’ It comes from the fusion of vintage colonial architecture and hip modern day decor,” Frank says. “A similar parallel to the Obamas themselves, as they must fuse their youthful and vibrant energy into a vintage and historic home.” I particularly like Frank’s attention to detail in the sketch. Look closely and see Obama family pictures on the walls. Nice touch.


How do you think Frank, Taniya and Kim did with their Presidential concepts? Any decorating advice you’d offer to the Obamas?

See What We’re Pinning

  • Make a Tiki Ice Cream Float for #HGTVHappyHour! Get the

  • Step-by-step instructions for making these Southern-style

  • How To Make Jam Party Favors >>

  • We mustache you a question! Can you make these fun mustache