This is NOT a political post!! 

Hear Ye Hear Ye:  This is NOT a political post!

A few weeks ago we discussed the White House Oval Office and all

the changes made to it by various presidents up through and including our newest, Joe Biden.

The past administration,  the Trumps, not only oversaw their Oval Office renovation, but they also were in charge of a West Wing redo, not a large one, but more of a stop-gap measure.   The West Wing is scheduled for a major overhaul in the next few years.


Trump’s Oval Office

While the First Lady does help with the Oval Office, the West Wing usually is on the President’s list of duties while the First Lady oversees the East Wing renovations, where her own offices are.

Today, we are going to examine what changes the former First Lady, Melania Trump, accomplished during her four year term.

So, go get that cup of coffee and grab a chair, school is now in order!!

The past three administrations, prior to the Trumps, have all been 8 year terms.  Those eight years allowed for the Obamas, the George W. Bushes, and the Clintons lots of time to accomplish many renovation projects.

For instance, with the help of their designer Michael S. Smith, the Obamas decorated much of the upstair private areas along with the Old Family Dining Room on the main floor.  Four years after the Obamas left office, Smith wrote a tour-de-force account of that experience:


It is a fabulous book, a sophisticated look at the White House and Michael Smith and the Obamas.  On the cover is the highlight of his work in the White House – the Yellow Oval Room.

      To order the book, click on the image below:                                                                                                                   

But, unfortunately for the Trumps, Melania had only four years, instead of eight, to accomplish all the renovation projects she wanted to do.   Still, she managed to finish quite a bit.


Right before the Biden inauguration,  the soon to be former First Lady gave her farewell speech, above.    Afterwards, Melania released a written statement that highlighted all the changes

she accomplished during their four year term.

 I recognized some of her projects on Melania’s list, but others I didn’t know about.  And, there was one major project on the list that wasn’t completed, but is probably the most thrilling one to anyone familiar with White House decor.

Let’s take a look at Melania’s renovation list – year by year.



First on the long list of renovations was an overhaul of the Queen’s Bathroom  - its first redo since the 1950s!!  Yikes!!!

At the end of the East Sitting Room hallway, there are the two main guest suites – the Lincoln Bedroom Suite and the Queens’ Bedroom Suite.  Each of those two guest bedrooms has its own sitting room and bathroom.  One of Melania Trump’s first projects was to undertake the renovation of the bathroom in the Queens’ suite.

Originally called the Rose Suite, this is how the guest bedroom was decorated in 1963.   At first, Jacqueline Kennedy stayed in this room while hers was redecorated at the other end of the second floor hall.  Jackie actually decided to stay and make this her own room, but she eventually changed her mind and moved back to the traditional First Family set of rooms off the West sitting room.  The Kennedys slept in separate but adjoining bedrooms and I suspect she wanted to be closer to Jack than she would have been away in the Queens’ Bedroom.


In 1967, Look Magazine featured Harry Truman’s daughter Margaret in the Queens’ Bedroom during a return to the White House.

During the 1970s the Queens Bedroom was given a more sophisticated look.  Later, Laura Bush updated the room and it was published in Architectural Digest.  Yet, the bathroom in the suite was left untouched!!  Why???

When Michael S. Smith spent the night at the White House this was the guest room he chose.  No wonder, it’s beautiful!  Maybe he didn’t use the bathroom??

On top of the mantel is a trumeau that was gifted to the United States and the Truman family by none other than Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth!

Here in the Rose Garden, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip present the trumeau to the Trumans!

I wish my guests would come bringing antiques like this!!! 

Here is the beautiful Queens’ Bedroom’s sitting room.   It was once larger, but the bathroom was added to it, making this room much smaller.  Stephane Boudin designed this French styled room for Jacqueline Kennedy, picking out the blue and white toile for the bedding and draperies, but it was Jackie who decided to put it everywhere, including on the walls.  She brought her own center chinoiserie tea table and left it with the room when she moved out.  Originally, there was a white rug in this room but this needlepoint rug is more practical.


This view shows the skirted vanity table and the daybed.  This sitting room is one of the only rooms in the White House second floor which retains its original Jacqueline Kennedy decor. 

Do you love this room as much as I do?????

The Queen’s bathroom – in need of a complete overhaul – and Melania’s first project.

Carpet?!?!  And that toilet cover is so disgusting!!!!!   OMG!!! The horror!!!!!!  No WONDER Melania wanted it renovated!!!!

You can get cooties from it!!!!

AFTER:  I wish there was a photo of the finished bathroom.  I’m sure it is outstanding, probably done all in white marble and gold hardware!!

To order, click on the photo!

One factoid taken from the book written by long time, but now ex, Melania friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, is that while Melania waited for months to move to Washington so that Barron could finish out his school year, she also was waiting for the renovation of her own bedroom AND bathroom that were hopelessly outdated.  That renovation of her private bedroom and bathroom were NOT included on Melania’s list of White House redos.

