Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ladees and Gentlemen, The Taupe Office

Lord have mercy, what is with Americans and their affinity for wishy-washy beige day-core?

The Oval Office, that room in Washington, D.C. where American presidents sit and pull the levers of international politics, has never been a particularly stylish place decoratively speaking. It was a fairly utilitarian affair until Pat Nixon injected an oval shaped electric royal blue rug into the mix. Ever since then each president–with the assistance of his not always very stylish wife and a well paid decorator–has done up and did over the Oval Office to reflect their own personal decorative tastes.We're down with that. We genuinely feel that the got-damn president of the U-nited States of America ought to have an office in which he (or, perhaps one day, she) feels comfortable and relaxed and capable of making decisions that have global impact. We don't even mind if a few of our tax dollars go towards funding a redecoration of the Oval Office, even if it is for an administration we don't care for.

However, we got some issues with the latest tasteful, rigorously restrained, and totally taupe incarnation of the Oval Office. President Obama's newly redone office is a cautious and almost frumpy sea of taupe with just tiny hints of blue on the sofa pillows and the table lamps sitting on the side tables in the seating area in the center of the room. Even the vertically striped wall paper fades away into visual obsolescence.

Your Mama well recognizes that in a time of war and economic austerity for the peeps of America–at least the ones who don't work on Wall Street–it would have been wildly inappropriate to unleash a crayon box full of color in the Oval Office. This bizness, however, seems to Your Mama's pea sized brain like decorating for the lowest common denominator. We smell a conscious effort by the Obamas and Mister Smith to create a set up and get up that would not offend voters–conservative ones in particular–so many of whom are eager as beavers to find a reason to knock the president down a notch or two and just might see something more stylish as a sign of uppity elitism and/or lack of connection with the common man. (Please note kiddies, that is not intended as a political statement, it's our meaningless opinion of the day-core.)

As vanilla as it may be, the Oval Office's new day-core is definitely more up to date and of this time than the wealthy grandma look of previous administrations. But honestly chickens, while everything is in good taste and (we presume) high quality, this looks like the sort of thing one might find in the lobby of an expensive business hotel.

All that said, what Your Mama really wants to know is what's the shit with the fruit bowl on the coffee table? Do Michael Smith, the Prez, and his adviser peeps really think Benji Netanyahu, Nancy Pelosi, or General Austin are gonna reach down for a banana or a damn nectarine in the middle of high stakes meeting? Pleeze.

It should be noted that no tax payer money was spent on the overhaul of the Oval Office. The cheddar for the redo came from a pool of money created by private donations given specifically for the purpose of doing over the White House day-core.

photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

And what is with the jungle on the mantle?

Circe said...

Any décor other than the set used for the television show The West Wing, looks odd to me.

Anonymous said...

HATE that greenery on the fireplace. It totally does not work with the low hanging painting. They need to put two of somwthing tall at each end instead. And please, something more modern. Also, though the coffee table is modern, the color does not work, and brings everything down. I am thinking, glass...

Madam Pince said...

Granny Smith strikes again. I can't believe the Obamas didn't choose Darryl Carter.

Carla Ridge said...

Still, part of me wants to give Kelly Wearstler some E and let her go nuts in there. Oh, c'mon...just once?

Anonymous said...

Well at least he's done something in the last year and a half... I was beginning to wonder what he and the style-challenged Mrs have been spending their time doing.

I'm with you Mama on the beige, taupe, vanilla, almond...... not the colors of a strong leader... more like the colors of an "I'm sitting on the fence leader, and trying not to rock the boat"

Me thinks it's time for an office revolution!!

Anonymous said...

Horrible redecoration. Striped wall paper? Really? Looks like they got some of the materials / desks from a hotel sale on the south side of Chgo.

lil' gay boy said...

Like Anon 9:17, I think if it ain't Christmas Damn Eve, you shouldn't have any goddamn greenery on the mantelpiece (there, see? It's easy to work religion into the holidays).

"We smell a conscious effort by the Obamas and Mister Smith to create a set up and get up that would not offend voters [...] as a sign of uppity elitism..."

Let's face it, in this hostile environment, where during the last campaign "elite" suddenly became a dirty word (unless, of course, it was something along the line of our "elite" troops presence being requested somewhere in the world), there was no way in hell that anything significant was going to result. Creating a space so bland that how much isn't your first thought upon seeing it takes a great (but dubious) talent.

Given the current political environment, the best we could have hoped for is to be left wondering if the poor man was color blind or believes a neutral work decor is truly conducive to productivity; if one ethnic work of art wormed its way in it would have been all over.

God how I hate that word "uppity".

Jeannified said...

