20 December 2014

Happy Holidays To All - 2014!

I missed last year’s White House Christmas, so I thought I’d take a peek at this year’s.
The truth is – the Obama White House decorations haven’t really been all that fabulous – in my opinion.  Maybe the beauty just doesn’t translate to the photographs?    But to me, the decorations have seemed too colorful and too chaotic without any well thought out design theme. 
Perhaps being Jewish and always looking longingly through the window at Christmas decorations, makes me want the perfect Winter White display of twinkle lights and evergreen.  And so, perhaps that’s why, to me, the ultimate of all the White House Christmases has been Laura Bush’s 2004 – a display of white snowy trees in a true winter wonderland.

2004 – Laura Bush’s White Christmas

The trees were decorated with snow in the limbs and the skirts were a mass of snowy white; add to that the white twinkle lights and silver tinsel and you have the perfect White Christmas.   All eight of Laura Bush’s White House Christmases were very well designed and thought out and each year I wait for a repeat of this great design from the Obamas.   Maybe next year…?
Here is the 2014 White House Christmas Decorations with an extra surprise look at the Vice President’s House!

The main White House tree that will go up in the oval Blue  Room arrives with great fanfare.  The Obama family dog, Bo, comes to greet it, along with Sunny, the newest addition to the family.  Such great memories for Sascha and Malia. 


The beautiful fanlight – over the door at the main entrance where this year the trees are all white and silver.  The theme is geared to children and is titled:  A Children’s Winter Wonderland.  Maybe the design will be a winter wonderland after all!?! 
It’s Christmas as seen through a child’s eye.

The Cross Hall at the Grand Foyer – the main door to the oval Blue Room gives you a glimpse of the main tree.  Two others flank the doorway.
The big surprise is that this year the trees DO look snowy and twinkly!   It’s not as dramatic as Laura Bushes’ 2004, but it’s really pretty and so wintery looking and such a surprise.

The Foyer – with its gorgeous crystal chandelier.  Notice President George Bush’s portrait hanging behind the piano. 

It’s a winter wonderland, in the foyer at least.

The Obamas – walking down the Cross hall.

Close up of the Blue Room tree.

The Blue Room tree – decorated with touches of blue – of course.  And….this is the end of the winter wonderland look.  I understand that there have to be blue ornaments – but I would have made it more blue and white.

The Green Room – the two windows always have small trees in Versailles style boxes.

Here is the new portrait of Laura Bush.  She posed in the Green Room since she spearheaded its most recent decoration.   Painted by John Howard Sanden.

Here is the beautiful green room as Laura Bush envisioned it.  The Green Room really is pretty – the chandelier is especially gorgeous and I love the rich color of the fabric on the chairs.

The Red Room – like the Green Room - with the two trees in the two windows.  This room is due for a redecoration.  The yellow/gold fabric is so harsh.

The East Room – there aren’t many pictures of this room this year.

The State Dining Room – is the room where the Children’s Christmas theme is most obvious.   On the mantel, Scrabble pieces spell out “Winter Wonderland.”

Close up of the trains underneath the trees!   Not sure if they are actually working but that would be such a cute idea to set up a Christmas Village with a train running through it.  Next year, they could leave the main dining room table in the room – and set up a miniature Christmas village and train track.

The windows hold cute suitcases – I suppose they are meant to appeal to the teenaged girls.  This room is also due for a redecoration, but I do like the way it looks with its floral curtains and matching rug.  It was last decorated by the Clintons.

Vintage luggage pieces decorated with antique Washington, D.C. travel decals and dusted with glitter.  I don’t understand what this has to do with Christmas though?

  Not sure what is going on with the rug in the State Dining Room?  This rug shown above has been seen in recent photographs, but for Christmas – the regular rug is back in place.   Perhaps they were trying this rug out – but it seems too large to be a loaner.   And it is nowhere near as pretty as the usual rug – although it is attractive.

Both Sunny and Bo have cookies this year.  Bo is black and white, while Sunny’s coat is all black.