There is one chapter in the book about the decor at the White House that describes how outdated and shabby it all was.  Stephanie calls it a “dump.”  Huh?  I saw the photographs from Michael S. Smith’s book on the Obama White House and it sure doesn’t look at all like a dump.   Also, Smith was ready on day one of the Inauguration to redo several rooms including a transition update of the master bedroom.  Not sure why the Trumps own decorator, Tham Kannalikham, wasn’t ready herself?   There is also an interesting passage in the book about the decor of the Oval Office and how much money another designer billed for work which was ultimately rejected. 

BTW, if you are a Melania fan, you might not enjoy this book – at all.


The next project done in 2018 was another personal room – the President’s Elevator.

The elevator was updated and restored and judging by its doors, it is quite beautiful:

What an elegant door!

The small elevator to the private quarters had its wood and brass fixtures replaced and updated.  The total cost was $100,000.  The head of the White House Historical Association, Stewart McLaurin, said the elevator had “looked like something in the back of the old Woodies Department store.  It really needed an update.”

Woodies!!!!!   Not sure what that is, but perhaps it’s like an an old Woolworth’s Store?

Part Two of the Elevator Project:  For the ground floor elevator hall, a beautiful brass clock was commissioned from the Chelsea Clock Company for the area above the elevator.  The White House calligraphers worked on its numbers and letters.   James Monroe’s china inspired the eagle drawn on the clock.  The clock cost $10,000.

Monroe’s China – the inspiration for the Elevator Hall Clock

The first set of White House china, above, was ordered by President James Monroe.  Made in France in 1817 by Russell & La Farge of Le Harve, there were a total of just 30 place settings ordered along with a dessert set.  The eagle was Napoleonic and he carried a red, white and blue banner that read America’s motto: “E Pluribus Unum."

At the time, the public criticized the china because it was made in France and Congress had already passed a law stating that for the White House “be as far as practicable of American or domestic manufacture.” The law didn’t state china had to be made in the U.S. – that would come 100 years later when American porcelain caught up to the quality made in France and England. 

Some 200 years later, this set of china was the inspiration for the new Elevator Hall clock.

Where exactly IS this elevator????

From the State Dining Room, you can just barely see the Elevator Hall at the far right, off the main hall behind the tall candelabra.  Or on the map:

The main elevator is the #1 red circle near the State Dining Room.  There are two other smaller elevators, #2 is off the Pantry and goes up to the Family Kitchen.  You can’t really see #3, but it’s behind the main staircase off the Entrance Hall – on the map it looks like #3 just goes down to the sub basements.     

President Chester Arthur installed the first hydraulic elevator in the White House in 1881.   It was changed to electric in 1898 but had to be replaced during the Theodore Roosevelt renovation in 1902 because Edith Roosevelt insisted the elevator be wide enough for a stretcher (based on President McKinley’s assassination a year before.)  This cage elevator was later eplaced by Franklin Roosevelt.  Today, the current elevator is the same one which was installed during the Harry Truman restoration.

The elevator being installed during the Truman restoration in 1951.

During the Kennedy tenure, the elevator’s wood was stained a light hue and gilding was also applied.

The white & gold Kennedy elevator.

Later, the Clintons restored it to its regular darker tone.

                                                                                                                      This handsome butler Wilson Jerman worked at the White House from 1957 to 2012 with a ten year break in the late 1990s.  He started working for Dwight Eisenhower and ended with Barack Obama.  He passed away from Covid-19 at the age of 91.


After a slow start in 2018, Melania Trump took off on the renovations.  2019 was a very busy year in the White House:

FLOORS:   In 2019, the marble floors of the Cross Hall and State Entrance were restored.  The Obamas had replaced the red rugs in the same area, so the floors then needed an update, too.  At the same time, the oak floors in the East Room were completely restored.  These floors were installed in 1903 during Theodore Roosevelt’s restoration.    The floor projects took several months and there is a video of the work being done in the East Room:

Here you can see the entire East Room was covered in protective plastic sheeting.  Even the huge crystal chandys were  protected in the plastic. The wood floors were actually REMOVED and then placed back down.  I assume they installed the original floors, but that isn’t confirmed.


AFTER:  The East Room with the finished oak floors.  There are three area rugs that are laid down during high traffic times to preserve the floors.  There are two patterns on the three rugs – the center medallion is different.

Here is one of the rugs with a sun center medallion.

I know that when Michelle Obama commissioned the rug for the State Dining Room – she bought two of the same rug so that when one is being cleaned the room won’t be missing the rug.  Perhaps the East Room has two sets of rugs, also?

And here is the second center medallion. 

Also – notice the wooden doors, how polished they are.  During this housekeeping restoration that Melania oversaw – 30 wooden doors were restored.  Years and years of White House dogs had badly damaged and scratched many of the wood doors and they were desperately in need of restoration.  Along with the wood, all the door knobs were also polished – for a total cost of $90,000.   

It’s amusing that the dog-damaged doors would be on the Trumps’ list of to-dos because they are the only White House family in recent memory without a pet.   I can only imagine the Bidens two huge German Shepherds and how they will probably be scratching at all those newly restored doors!!!

This is my theory about indoor dogs.   If it’s good enough for Queen Elizabeth to have six Corgis and Dorgis living inside Buckingham Palace, then it’s good enough for me to have an indoor dog or two.  Same goes for the President and the White House!

These two dogs are going to scratch up all those newly restored doors!  One has already bitten the secret service detail twice already!!!  But they are gorgeous. 