I agree with Anonymous - 10:59 Am. I saw this collection yesterday on the boob-tube, and thought "Wha...?!" Trying to look nice, but too much beige and a bit informal for that room...although it seems Mr. Obama is a more casual president. The look suits his taste. It's just not as formal as I would think that room should look. Oh well...I also think "lil gay boy makes a very good point too, with our economy being what it is.

Jeannified said...

P.S. I thought that too, yesterday, when I saw that fruit bowl. (I've seen it on the table before he redecorated though...he must like apples.) I thought, "Who in their right mind, is gonna bend down and grab an apple to noisily chomp on in the middle of a very important meeting?! Please!

Rosco Mare said...

When we left our old coffee table out at the curb, we said, "It's still a nice table, someone will quickly take it." Never did we dream it would end up here!

Stereos and Souffles said...

It looks so boring, makes me wanna take a nap.

Anonymous said...

Well, someone else will be moving in in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

And what's with the wallpaper on the 'secret door'? Was something high that day? The paperhanger or maybe the humidity? A more open approach would have been to make the door(s) actually look like doors.
I'm sure no one goes behind those things, well not since Clinton left the building.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anon 3.12 about the secret door.
I was looking for the painting with the eye holes cut out and somebody lurking in the "secret" room.
I also dislike velvet and would not fancy sitting on the furniture.
Boring, boring joint.

Yak said...

Those 80's sofas look like something someone left at the curb where someone reclaimed them and sold them to the Obamas at a flea market. Nice stuff for a head of state.

Anonymous said...

Looks like an upscale Pottery Barn room...hope that green stuff is real and not plastic on fireplace mantel.

Anonymous said...

In the imperial 80's, it was a bowl red jelly beans. Now, it's a bowl of fruit.

Anonymous said...

Wait! Was Seth Rogen the ACTUAL designer, with Michael Smith just covering for him the way Sister Parish covered for French designer Stephane Boudin when Jackie redid the White House in the '60's? That's got to be right because this is a nearly perfect realization of the classic "Knocked-Up" frat house chic theme, and so few have designers that special touch!

But it's still missing some important artifacts (budget restrictions, perhaps?): Big screen TV, beer filled fridge (for those always critical beer summits - "Hey, Benji, have a brewski! Now about those West Bank settlements..."), giant bong, a bunch of guys in addition to Benji and Heigl, with names like BC, Otter, Bluto, Stork, and D-Day loafing around in their underwear, skipping class and playing video games. O, wait, that's what the cabinet does.

The spare change recovered from the cracks between the seat cushions on those giant over-stuffed couches should go a long way towards helping President Obama close the federal budget deficit! And the Smithsonian will no doubt treasure the presidential snack crumbs collection the Obamas will enjoy retrieving from those same cracks, and one day contribute charitably for a big tax write off, just like Bill Clinton donated his used underwear collection.

But PLEASE keep the aging and increasingly frail Nancy Reagan far hence, or it's curtain for that old bird! Just saying.

Anonymous said...

One time I am at a loss for words.

This is it.

You pegged it beautifully, mama.

MarkyMark said...

This reminds me uncomfortably of a Levitz showroom from the 1980s.

lil' gay boy said...

Rosco Mare, shame on you! You made me snarf my evening sherry...

It certainly is uninspired & unimpressive; I don't think we'll ever know all of the factors involved in the final decor decisions, but evidently they had precious little to to with creativity –– more like design by committee. A sad day indeed when the most eye-catching item in the room is the back of a throw pillow.

Apparently, the most expensive line item in the budget was the exorcism.

Cameronj2@me.com said...

Honestly, forgive me, but I htink it's lovely. Definitely conservative and not my taste, but it looks like a calm, relaxing place to business. It looks regal. It looks like the office of a president.

Anonymous said...

confidential to anon 8:48 -- brevity is the soul of wit.

Anonymous said...

A beige room for beige times...boring, bland, banal, bankrupt, bewildered, bereft, bitter, blemished,
beligerent, beaten, bastardized,
battered, broken, brittle, busted,


Baracked.

Anonymous said...

Careful...if one disagrees with decor, or anything this administration does, one might be called racist, or a simpleton. These people are lofty intellectuals; best not to question any of their choices.

Disturbed said...

I'm really not a big fan of Obama but I don't get this idea that so Americans don't seem to want their leaders to be "lofty intellectuals."

Really?

So many Americans, conservatives more so that liberals perhaps, seem to want their president and other government leaders to be down home, rib eating, football watching, truck driving, and tough talking crotch scratchers who will bully and throw their weight around on the geo-political stage like a god damn cowboy.