In this entrance – a mailbox is placed for visitors to send greetings to service members overseas. The tree is dedicated to the memory of fallen soldiers, and its ornaments are signed by members of Gold Star Families.

The East Colonnade.

The arch is made from hydrangeas – believe it or not.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is outside of the East Colonnade.  Look at the giant present in the garden.

The giant present is made of reflective material – giving it a mirrored effect.  I love this!!!

Back in the entrance,  faux Bo and Sunny greet visitors on a toy train.  It took more than a mile of black ribbon to create the dogs this year.

Underneath the Cross Hall, the décor is a Winter Wonderland.

Obama checks out the décor.

The Vermeil Room is the most intriguing of all this year.

Decorated by Alex Bittner – the trees are actually dresses!!!  LOVE!!!!

Designer Alex Bittner created the jewelry.

The Library.  A sidenote:  Recently on his fabulous documentary on music, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, showed a video of him visiting this White House Library and finding a book on Bob Dylan’s lyrics.  Wow!  The Times They Are A Changing.   For Sure!
Be sure to watch Grohl’s multi part documentary, “Sonic Highways” on HBO.  An extensive look at the history of American music!!!  If you like music, you will LOVE this show!!!

Look at this collection of globes turned into holiday greetings – perfect for library decorations.

The red China Room – one of my favorite basement rooms – if only for the velvet roundabout, decorated with pillow greetings this season.

The China Room is well known for the most gorgeous First Lady portrait of them all - Grace Coolidge with her beautiful dog, Rob Roy. 

I mean – compared to this First Lady – Andrew Johnson’s wife Eliza – Grace Coolidge is a Miss Universe!! 
I wish we could see the private quarters, if only to see what Michael S. Smith created for the Obamas.  There are only a very few pictures of the private rooms – apparently the Obamas don’t want the public to see their rooms.  Oh well…..

On the HGTV web site I found photographs of the Vice President’s house decorated for Christmas.  I’ve always been interested in this house and thought it would make a nice ending to this year’s White House Christmas story.

The Vice President’s house is located on the grounds of the Naval Observatory at 34th and Massachusetts Ave NW.   The grounds are 72 acres, 13 of which are designated for the Vice President’s house.   Here, the brick house was still red – today it is painted white.  Notice how green and dense the forest once was behind the house.

The 9,150 sq. ft. house is a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1893 for the Naval Superintendent.  Once the Naval Chief saw the impressive house, he laid claim to it and kicked the superintendent out.

In 1974 Congress designated the house as the official residence of the Vice President.  Then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller chose not to live there, but donated some furniture to the house.  Walter Mondale was the first to move into the house, followed by Bush, Quayle, Gore, Cheney and now Biden.  The Vice Families get no decorating allowance but private donations usually pay for it.

The rambling
house has 33 rooms.  Many of thee rooms are probably small and located on the third floor.
Each VP family has added their own stamp on the house:
Bush’s VP Dan Quayle added the swimming pool and made the house wheelchair accessible.  The Gores had 3 children and 3 dogs living at home and made many changes to the house.    The talented Albert Hadley designed their interiors in soothing yellows and warm reds.  They brought their own antiques but also borrowed some from the State Department.   Outside, the Gores planted hedges around the house to provide privacy for their children.
The Cheneys hired my favorite Georgetown designer Frank Babb Randolph to decorate the house – and his design is by far the most sophisticated, matched only by the Gore’s Hadley décor.   

Here the house is lit and tented for the Bidens’ Christmas party.

And here is the gated entrance to the house – overlooking the back side.

The front porch – with the Quayles and the George Bushes.  Look how young George H.W. looks!!!  So does Barbara.

Later, Al Gore on Halloween on the front porch.  He lived in the house for two terms under Bill Clinton.

And today – the front porch under the Bidens.  Their German Shepherd is named Champ – which is so strange because my first dog was a German Shepherd also named Champ!!!

The winding porch which curves along with the turret.   Off the porch is a trellis pergola that leads to the swimming pool.  This picture is from House Beautiful that featured the house during the Gores inhabitance.