In anticipation of the second state dinner honoring the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Red, Green and Blue Rooms were spruced up, along with the previously mentioned floors in the Cross Hall and East Room.

In the Red Room, the walls which are actually fabric, not paper, had turned pink over the years.  There is one area that is especially vulnerable to the western sun which causes strong fading on the walls.  Look at the area to the left of the mantel – you can really see how faded it is.

Notice the guests around the table!!!   What a great lunch this was!  Both Bush Presidents and the Obamas attended!  This was taken the day the Obamas hosted the unveiling of the new Bush White House Portraits, with the extended family attending.   More about this portrait reveal later!   Notice that the Obamas served lunch on the Bushes official state china.  It was probably one of the few times the Bushes got to eat off their gorgeous magnolia plates because the set was not completed until their last December in office.

This is only one of the plates of the Bush China – it is a 17 piece place setting for 320 guests!  The set produced by Lenox cost almost 1/2 million $$$, paid for with private donations.   The other plates in this set are much more formal, but this magnolia plate is truly exquisite!!!!  The pearl knives are from Woodrow Wilson’s china set.

OK – back to the Red Room and all of Melania Trump’s changes:

Here you can really see the how pink the wallcover had become.  No wonder this was on top of the list of things to be redone in the White House.

AFTER:  Here is the Red Room with the new wallcovering!  Look how vibrant it is.  I hope they treated the fabric against fading, somehow.

The fabric used is Scalamandre silk which is surprising because silk is so sun sensitive.   How will they protect the color from fading going forward????

  I am also noticing the back of one chair is also badly faded – I wonder why they didn’t change that too?  See that chair next to the fireplace? It’s so pink! 

And I really dislike those lamps next to the mantel.    They used to be across the room on the opposite wall.    

Another view with the beautiful new wallcovering and wall trim..

A close of the red fabric and the newly accessorized mantel.  This clock and urns was moved here from its usual home in the Green Room.  Featured on this 1806 ormolu clock is George Washington with an eagle.  The dial is inscribed with a quote from his funeral by Major-General Henry Lee:  “Washington, First in War, First in Peace, First in the Heart of his Countrymen.”


BEFORE:  Laura Bush had been the last to renovate the Green Room, purchasing the rug based on an early 19th century design.   The curtains were new, based on a design from Pat Nixon who had last designed the Green Room before Laura Bush.  I love this room.  Notice Benjamin Franklin’s portrait over the fireplace and the mantel clock and urns that are now in the Red Room.


BEFORE:  Another view of the beautiful Green Room under the Bush and Obama tenures.  Under Trump these lamps were moved across to the sofa wall, leaving the tables by the chairs bare.  I think I prefer it with the lamps by the chairs.

Mrs. Bush’s official portrait was painted in the Green Room in honor of her work done in this room.  Isn’t this portrait beautiful?

BEFORE:  Here is the Green Room, newly decorated by Mrs. Pat Nixon.  Notice her new curtains.   A very similar design remains today.

AFTER:   Melania Trump’s restored Green Room.  The changes are subtle.  The curtains were faded but to save a large sum of money – the panels were just turned inside out with the back side now facing front.  New trim for the curtains was purchased.  As stated before, the lamps were moved next to the sofa.  The two side chairs by the salmon ones were moved to the front door and matching side chairs were added here.  I prefer the other side chairs that Laura Bush used..


Now do you understand why the Washington Clock was moved to the Red Room?  It no longer could fit under this huge painting.

For some unknown reason the wonderful portrait of Benjamin Franklin was removed from the Green Room after hanging here for decades.  In its place, Mrs. Edith Roosevelt’s portrait was hung.   As you can see, there is no room under the newly placed Roosevelt  portrait for the rather tall Washington Clock, so it was shipped off to the Red Room.  I wonder why they switched the portraits?  I’m sure there was a good reason – it just was never shared with the nosey public (i.e. ME!!!!).

Is there anyone who prefers this portrait of Edith Roosevelt over the Franklin one?  And it has my least favorite framing technique – an oval portrait with a square frame.  

Actually the history behind this portrait of the man who discovered electricity is rather interesting.

This 1767 painting by David Martin is called the “Thumb Portrait” for the prominent placement of his thumb against his chin, expressing concentrated thought.   The bust is of Isaac Newton. The painting was once owned by the Philadelphia publishing tycoon Walter Annenberg who had purchased it from the Cadwallader estate for $250,000.  The portrait is important because it is the only one that Franklin actually sat for.  Annenberg loved his portrait and expected to own it for the rest of his life.  That was before Jackie Kennedy heard about his painting from their mutual friend Harry du Pont of Winterthur.   A quick call to Annenberg where she said “President Kennedy and I thought it would be wonderful if you, as a great Philadelphia editor, would give the White House the portrait of Philadelphia’s greatest editor.”   He called it the “most astute arm twisting I’ve ever been up against in my life.”   Annenberg thought about it for one hour and then decided to give the painting to the White House.   He was told it would hang in the Green Room, as it did.  Later, during the Carter administration, Annenberg was at the White House and he found a mirror hanging over the mantel instead of Benjamin Franklin - who was now on the other side of the room, hanging near the ceiling.  Annenberg mentioned his displeasure to then Second Lady Joan Mondale who passed the word on to Rosalynn Carter.  Within a week the portrait was back over the mantel, in the Green Room.   Annenberg must be spinning in his grave right now over the fact that the painting was moved yet again.

