Each new president has the opportunity to make sweeping changes, not just to the political landscape, but in the White House itself: redecorating and reimagining the interiors of the country’s most famous home to suit the needs and aesthetic leanings of the First Family.
Many have surmised that Donald Trump would have a heavy hand — and one filled with gold leaf — in tailoring the space to his tastes. But in a 2015 interview with PEOPLE, he revealed quite the opposite.
“If I were elected, I would maybe touch it up a little bit,” he says, “but the White House is a special place.” The reporter notes he “leans forward and narrows his eyes to make a point” when he adds, “You don’t want to do too much touching.” It’s an unsettling statement in light of the recent claims of sexual assault made against the politician. Without that filter, it implies that interior design is at least one arena in which Trump does not intend to embrace sensationalism and opulence.
Historically, the First Lady has worked with a White House curator and interior designer of her choice to alter the private quarters of the official residence. Michelle Obama called on decorator Michael S. Smith to give her family’s rooms a modern yet respectful refresh. “Mrs. Obama often talks about bringing new voices into the national conversation, and that idea informed many of the decisions we made,” Smith tells Architectural Digest of the process. For her part, Michelle says, “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.”
Design history buffs will remember that Jackie Kennedy called on the legendary (and eccentric) decorator Sister Parish to refresh the White House in the 1960s. And, as Introspective, the magazine of online furniture marketplace 1stdibs, pointed out in a recent feature on White House decorating, “Nancy Reagan gave the executive mansion a bit of her over-the-top Hollywood style, bringing in hand-painted Chinese wallpaper and a rich color palette, particularly her signature scarlet.”
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All three women, however, took cues from their own pre-presidency homes. If Donald or Melania were to do the same, the residence they mirror would be, well, mirrored . . . and gilded, and marble lined. As detailed in PEOPLE’s 2015 featured, the Trump family’s 66th-floor penthouse at Trump Tower in New York City (where Donald has resided since the 1980s) more closely resembles another seat of power, the Palace of Versailles: “[His] vast apartment . . . is both shocking and exactly what you’d expect: gold walls, marble floors, ornate columns, enormous crystal chandeliers, frescoes on the ceiling and panoramic views of Manhattan and well beyond.”
If his decorating record is anything to go by, respecting the stylings of the historic home may be a campaign promise Trump struggles to keep.