The back of the house – shows the trellis walkway off the porch – and the turret.  The Bidens love to entertain around the swimming pool.

The pool house.

The floor plan shows the large reception hall with its front alcove where the Christmas tree is displayed.  The dining room is also very large.  The living room and sitting room are somewhat smaller – and three rooms share a corner fireplace.

The Bidens
These decorations are not from this year – the year is not designated.  But I’m sure they are probably similar each year.  The large reception room with its white painted staircase has been wallpapered in yellow stripes since the Gore’s time.  The Bidens use a red and blue rug.   The Cheney’s rug was yellow – and the Biden’s use that rug in the living room. 

The stairs – Champ is laying here – and on the left is a Christmas Champ – though it looks nothing like the real thing. 

A view of the wrap around stairs.

The large reception room – looking towards the front door on the left and the alcove on the right.  Here – there is one tree in the alcove.  Notice the wreaths on the arch.

I love the large foyer – makes such a nice space to entertain in.

A few days ago, Dr. Biden tweeted this picture of the alcove in the foyer – with FIVE trees!!  This year – instead of wreaths, there are gold stars on the arch. 

In the corner of the reception room – stockings hang on the mantel.

The living room is a study in yellow and cream with touches of blue.  The furniture looks like much of the same that was used during the Cheneys and even the Gores time.  But – all has been reupholstered.  In the turret – the Bidens have placed the piano.  The Cheneys put the piano in the foyer.    The large rug is from the Cheneys – it was in the foyer before.  The lamp and console in the window are also the same as the Cheneys.  The blue and white striped curtains are new.  I think that they are tied back because of the decorations and they look better hanging loose.

The piano in the turret.  The Bidens like to collect art glass.  Throughout the house there are examples of thisglass – as seen here, mostly in blues and greens.

Here are the curtains loose – in the turret.  They do look much better like this.

Here you can see more of the furniture – love the two damask yellow chairs and the blue and white chair which goes with the curtains.  Very pretty.  How disappointing is it to get to meet the President and VP and go to the VP’s house instead of the White House???!

The Christmas pictured here – the tree went in the turret instead of the alcove.  It does look pretty there.

The dining room – with the chairs custom made for the Quayles.  The table was brought here on loan from the State Department by the Cheneys.   The sideboard was also brought in here by the Cheneys.  Red wreaths go with the blue walls and rug.

Close up of the painting.     Love the paneled doors that are original to the house.

Here is how the dining room normally looks.  It is really nice – with the white curtains and blue trim.    More art glass on the table.

A view of the dining room looking out to the front lawn. 

The sunroom opens to the veranda.  Here it is decorated for Christmas with a large tree.

Normally – the sunroom looks like this.  Some of this furniture was from the Cheneys family room.  More blue art glass is seen here.  Through the window you can see the trellis walkway to the pool.

The family room is green stripes with a tufted brown leather Chesterfield.  The chairs have been recovered over and over again with each new VP.  This room is cozy and is very attractive. 

The portrait of Kennedy is by Jamie Wyeth.  Wow!!  The art work is just incredible.
Visitors to the Bidens are often posed in front of the fireplace for their official photograph.

Oh no!!   In this photograph taken this year – the Wyeth is now gone, replaced by a convex Federal style mirror.  Not sure why the Kennedy portrait was moved – it had been here since the Cheneys term.

In honor of Dr. Biden – a Christmas tree made of books!  I would love to know what that painting is.

For this lunch meeting – the meal was taken in the small family room.  Why?  The house has much larger rooms.  Oh, those poor curtains.

The Cheneys

The Cheneys decorated the house using Frank Babb Randolph – the fabulous Georgetown designer.  Here, you can see the yellow striped wallpaper and the creamy yellow rug in the foyer.  Read my stories on Randolph HERE and HERE.

And here the former VP shows the new VP his house.  In this picture – you can see the grand piano in the alcove.   The Cheneys used the turret as a sitting area.

