This is without a doubt the hardest week for me to blog. Not being Christian, there’s not much happening décor-wise that I can show or relate to. I should probably just take this week off and finish up shopping for Ben’s family Christmas, since no one really reads blogs this time of the year anyway. I wish I had something personal to write about, but I don’t have a pretty tree to show, or a table decorated for a fancy dinner. There are no wreaths at my house – either with the bow tied on top or on the bottom. There’s no garland hanging from our stairs nor is there anything red or green or plaid.
Two years ago I wrote about the Webb Family Christmas which turned into a major comment war – 304 people wrote in, many to tell me how obnoxious it all looked. I don’t know if I am up to showing all that again this year! Maybe. We’ll see how it goes at my sister in law’s ranch. Things are different now and less carefree than they were two years ago. My sweet mother in law had a stroke this year, and well, it’s so sad, especially for Ben and his two brothers. Also, the kids are all growing up – I’m not sure any of the Webb cousins even believe in Santa Claus anymore. And my own daughter will be 21 soon – she’s really too old to get 8 presents – one for each night of Hanukkah.
I used to host our Cohen family Hanukkah dinner every December, but for the past two years my sister has taken over that duty. Gawd, I am having such a pity party here! It’s really pathetic when the biggest holiday decoration you have is an evergreen scented candle. Yep. That’s it folks. So, in lieu of showing a menorah and bright candles, I thought I’d check out and see what the Obamas had cooked up this year and boy, what a surprise! It’s a Bo Christmas at the White House.
Although the official theme this year is “Shine, Give, and Share” – a tribute to the troops, veterans and their families – the real star of the White House Christmas is Bo, the black and white Portuguese water dog the Obamas adopted when they moved into Pennsylvania Avenue two years ago. Bo, named after the President’s initials B.O. (what terrible initials!) is the cutest dog there is. Since many children of our servicemen were invited to the White House for the celebrations, I’m assuming the officials thought that Bo would provide some levity to the occasion which for some children might be very emotional. There is a separate Christmas tree for Blue Star families and Gold Star families –those who have a member of their family who sacrificed their life for our country. Bo, therefore, is a ray of sunshine. “It’s sort of a ‘where’s Bo?’” First Lady Michelle Obama says. “You’ve got to find the Bo in every room, because he’s hidden everywhere.” Bo likenesses are made out of felt, licorice and marshmallows, pom-poms, buttons and even trash bags! How the designers come up with all these ideas year after year is astounding.
What a gorgeous family! The last official portrait of the Obamas was two years ago, so this Christmas they took a new one. It’s funny how the baby Sasha always cuddles up with Obama, while Malia, the eldest, always wraps herself around her mother. Some critics of this photo say they look like they are clinging onto each for dear life! Wonder why they left Bo out of the portrait?
Actually, Bo’s official portrait was taken earlier this year, in the garden with the First Lady. Isn’t he a stunner? He even held out his pretty pink tongue just perfectly.
The first hint that Bo is the star of this Christmas is the official White House Christmas card, featuring this drawing by Mark Matuszak. There is Bo, warming himself by the roaring fire, like any normal dog would. It’s customary to feature the White House, not the President or First Lady on the holiday card. The drawing is of the White House Library, with its beautiful center table and striped silk curtains.
The holiday card was a drawing of this room – The Library – which houses over 2,700 books. During the holiday season, White House Christmas memorabilia is displayed here. The first president to ever issue a holiday greeting was Calvin Coolidge back in 1927 – when he placed the greeting in newspapers around the country. The first card was sent by Herbert Hoover. This “Bo,” one of five replicas, was created using black and white trash bags!
The start of the season. The day the White House Christmas tree was delivered, Bo was there to welcome it.
Also there is the First Lady, Malia and Sasha. Can’t imagine how wonderful it is for the girls to celebrate Christmas in the White House! Must be so magical.
All dressed up for the tree lighting.
And here it is this year – the tree all lit up for Christmas.
For the Christmas tours and parties, the real Bo came around to greet the children. I love how he has a red leash – to coordinate for Christmas. Plus, black and white looks good with red! This is where the tour starts – at the East Visitors Entrance.
Walking in, the Cross Hall is decorated with two main trees that flank the doorway to the oval Blue Room where the main tree is. To the left is the entrance lobby via the North Portico. Here you can see the beautiful marble columns and floors. The White House almost looks like a rather large, expansive home in this picture.
And looking from the other way – on the right is the entry to the house at the North Portico. At the left you can see the entrance to the Blue room with the two trees flanking it.
The Blue Room with the largest tree. This is the 18’ 6” tall Balsam fir Blue Star Family tree. The tree is adorned with cards from military family children, along with medals, badges and patches from all the different military branches.