I tweeted the President of the White House Historical Association, Stewart McLaurin, and he told me the Franklin painting was taken down for conservation and it is now on loan to the National Portrait Gallery!

BTW – if you want to read a scholarly, fabulous new book on the history  of the White House, “James Hoban Designer & Builder of The White House” written by the aforementioned Stewart McLaurin.  You can order it from




During the Trump presidency,  work continued in the Blue Room on the acquisition and restoration of more pieces of furniture from the Bellange suite.

A gilt bergere from the Bellange Suite

In 1817, President James Monroe, who had once been the Ambassador to France, acquired the 53 piece Bellange Suite for the Blue Room.  But, by 1860, then President James Buchanan sold the BellangĂ© furniture at auction after he had deemed it out of style.  He replaced it all with a set of  Victorian Rococo Revival furniture. 

A hundred years later, Jacqueline Kennedy was surprised at the quality of furniture she found in the White House – which was furnished with mostly cheap reproductions purchased from department stores by the Trumans and Eisenhowers after the extensive Truman restoration.   The White House furniture at the time of the Kennedy inauguration was described as “a hotel that had  been decorated by a wholesale furniture store during a January clearance.”  As the well told story goes, Kennedy embarked on a mission to buy back as much art and furniture, as possible, that had once belonged to the White House.  This mission was spearheaded by the newly established White House Historical Association.

   During the Theodore Roosevelt restoration of 1902, to compensate for the loss of the Bellange furniture suite, architect Charles McKim had brought back the original Empire decor to the Blue Room by designing a set of furniture that was inspired by the Bellange originals.


The Blue Room by the Trumans and Eisenhowers as found by Jacqueline Kennedy.  You can see the furniture architect Charles McKim had designed in 1903.   With its white painted frames and gilt accents,  the McKim furniture was created to replace the missing Bellange furniture.

Here is a close up of the McKim sofa.   You can see how much McKim was inspired by the Ballange suite when this was designed.

The iconic Blue Room that Stephane Boudin designed for Jacqueline Kennedy.  With or without the original pieces of the Bellange suite, this room remains a favorite of many.


Here, is the Kennedy Blue Room with Ambassador David Bruce and his wife, Evangeline, at a state dinner for Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, 1963. 

The Blue Room under the Obamas.

Michelle Obama began a project to acquire as many of the missing original 53 pieces of the Pierre-Antoine Bellange suite.  It has continued on during the Trump years and to date 10 pieces have been acquired and restored bringing a total of 21 pieces owned by the White House.  The rest of the pieces are believed, at this time, to be lost to history.

Melania Trump continued this project, which included restoring and reupholstering all the Bellange pieces now in the Blue House.   

This pier table is located in the Grand Foyer.  It is actually the only original Bellange piece that was never sold and had remained owned by the White House since 1817.  Its has a fascinating history.   Jacqueline Kennedy read an article that described the Bellange suite and included was a photo of this pier table which had been in storage for years.  Jackie was so excited and asked that the table be found and brought to her.

The original Bellange pier table as it was found in storage, before its restoration.

It was this pier table that spurned Jackie Kennedy on to find all the missing Bellange pieces and more.  To accomplish this, the White House Historical Society was started and the hunt was on!   Today this pier table awaits its own restoration which is now long overdue. 

AFTER:  Bellange chairs, now fully restored, sit near the marble mantel.

This gorgeous Bellange sofa replaced the McKim one.  The portrait of the tenth president, John Taylor, hangs above the sofa.

BEFORE:  Here is one of the most recently acquired pieces, found in 2012 and restored during the Trump presidency – a fire screen.

AFTER:  The completed restoration.

AFTER:  The Blue Room today with all the restored Bellange pieces.

AFTER:   Another view of the Blue Room.  While some of the Bellange pieces were found and restored during the Obama presidency, a final reveal was postponed until all the pieces, including those found during the Trump years, were restored.   Here, is a photo of Blue Room today with all the pieces owned by the White House, save the Pier table, fully restored.

Once Melania finished with the First floor – Red, Green and Blue rooms, she was ready to go to work on the lower level:


Another project undertaken by Melania Trump was the Diplomatic Reception room.

The Diplomatic Reception drawing room as it was in 1960. Notice the portrait of Edith Roosevelt on the right that is now in the Green Room and on the left, the Angelica Van Buren that now hangs in the Red Room.   The built-in shelves were later removed. 

This room – the third oval found in the White House – is on the ground floor. Until the 1902 Roosevelt renovation, this basement room was used to store mechanical systems such as a huge furnace.  After the furnace was removed, the Diplomatic Reception room was then born - furnished with period Federal furniture with gold and white fabrics.  The Regency chandelier was later added in 1971 and a series of rugs have been woven for the room.

But all these additions pale when compared to what Jacqueline Kennedy added to the room.    It wasn’t until Jackie restored this room that it took on its magical quality.