The living room is simply gorgeous as decorated by Randolph.  The Helen Frankenthaler is stunning.   Mrs. Cheney borrowed it from the Smithsonian and it simply “makes” the room.  Just gorgeous.   Mrs. Cheney says:   “One of the great pleasures of living in the vice president’s house is being able to borrow art to display in it. My first phone call was to Helen Frankenthaler, whom I know through mutual friends.  The artist’s work Lush Spring has become the centerpiece of the living room.”   Instead of area rugs, it looks like they used a flat carpet, uniting both rooms into one.  The curtains are billowing striped silk – 2 widths.  Curtains should be made correctly and expertly – or don’t bother.  Poorly constructed curtains are worse than none. 

Another wider view of the room.  Here a French chair is added next to the console.

The day the Bidens moved into the house, this picture was taken.  You can see they still had the Cheney décor, including the wall to wall carpet, which was removed and the hardwoods exposed. 

The dining room – the table was borrowed from the State Department, the chairs were made for the Quayles.  The sideboard was also brought in by Randolph.  New beautiful chandelier and rug.  Above the sideboard is another important piece of art.  I like this so much more than the Biden’s blue and red dining room.  So much more elegant – while the Bidens is more casual.  And again, the silk curtains become the focal point.  Wish I had better pictures!!

In the family room, it’s all ivory and white.  Notice the fireplace tile surround.  White curtains, and white damask wallpaper.

And, here when they moved out – the Cheneys left brown chairs that weren’t seen in the above photograph of this room.  The wallpaper is so pretty.

A very rare view of the private quarters – in the upstairs turret on the day Cheney was first shown the house before he moved in.   Décor left over from the Gores.

And, another upstairs private quarters room in greens and ivories, left over from the Gores.
The Gores:
The Gores lived here 8 years and they hired Albert Hadley to decorate.  These lovely pictures were published in House Beautiful and they show a very upper class English design with the living room in yellows and red accents.   The sofa and chairs look like the same used by the Cheneys and later the Bidens.  Also, I think this is the chandelier now used in the dining room.
Another view showing red accents on the chair – and a view into the turret with its blinds and yellow curtains.  I remember when this article came out in the magazine and thinking this was so beautiful!  It still is – very classic, very traditional.

This must be from the reception room – with its yellow striped wallpaper.  The painting – is that the VP’s house?
The family room – notice the fireplace tile!  I wonder if this is original.  What a shame that the Cheneys had it removed!!!   I love the Rose Medallion garden seat.  Again, just beautiful.
The dining room is so pretty in reds and yellows, again very English country manor house décor that Hadley was so good at.  The chandelier?  It’s gorgeous – was it the Gore’s own antique?  The curtains are exquisitely crafted.

The Bushes
Here the staircase is shown before it was painted.  Not sure who painted it all white, but I do like the brown stained railings.  They would look good in black too.  The fireplace looks like it might have the original tiles in black.

Nothing to talk about – very 80s and although decorated, it doesn’t look like it was designd by someone who had a sophisticated aesthetic.

The Mondales

The Carters stopped by for Christmas.  Oy!!!  Those clothes!   Mrs. Carter was never known as a fashion plate. 
The Mondales used the table that Nelson Rockefeller donated to the house – it was his father’s John D. Rockefeller’s table and was once in his NYC apartment.  The décor is so bland –everything seems so plain and even cheap looking – from the brass chandelier to the curtains to the mirror.  The Christmas décor even seems insignificant, compared to today.
A view towards the other direction.  This sideboard was replaced by the Cheneys.  I love Mrs. Mondale’s hair – was it in curlers???   Ha-ha!!  Oh, how times have changed – so much – and we don’t even seem to realize it.
Mondale always cooked the Thanksgiving turkey.  A rare glimpse into the kitchen.  I wonder what it looks like today??
The Rockefellers
They were the first family eligible to live in the Observatory, but the Rockefellers opted to live in their own house.  He did furnish the house.  Here they hosted  President Ford to dinner at his father, John D. Rockefeller’s table.
And finally,


Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday, Merry Christmas, and a healthy New Years!!!!!

From Ben, Elisabeth and me!