Interior Design critic is turning on now: I think the White House is in need of an update! It just doesn’t look classic or elegant the way it is currently decorated. I wish that Michael Smith – the Obama’s decorator – could be in charge of a redecoration of all the wall coverings, rugs, and curtains. For instance – the curtain fabrics - I hate the vivid gold mixed in with the vivid blue. It looked so much prettier under the Kennedys when it was a softer French blue.
The Blue Star Family tree – with all the children’s cards and the medals and badges hanging as ornaments. The chandelier has to be removed in order for the tree to fit in this room.
A Purple Heart used as an ornament on the tree.
Mrs. Obama with the children of our servicemen. Dressed in black and white – just like Bo!
The Red Room decorated for Christmas.
`Here you can see the wreaths in the window and the trees in red painted boxes. The rug has been rolled up on both sides to protect it from the crowds. Why is Dolly Madison hanging so high above the mantel? Bring her down a few inches or more!
Here is a close up view of the cranberry wreaths and trees. So cute in those red boxes! Notice how the vase made of cranberries on this table matches the wreaths. Again, the curtains – with the gold mixed in with the red - seem so unattractive. Can’t there be a more elegant design in this room?
In the Red Room, a small Bo is made entirely of buttons. Notice where his heart is – there is a single heart shaped button!
Another view of the button covered Bo, taken by a visitor to the White House.
The Green Room features trees made out of recycled aluminum.
A close up of the beautiful green silk moiré wallpaper. Notice the two convex mirrors.
This Bo is made of licorice and marshmallows. He sits on a side table in the Green Room.
The beautiful marble mantel, a match to the one in the Red Room.
Uh-oh. Bo is losing some of his licorice!
A bigger view of the room. As in the Red Room, large wreaths are in the window atop smaller Christmas trees. The bright persimmon fabric covering an original Duncan Phyfe chair is a recent change to the room. Again, these curtains are starting to really get on my nerves!!! I’m going to just say it - I think they really are so ugly, so tacky – I’m just shocked they are in the White House. Shouldn’t they be more elegant looking instead of looking like candy confections?
The next room is the State Dining Room – one of the prettier rooms on the state floor. It’s walls are a light stone color and the curtains are a simple design – finally, although they should be more elegant. The rug is a beautiful flowered pattern. Here two large trees flank the fireplace.
Children of servicemen were invited to make gingerbread houses and do crafts.
Mrs. Obama brought Bo with her to meet the little chefs. Check out their cute hats! The First Lady and Bo really do match – wonder if that was planned.
The traditional White House gingerbread house is set up in the State Dining Room. It weighs 400 hundred pounds and takes two months to make. Notice Bo is in the front lawn. To the left of the house is a replica of the First Lady’s vegetable garden. What a gorgeous mirror.
A closeup of the house – the details are amazing.
The East Room is the most elegant room – all gilt and creams. Notice the gilt cornices on the curtains. The trees here are pretty and more natural looking. There are four trees decorated with paper leaves set up in this room alone! Here, the First Lady talks with the children of the servicemen who came to visit.
In this picture you can see the rug up close.
The crèche is set up in the East Room – flanked by two more trees.
An urn set up in the window of the East Room.
A glimpse of the stairway under the eyes of President Truman.
Little Bo ornaments are everywhere – here they are set up in votives on top of a mantel.
The tour continues along to the East Wing, where the windows in the colonnade have alternative recycled paper wreaths and stars. At the end of the hall, arched garland flanks the entry into the East Garden Room.
Looking into the East Garden Room with its own colorful tree.
Bo, made of black and white wool felt, is the star in the East Garden Room.
The ornaments in this area are made of paper. This Bo is the tallest of the five Bo statues – measuring over a majestic 4 feet!
The official program contains the template to make your own paper tree like these. You can get it online HERE.
The most poignant tree is located in the East Visitor Landing. The Gold Star Family tree is covered with personal messages from families who have lost loved ones while fighting to protect us. There is an interactive display, along with stars that members of Gold Star Families can write on and place directly onto the tree. I’m sure the emotions were powerful around this display.
Some of the personal messages on the Gold Star Family tree.
Leading into the displays on the ground floor are portraits of First Ladies and gingerbread houses. I’ve never seen this painting of Hillary Clinton – in a pants suit!
Notice Barbara Bush posed with her beloved dog.
The Vermeil Room has more portraits of First Ladies. The trees are in pots in this room.
My favorite First Lady, ever! Her portrait is gorgeous. Notice how elegant these damask curtains are – why can’t they all be like this????
Patricia Nixon’s portrait is rather beautiful.
And another favorite, Texan Lady Bird Johnson. Notice the beautiful marble mantel. This room looks so elegant and feminine, I’d love to see it in person.
There’s a center table – with two chairs that flank the fireplace, on the right.
Standing in the hallway in the ground level is this darling Bo – with glasses. He is made out of black and white pom poms.
The China Room is another beautiful small room on the ground floor. The portrait of Mrs. Grace Coolidge with her dog is perfect for this spot – with her matching red dress.
