Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Paige Rien, Obama White House Re-Design Chief: How will you re-design the Obama White House for Barack and Michelle?

I'm so glad you asked - I've been waiting a lifetime for a commission like this.

Ok blur back to reality...I've been hitting the echinacea-Nyquil gimlet a little too hard these one has asked me to in any way be a part of re-designing the Obama White House, or the de-Bushing Design. But a girl can dream, can't she? Yes I can.

My vision for the Obama White House. Two words: deeply personal. I see Barack and Michelle taking a long respectful lunge away from the traditional, nameless, faceless, Georgian classicist formality. After all, they are going to express change and hope in their space, not ancient Greece or the West Wing. Pomp and circumstance is so yesterday. This is a place that has to represent family, openness and the future, and yet also host the world’s elite in every profession – it must also express confidence and be grounded. Surely we know we can do that without tassels, brocade and columns. I do think rich colors with stark contrasts. Not so much white or cream trim everywhere. I see as weird as it looks as I write it, black trim, navy blue trim, textured wall papers and abstract murals.

A progressive color palette immediately speaks to change. Red, white and blue are great - just visit my living room! But a deep black-red, a pale, watery-blue, a clean white and black to balance the space and maximize contrast. (Black is a great equalizer for red.) I also see the Obamas inviting craftspeople an artists to take part in the design - to have their home, which also the nation's home, represented by a diverse, progressive body of art work, alongside all those presidential portraits. (Or are they somewhere else in Washington??) I would suggest a rotating collection of artwork form around the world – a mix of bold and subdued colors – why can't the White House be the most interesting art gallery in the world?

And naturally, the Obamas will be frugal fannies - they'll have to be. And this goes hand in hand with living green. The most important part of designing with the earth’s future in mind is to KEEP WHAT YOU LIKE AND REPLACE THE REST. If it works, keep it! That is certainly No-Drama-Obama's attitude towards filling his cabinet posts. Some people stay, most of the people go. Perhaps furniture pieces from the Bush collection can be renewed or refurbished – perhaps President Obama can create a design task force to maximize the *change* in the space, while re-using as much possible – this can employ artists and crafts people and express rule number one of green design: can it be recycled? (Note to the White House Design Section Committee - my late winter 2009 is open and, yes, I can help you.)

Now, the Obama girls rooms are also a revolutionary step for the White House - when have cute little girls with big personalities lived there? Never. I think spaces for the girls should not just be confined to their rooms. I think they should have spaces to entertain the girls of the world and spread American friendship, by doing what girls do – creative play, sharing, talking, using their imaginations. For their rooms – I can see spaces that are inspired by the way girls live all over the world. No I didn't just veer into some American-Girl marketing brochure - I really think this. If the first lady entertains, why not the first kids?

At the end of the day, the economy, the dour note that we're ended the year on will make it hard for the Obama's to go all out in redesigning the home for their needs. However, as I said earlier, the key here is personal. If the Obamas are true to themselves, they will end up with a comfortably elegant, understated and progressive space. The White House is more than just a house – it’s a place of work, a secure location and a host to the world. And all those rooms provide an even larger platform for our first family to express hope, peace, togetherness and creative change. Kumbayah!