Inside the Obamas' Private Quarters at the White House: 'It Has Truly Felt Like a Home for Our Family'

Photo: Michael Mundy/Architectural Digest; Getty

When First Lady Michelle Obama was preparing for her family’s move into the White House in 2008, there were a few redesigns that ranked at the top of her to-do list.

“The number one priority for the First Lady was getting Malia’s and Sasha’s rooms and her mother’s room set up,” Melissa Winter, deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and senior advisor to the First Lady, says in the December issue of Architectural Digest. “The most important thing was ensuring the comfort and happiness of her family.”

After discovering renowned interior designer Michael S. Smith through a mutual friend, the Obamas decided he was the right choice to outfit the White House’s private quarters to suit the needs of their young family.

“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,” the First Lady tells AD.

Michael Mundy/Architectural Digest
Michael Mundy/Architectural Digest

Smith returns the praise, saying of the first family, “They were unbelievably charming, gracious, and thoughtful, and those qualities were reflected in the design of their home. It was very welcoming and comfortable, with books everywhere, and I immediately grasped the spirit of their family.”

After their initial meeting, Smith only had two months to pull his design together. He rushed to research the White House’s traditions so that he could create a look that was respectful of its historical nature, yet still reflective of the family.

“Mrs. Obama often talks about bringing new voices into the national conversation, and that idea informed many of the decisions we made,” he says. “We selected artists and designers who would never have appeared in the White House before.”

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Although the Obama family’s modern art collection is distinctly different from those of presidents past, there’s one room they kept traditional: the master bedroom.

“This is their sanctuary—private, elegant, and calm,” Smith says. “You really want to make sure that the President of the United States gets a good night’s sleep.”

For the full tour, pick up the December issue of Architectural Digest, on newsstands now.

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