More Bo ornaments are placed on the set table in the China Room.
The last room on the tour is the Library, where this year’s Holiday Card was painted. Here, the large Bo made out of trash bags sits in front of the fire.
Bo shows up in the Christmas cookies!
And Bo went with the First Lady out visiting patients at the National Medical Center. Notice how his paw keeps in close contact with his mistress.
And don’t think that Hanukkah is forgotten at the White House. The First Family celebrate it each year – although it was celebrated a few weeks early this year. I love how Mrs. Obama wore blue! Most interesting is the White House kitchenwas turned “kosher” for this event. Watch the video on how that was accomplished HERE.
Even though Bo was the unofficial theme of this year’s decorations, the true theme is something not to forget, especially during these tough times:
“The official “Shine, Give, Share” theme is intended to highlight the nation’s troops and celebrate the “countless ways we can lift up those around us, put our best self forward in the spirit of the season… and share our blessings with all,” according to the White House.”
Double click on the arrow to see how all the Bo’s were made!!!
The beautiful Bo – relaxes in the even more beautiful West Garden Room or the Palm Room. How romantic is this spot? I’ve never seen this area before – it’s just wonderful. Why can’t more of the White House be as gorgeous? Seeing some of the curtains spurred me on to do a little research:
Today, the Blue Room is a mix of gold and dark blue. I don’t think this can compare to how it looked under the Kennedys. The curtains are so garish.
The Kennedy Blue Room – so much softer, without the vivid blue and yellow. And what a charming skirted table! Of course today, the rug would be custom made to fit the oval – probably a better look. Notice how here the paintings are at eye level – yet today they are hanging way too high. Just a little detail that defies design logic. Notice too how beautiful this chandelier is – compared to the one used today. Jacqueline Onassis lamented the new chandelier saying it was not in proportion to the room – exactly Jackie!!!!
The furniture was originally ordered by President Monroe in 1818 from France. Which Blue Room do you prefer?
In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt redesigned the room. Notice the skin rug – too funny! That would never happen today!
Get your blinders out! The Red Room today – here gold and red. The rug is a copy of the one Jackie Kennedy put in the room originally. It’s very beautiful. The mantels here and in the Green Room are identical. They were moved here from the redesigned State Dining Room.
I like this view of the Red Room – showing the enfilade of the Blue Room down to the State Dining Room.
Compare the Kennedy Red Room with today’s. These curtains are so much simpler, more elegant. It’s amazing the same chandelier is still in this room, as is much of the furniture. Also, the red was more muted in this scheme than it was before and is today. The rug is also the same.
Another view of the Kennedy Red Room.
The Green Room today with its green and white striped curtains and its collection of Duncan Phyfe and Sheraton furniture. The room was refurnished in 2007.
A close up of the vibrant new rug and newly covered chair.
I think this is a very pretty view of the room – showing the gorgeous pair of convex mirrors. I like the striped fabric – even in the curtains, but it’s just all too much.
The Green Room after Kennedy restored it. The walls were a soft moss green, not nearly as dark as today. The fabrics were white with green toile.
And in another view. The curtains are so much simpler. Much of this furniture is no longer used in this room.
Had to laugh at an early picture of the Green Room. This was before the fireplace was replaced. Look at all the slipcovers!!!! OMG! That is hysterical!!!
One of the worst travesties against the Kennedy decorations happened in the Family dining room on the second floor. Mrs. Kennedy found rolls of antique wallpaper depicting the Civil War and hung them in this room. They stayed this way shown above until the Fords came.
Betty Ford hated the antique wallpaper so much she had it removed. Shown here are the Fords and a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
The Carters had the paper reinstalled.
The paper remained through the Reagan administration.
When the Clintons came – the paper was again removed. Such a travesty!! It’s never been replaced since. I know that Michael Smith would want the paper used – I just wonder why it never was put back on the walls. Mrs. Kennedy placed another mural wallpaper by Zuber in the Diplomat Room. That paper remains there today. Thank God!
The government owns the Blair House – a series of connected townhouses across from the White House. It’s mostly used for overnight diplomatic and private guests. It’s called the most exclusive hotel in the world! In a recent refurbishment, several designers were called in – including Mario Buatta. Look how elegant this room is! Such a gorgeous wallpaper and mirrors, pretty fabrics. Funny to see a Rose Tarlow tea table used instead of an antique though. But still, it’s time that the White House hires a real decorator, not the one the First Lady brought with her from Dallas or Arkansas, but one with national credentials, who knows antiques and fabrics and can make the White House more elegant and less garish. Just my thoughts!! Read the Blair House website HERE. And finally…..
To read more about the history of the White House Christmas, this book by Jennifer Pickens is the definitive source!!! Order it HERE from Amazon.
Wishing a most Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy and Healthy New Years to you all!!