In 1961, a 100 year old home in Maryland was set to be demolished.  Peter Hill, looking for funds for his missionary work, discovered an historic 1834 Zuber wallpaper called “Views of North America” hanging in that soon to be destroyed house.  Realizing its value, he bought the paper for $50.  Armed with a putty knife and razor blade, he removed the Zuber paper and immediately called the Smithsonian who invited him to the White House to show Jacqueline Kennedy the paper.  She asked him where he thought the paper would look best and the chose the Diplomatic Reception room.   The White House then paid him $12,500 for the paper.

The wallpaper was restored and hung in the oval Diplomatic Reception room.  It was a few inches short, so blue sky was painted to compensate for the missing length.

Zuber has continued to produce this paper and Jackie could have bought the panels, new and for far less money.  But she recognized the value was in its antiquity. 

A few years ago I wrote about this Jacqueline Kennedy restoration in great detail.   HERE

The finished Diplomatic Reception room by Jacqueline Kennedy.  This rug remained in the room until a new one was designed by the Nancy Reagan.


The other side of the room.

Nancy Reagan’s Rug:   The new Reagan rug had similar borders to the Kennedy rug, but the center field was fully filled.


In the final Bush term, Laura Bush designed both her new china and this rug, but neither arrived until the end of December during their last month in the White House.  The rug was inspired by the rays on the original George Washington china.  The rug’s border shows the official seals of all 50 states.

Mostly though – the Bush Diplomatic Reception rug reminds me of the new rug woven for George Bush’s oval office:

Bush’s oval office rug also has a gold sunburst design,

The Obamas had eight full years of enjoyment using the newly designed Diplomatic Reception rug.  While the Kennedy rug had lasted over 20 years, and the Reagan rug lasted just as long, the beautiful Bush rug stayed only about 10 years when it was deemed too used.  According to Stewart McLaurin, there was a footpath worn in the Bush rug and so, a new rug was ordered by Melania Trump. 

AFTER:  Here is the new rug that Melania Trump designed.  It has a border that shows the official flowers of all 50 states which she designed.


A close up of the details in the new rug.

What had everyone baffled was this green rug seen in the Diplomatic Reception room.  No one seems to know where it came from or why.   One appearance of the rug coincided with Christmas.   Was this made for the holiday season?  As to this too small desk – this photo became a hugely popular meme.


And here, the green rug during the Christmas season.  I hate the pile on this rug!  It looks so messy. 

Even the new Trump rug has a pile – look at all those footprints.  I just don’t understand why they would make a rug with a pile like this.

Stark made this new rug at a cost of $200,000.

I love this photo – doesn’t it look like Mrs. Macron is looking at the new rug? 

Melania was not through with decorating this room.  There were plans to recover the chairs and benches, but alas, her time as First Lady came to an end.  I suppose the new First Lady, Jill Biden will take over the decorating of this room. 

The Zuber paper is still available today and is quite popular.  You can google “Jacqueline Kennedy Diplomatic Reception room wallpaper” and dozens of houses pop up with the same exact paper as found in the White House!

This vestibule where guests enter, leads from the outside to the Diplomatic Reception room.  Look how the sun has faded its Zuber wallpaper.  Perhaps Jill Biden will replace this paper.

Speaking of Jill Biden, she posed with her two dogs in the Diplomatic Reception room.  There was a rumor that one of the Biden’s dogs had left a “package” right outside this room!!!   All I can think of are all the restored wood doors which were scratched by all the former White House dogs!!


Another project that Melania undertook , albeit small, took place in 2019.   While the Blue Room gets most of the attention for the Bellange furniture restoration, there is another suite of furniture that is being bought back to the White House.    Besides buying furniture for the Blue Room, President Monroe also bought furniture for the East Room – a suite of 24 chairs and four sofas, made by William King, a Georgetown cabinetmaker. Years later, President Ulysses Grant removed all of this mahogany furniture, probably because it was no longer in style. This original 1818 chair was bought and restored by Melania Trump for the sum of $85,000.     When the Obamas commissioned new chairs for the State Dining Room, they were influenced by these William King chairs as you can see here:

The new State Dining Room decorated by Michelle Obama.  These chairs were modeled after the William King chairs made for the East Room in 1818.

The arm chairs are almost a true likeness of the William King chairs, one of which Melania Trump procured in 2019.

The first two years for Melania Trump’s restoration work were busy, but there was one project that was quite large - purely a fun one that was also completed in 2019:


There’s always been a bit of mystery surrounding the White House bowling alley.  Is there even such a thing??!?!   It’s not highly publicized or ever shown, but that all changed the night of the Trump inauguration.  On Instagram, Don Jr. showed a video of his family bowling including his then-wife – in her dress and heels, above.

Many presidents have left their mark on the White House, leaving behind playful and frivolous updates.   Franklin Roosevelt introduced the indoor swimming pool and  the movie theatre.  Gerald Ford brought the outdoor pool and Eisenhower installed the putting green, later moved and reinstalled by Bill Clinton.  Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the tennis court and Barack Obama adapted it to a full basketball court.  Bill Clinton added a jogging track.  But it was Harry Truman who brought bowling to the White House.  Well, actually it was in the basement of the West Wing. And he wasn’t even much of a bowler – his friends donated it for his birthday in 1947. 