That's why I think so many people thought Bush was so great. Although he was to be sure an east coast blue blood with an ivy league education and a family far richer and more "elitist" than Obama, he walked and talked like he was an under-educated good ol'boy...which he was not. He was in the Skull and Bones at Yale for fuck sake. Not exactly a bastion of good ol' boys.

I feel differently. I want the president and other leaders of my country to be wickedly smart, well educated, globally aware, culturally sophisticated, pragmatic, and tough as teflon.

I don't want the president or any of the leaders of my country to come down to the intellectual level of the "common" person, I want the "common" people of this country to elevate and educate themselves to a higher level.

I don't think that would make everyone a die-hard liberal/Democrat and nor should it. But at least it would get rid of this damn fool notion that the president and other gov't leaders have to be or at least have to act like an "average" American in order to be embraced by average middle and working class Americans.

I'm sure some of y'all will get bitchy and call me an over-educated east coast liberal. But I'm not. I'm from a middle class family, my father and grandparents were farmers and I'm the first (and only) person in my immediate family to be educated past high school. I went to a state college and I work hard and make a middle class living. I am an average American and I want my president and my government leaders to be more than average. I want them to be exceptional and I don't understand why that is so threatening to so many people.

As for the new oval office decor, it's dull and boring but that was probably the best way to go in this polarized political climate.

Anonymous said...

Thats a Jib Door, you ignorant peeps

Kylie said...

@Disturbed - "That's why I think so many people thought Bush was so great."

Name one person who thought George W. Bush was a great leader, just try, I bet you can't do it. :c)

This office is just like it's occupant - bland, boring and not achieving anything.

All that money, all that access to designers and the best they could come up with was this.

The world really is going to hell in a hand basket.

lil' gay boy said...

Disturbed, nicely said...

Disturbed said...

kylie... you're kidding, right?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-31/obamas-iraq-speech-bushs-shadow-looms-over-the-president/?cid=hp:beastoriginalsC7

Anonymous said...

I use fruit decoratively all the time. Just because it happens to be edible doesn't mean that it is there to be eaten. It can be there (or anywhere) just because it looks nice. The bane of anyone who uses fruit this way are people who don't appreciate the art of the fruit arrangement. . .
Bouley Restaurant in New York, in one of its incarnations, had a wall of red apples in the entrance. They were definitely not there to be eaten (at least until they got too ripe and were replaced), but they were beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it...Regardless of the decor, there's going to be someone complaining about it. Darn if you do, darn if you don't. IMO, there's more important issues to discuss other than the personal office decor of any president.

Monique

Anonymous said...

Hey Disturbed...you wrote...

"So many Americans, conservatives more so that liberals perhaps, seem to want their president and other government leaders to be down home, rib eating, football watching, truck driving, and tough talking crotch scratchers who will bully and throw their weight around on the geo-political stage like a god damn cowboy.

That's why I think so many people thought Bush was so great."

Not sure where I stated Bush was great (he wasn't), or that a "rib eating" (?) cowboy President is preferable. If it makes you feel better generalizing that folks who disagree with many Obama Administration policies would prefer a crotch scratching truck driver in the Oval Office, knock yourself out.

"I don't want the president or any of the leaders of my country to come down to the intellectual level of the "common" person, I want the "common" people of this country to elevate and educate themselves to a higher level."

You consider someone who disagrees with an Administration's policies a "common" person who needs to "educate themselves to a higher level". That's interesting.

Anonymous said...

The descent from the campaign euphoria of "Yes We Can" to the current disappointed national mood of "OOPS, We Did" perfectly realized in one mediocre but pretentious room. Wonderful! Failure of the stimulus package? You can see it in the bland velveteen and the hideous wallpaper stripes.

Michael Smith is a genius!

Anonymous said...

'Nuff said from the Wahington Post:

"A mistake has been made in the Oval Office makeover that goes beyond the beige. .... 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from [Martin Luther] King. Except it's not a King quote. The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington. For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama."

So this president gets the history all wrong right there in a misquote on his office rug. Michael Smith really is a genius!

Here's the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090305100.html

Anonymous said...

As Obama himself said in February 2009, upon release of his first budget: “There are times where you can afford to redecorate your house, and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding the foundation.”

No wonder so many wags are calling this expensive Oval Office re-do "The Audacity of Taupe." One quipped: "The Oval Office has just gotten a complete makeover, and I understand some more Oval Office changes are planned for 2012."

Anonymous said...

Didn't know it was called a Jib Door until I read these comments, but it looks odd with the wallpaper on it. If it was painted to match the trim it would help break up the YIKES stipes. I cover my switch plates to match the wallpaper, but this is too clever by half.

It's hard to believe that the designer wouldn't check with historians before the weaving of the rug. How sad to live with a mistake like that mocking the leader of the free world everyday, not to mention everytime anyone else is in there with him.