Going for gold in the Oval Office

After a $4.6-million overhaul, the Oval Office's yellow candy-stripe wallpaper has been replaced with a creamy grey damask version, among other changes.
After a $4.6-million overhaul, the Oval Office's yellow candy-stripe wallpaper has been replaced with a creamy grey damask version, among other changes.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • So, did Mr Donald Trump get his way?

"A real dump" was how he is said to have described the White House he inherited from the Barack Obama administration.

For a man used to inhabiting a penthouse filled with golden columns, chandeliers and cherubs tumbling from the ceilings, the decor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue must have seemed a bit drab.

So he took the opportunity during his summer vacation to call in the decorators for a US$3.4-million (S$4.6-million) overhaul, the results of which have been unveiled.

Those looking forward to an opulent vision to match the glitz of his Trump Tower eyrie, or the palatial pomp of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, will be surprised.

For once, at least in matters of domestic design, it seems the billionaire builder has acted with relative restraint.

The yellow candy-stripe wallpaper of the Obama Oval Office has been stripped out and replaced with a creamy grey damask affair, picked by President Trump himself.

"The Obama wallpaper was very damaged. There were a lot of stains on it," aides said, as if to suggest the previous occupants were a bunch of uncouth ne'er-do-wells.

Mr Trump, on the other hand, "wanted to bring back the lustre and the glory" to the place.

According to the philosophy of Trumpitecture, lustre and glory come in the form of gold drapes (installed in January) and gold-hued upholstery, both of which now adorn the President's office.

Elsewhere, 6,000m of new carpet have been rolled out across the sprawling residence, featuring "a floral medallion inspired by the White House architecture and the Rose Garden".

The plain old Obama brown carpet clearly was not lustrous or glorious enough, but the new busier version looks like it has been lifted straight from a mid-range chain hotel chain.

Ever since Mr Thomas Jefferson replaced the outdoor privy with modern flushing loos and added rows of classical colonnades to the humble house, it has been the done thing for the incoming first family to make their mark on the official residence.

Mr Richard Nixon built an underground bowling alley, Mr Gerald Ford added an outdoor swimming pool, while Mr Obama installed basketball hoops on Mr George H.W. Bush's tennis court.

But, so far, the Trumps have remained restrained - perhaps because they do not spend much time living in the White House anyway.

The one revealing thing in their light-touch makeover are the eagles. Lots of new eagles, everywhere.

A gilded eagle peers down from the ceiling, clutching a chandelier in its talons, as if ready to hurl it down on any uncooperative head of state.

That may be in keeping with Mr Trump's preference to stand tall and talk tough to world leaders, from Russia's Vladimir Putin to North Korea's Kim Jong Un.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Going for gold in the Oval Office'. Subscribe