In the 50s, Truman’s two bowling lanes were moved over to the Old Executive Office Building where they remain today. When bowling was popular, staff and Secret Service Agents formed their own league and played in tournaments around the country.  People still bowl there today and if you know someone who works for the complex, you can make reservations and play there too – through Yelp!

President Truman was not actually a devoted bowler.

Lady Bird Johnson was an avid bowler and she, along with Second Lady Muriel Humphrey in yellow, are seen with their own balls walking to the two-lane Humphrey alley.  Isn’t this the cutest photo ever?!?!?

This is just so amazing on many levels.  The Secret Service had their own magazine and here, they wrote an article on the First Lady’s bowling style!!  It’s quite innocent fun but imagine this happening today!!!!  It never would – it would be considered mocking and bullying.  Oh well, I think she looks adorable and so human.

Beside the alleys at the EOB, there is another one at the White House complex.  It was Richard Nixon who wanted his own lane and had it built underneath the North Portico driveway where it remains today.  He would bowl for four hours at a time and once bowled two 300 point games, back to back!

Nixon playing in the original, two lane alley in the old EOB.  He was so serious about his game!!  There’s an old, soundless video on You Tube where he invited the top bowlers to come to the White House.  They each bowled a few times and Nixon has a fit when he comes up short.   It’s so funny watching how intense he was about his ability!!

The Truman two lane alley today – all of the mod Nixon era decor is now gone replaced with a 50s style decor.


The White House One Lane Alley:

BEFORE:  The last time the White House alley was upgraded was during the Clinton years, see above.  Later the walls were just painted plain.  Barack Obama had boasted he was going to tear down the lane altogether and replace it with a basketball court.  After much negative feedback, he changed his mind.

A top bowling association offered to renovate the lanes and created this plan, which was rejected by the Obamas:

The design is rather gaudy, not fitting for the elegant White House, and I’m not surprised it was rejected!

And so in 2019, the time finally came that the old, one lane Nixon White House alley would be totally restored with funds donated by the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America.  The new design was actually almost elegant, if a bowling alley can be elegant.  But it is much more fitting for the White House than the above red hot design with neon lights:

  AFTER:  And here is the new White House Bowling Alley that Melania Trump arranged!  With sedate ivory walls, the seating is tufted velvet banquettes complete with trim.  Placed around the walls are brass picture rods to hang paintings and photos without damaging the paint.  The lighting is functional but not overbearing.  It was all quite well done and very attractive – especially for a bowling alley which is more associated with dirty shoes and beer.

For the initial reveal, the First Lady Melania invited children of the Secret Service and they had a wonderful time trying out the new bowling alley.


Politics being politics, of course there would be complaints.  When people saw the red, white, and blue balls (did you know that balls are actually called bowls?  I didn’t!) – Twitter went crazy.  
“Its NOT the President’s House, it’s the Peoples House!!!!!”

until someone tweeted

“Isn’t Congress the Peoples House?”

Oh well, I think the bowls or balls look great just as they are.  And I think this was a well done renovation for the White House.


Did you know that there is a third alley?  At Camp David?   Here it is – the Camp David bowling alley.  Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright practice their approach.  Actually, I’m not sure what they are doing!!!  LOL


With the busy 2019 finally over, major projects were scheduled for the new year – two of the biggest projects yet to date.  The first project was called:

The Tennis Pavilion and Children’s Garden

Melania announced that she would be renovating the tennis court with a new pavilion.  The entire project was to be completed in two stages, and the second stage will be finished  sometime in the future???


This horribly ugly tennis court outside the West Wing was installed by Theodore Roosevelt.  Later it was moved to where it is today.

Obama turned the tennis court into a full basketball court.

BEFORE:  Here was the tennis pavilion and bathroom that served the tennis court, the children’s secret garden and the vegetable garden.  Behind this building was the large grounds maintenance buildings that further marred the landscape.

Here is the two phased plan for the Tennis Pavilion.  Melania was able to complete Phase I and hopefully, Jill Biden will complete the second phase.  With the pavilion now finished, the children’s secret garden will be shifted further out and the maintenance building will be rebuilt. 

AFTER:   The new, beautiful tennis pavilion.

The design of the pavilion was inspired by classic Greco-Roman architecture.  The White House and the East and West wings were also inspirations for the fanlight floor to ceiling windows and Doric columns.  White limestone was used on the facade and the roof is copper.  The windows are both steel and mahogany.  The building is 1200 sq. ft.


A bit clearer – in the right window you can see a lantern.

The maintenance building behind the pavilion will be rebuilt in the near future.  Once known as the Pony Shed, the new building does look like stables.

It is said that the Children’s Garden was also redone, but according to the plans, it will be moved to make room for the new maintenance building.  I’m not sure it was moved yet.  Perhaps they just cleaned it up a bit.

What IS The Children’s Secret Garden??

Right next to the tennis court is the garden that Lady Bird Johnson created as a departing gift to the White House in 1969.  Hidden behind masses of trees and shrubs, the garden has a koi pond and a tree suitable for climbing. 

The children and grandchildren of the First Families leave their prints in bronze which are then embedded in the flagstone.

Here Luci and Lynda Johnson were the first to leave their children’s prints.  

I suppose the stones were cleaned and grouted in the restoration.  This is an out of date photograph.

The latest prints were of Ivanka Trump’s children.   In this photo it does look as if the stones have been cleaned and new grout placed.   The plans call for the garden to be moved slightly to the east during Phase Two.

The new Tennis Pavilion will also service the Kitchen Garden, started by Michelle Obama. There were rumors that Melania Trump was going to remove this garden, but that proved to be utterly false.  Melania held events in the garden for Be Best and was an enthusiastic supporter of the kitchen garden.  Today, the 2800 sq. ft. garden is thriving and it provides vegetables and fruit for the White House complex.

While the Tennis Pavilion is beautiful, it was met with criticism (of course!!) because it was revealed during the pandemic. Actually it had been in the planning stage for years and actively since 2018.

There are two more projects left.  One was started but not completed and it will be up to the Bidens to finish it, but the next project was one of the largest and most ambitious restorations that Melania undertook.


The renewal of the Rose Garden proved to be very controversial, to say the least.  Most articles written about the new design were highly critical of the garden and it is hard to find a positive review written anywhere except from Melania’s press office.   Something to remember – it’s hard to judge a new garden by the older, mature one where the bushes and trees are fully grown as compared  to tiny new specimens.  So…that is something to remember when comparing the old Rose Garden with the new Rose Garden.

Did you know that the garden wasn’t Jacqueline Kennedy’s idea?  And did you know that it wasn’t the first, or second, or even third garden to be grown in that sunny spot?

In the 19th century, horses and stables took up much of the outdoor space at the White House, but for a time there was a vegetable garden in what is now the Rose Garden. 

  During the Roosevelt restoration, Edith planted the first flower garden in the space – a proper Colonial garden.

The colonial garden was replaced in 1913 by Ellen Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife.  I never realized he married a second time while President!!  Can you imagine the furor that would cause today??!?!!.

A little research says his first wife died while he was in his first term.  One year and four months later, he remarried a widow.  They did not marry in the White House because there was such “malicious gossip” around the remarriage.  The public felt he hadn’t given enough respect to his first wife!!!  SOOOOO….the public did go crazy and without social media!   After Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, his wife Ellen became the de facto president. 

Back to roses, please!

The Wilson Rose Garden design stayed intact until 1935 when Franklin Roosevelt asked Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to design a new rose garden – with a lawn.  It is his design that forms the basis of the garden today.

Truman, before the renovation of the White House, this is basically the Roosevelt/Olmsted garden design.

Here is where the iconic Rose Garden was born.  Although Jackie Kennedy gets all the credit for the Rose Garden, it is actually Jack Kennedy who put the wheels in motion.  Bunny Mellon was staying at her Cape Cod beach house when she hosted a picnic – with guests including the President and his wife.   They had just returned from their famous French state visit where he proclaimed,  “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”   Kennedy told Bunny that the White House had no garden “equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens” he had just seen in Europe.   He asked that Bunny and he sit down and discuss designing a garden for the White House, which she did:


Bunny’s Rose Garden Drawing

The beginnings.  Bunny wrote that creating the Rose Garden was like an archeology dig because so many relics turned up in the soil.   Jackie presented Bunny with a scrapbook filled with photos, drawings, dried flowers and more that she had saved from the experience. 

The size of the Rose Garden is 125-foot by 60-foot.

Bunny’s garden with its four saucer magnolias in the corners and its ten crabapples inside the beds.

John Jr. inspecting the new Rose Garden.

Before:  Spring flowers bloom when the crabapples do.  These trees bloom at a different time than the saucer magnolias which provide a longer color filled season.

Before:  The gorgeous crabapples in full bloom along with tulips.  In the new Rose Garden, Melania had removed these crabapples which proved hard to take with the public.

Before:   The spring garden.  Blooming crabapples and flowers in bright colors.  Melania prefers pastel colors in the garden and the new Rose Garden reflects that preference.

Before – Bunny planted ten crabapples and when Melania’s new garden was revealed, these trees were missing.  The public was aghast.  Twitter went into overdrive that Melania had killed those original Bunny crabapples!

Actually, the crabapples have been replaced four times during the decades since Bunny first planted the garden.  They grow too tall and crowd out necessary light for the flowers.  The last batch didn’t thrive.  After the reveal of Melania’s Rose Garden, the public was informed that these ten crabapples had been removed and planted in another location where they are being treated.  Uh.  Okay. 

Still, apparently the designers of the new garden gave two options where the crabapples would be included, but these optional plans were rejected.  

President Kennedy looking over his garden.  Blurry photo.

And here, showing off his new garden. 

The view from the John Kennedy’s Oval Office.  He loved to look out at the garden.   Bunny liked the sculptural aspect of the saucer magnolias, especially in winter.

Tricia Nixon was married in the Rose Garden.  I remember this wedding and it helped create the mystique of the Rose Garden.  What young girl didn’t dream of getting married in the White House Rose Garden?

The four saucer magnolias were planted by Bunny and remain in the garden today.

Melania Trump’s Rose Garden

AFTER:  Here is the new Melania Trump Rose Garden with the stone paths that allow wheelchair access.  There are also new electrical and audio/video systems to allow for press conferences and parties in the garden.  Notice that the design of the beds mimics Bunny’s original designs, minus the crabapple trees.

Another view.  Too bad these photos were taken on a dreary day.

AFTER:  Bunny found all these white walls and columns to be garish.  She said the garden should soften the white, enhance the architecture and vice versa.    The ten crabapples did just that – but they are now gone.  They also added needed height and hid the awkward floating fanlights.

AFTER:  The previous Rose Garden was laden with tulips and other bright flowers.   The effect was very colorful.  Here you can see that Melania prefers soft, pastel colors (I do too!) and therefore most of the over 200 new roses are white with pink roses sprinkled in.

Critics complained that Melania had tossed out all of Bunny’s original roses but that just wasn’t true.  There were no original Bunny roses left!  Apparently, the flowers were always being traded in and out from the Rose Garden in order that the beds always looked beautiful.      

Was there anything original left from Bunny’s Rose Garden?  

There was only one original hedge left, along with the four saucer magnolias from Bunny’s Rose Garden.

AFTER:  Bunny’s original bed design inspired Melania’s garden.

AFTER:  The Rose Garden was updated to provide wheelchair access, updated drainage,  and a new electrical system for press conferences and social events.



BEFORE:   Right before the Rose Garden was redone.

AFTER:   Notice the crabapples are now gone and notice the new stone walkway around the garden.  Besides the steps, there is now only boxwoods. 

The large oval roof?   The Oval Office, of course.

BEFORE:    Obama walks on the left side of the garden while the crabapples are blooming and the saucer magnolias have just peaked – notice the petals on the ground!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 AFTER:    The beds are much more pastel now and the crabapples are definitely missed, right????

BEFORE:   Obama years.   The spring tulips are beautiful of course, but like Melania, I prefer the softer shades.

AFTER:  White and  pink roses.  No  crabapples and no sun.

BEFORE:  Obama (again!!!  He liked to walk around the Rose Garden!!)

Here, after the spring bloom, the bright flowers turned pastel.

AFTER:   Without the crabapples, it seems bare.  But it does look very neat and clean.

BEFORE:  The spring flowers AND the crabapples in bloom!!

AFTER:  I love the pastel flowers, but it just seems too quiet.  I miss the verticality of the ornamental crabapple trees.  Hopefully, they will be replaced some time in the future.

Verdict:   The public hated the garden without the crabapples and the original roses, of which there were none.  The crabapples have proved hard to grow because they get so big and crowd out the sun for the roses.  Time will tell if the public will like Melania’s Rose Garden more in the future.

The Art Installation:

BEFORE:  At the end of the Rose Garden is a sitting area where there are usually white, iron garden chairs or wood benches.  In the photo above, before the advent of air conditioning,  Woodrow Wilson put up a tent and would work at this desk during the hot summers.

After:   And in that same exact spot, Melania revealed one of her last additions to the White House.  The sculpture is by Isamu Noguchi, a 1962 bronze entitled “Floor Frame.”   This is the first work of art by an Asian-American included in the White House Permanent Collection and Melania chose it for the Rose Garden.  The cost: $200,000.    The art world loved it, but unfortunately the public was less enthusiastic.


Okay, I’m sorry.   But, to me, it looks like a black, low heeled lady’s shoe!! 

Will this new art addition to the White House Permanent Collection get as much respect as the Trumps paid to Michelle Obama’s addition to the Permanent Art Collection?  

Something that really upset me was the way the modern art work by Alma Thomas,  the only African American woman in the White House Permanent Collection, was treated by the Trumps after Barack Obama had left office.

BEFORE:  Alma Thomas’s painting between the two windows in the Old Family Room, as it once was.  The painting shines here and is a great mix of modern versus traditional.

The art work by Alma Thomas was hung in the newly decorated Old Family Dining Room by Michael S. Smith.  This room had not before been on the White House tour, but after it was decorated, the Obamas opened up the dining room to the public.    Once the Trumps moved into the White House, the room was taken off the tour and never again seen by the public.  I wondered where was Alma Thomas’ art work????

Here it is!!!   I spied the Alma Thomas art work in a video taken on the annual Christmas decorations tour.

The Vermeil Room typically houses paintings of First Ladies and Lady Bird Johnson’s portrait has hung over the mantel for years.

And here.  I know this modern art is a hard piece to place in the traditional White House, but the Alma Thomas piece might fit better in the upper center hall or a darker spot where it would shine.   Here, the bright yellow on the light yellow walls looks horrid.  In contrast, look at Jackie Kennedy’s gorgeous portrait across the room in light yellow – which blends so nicely with the yellow walls. 


In a surprise and thrilling announcement, Melania said that she had begun restoring the old Zuber wallpaper that used to hang in the upstairs Family Dining Room.  If Trump had won a second term, the family would have enjoyed eating at this dining room with the restored paper.  Instead, the Bidens will enjoy it – unless they have it recovered yet again!!!!   Since the paper is blue – which is Biden’s favorite color “Biden Blue” – they should love the restoration.  Let’s hope!!!!

The Family Dining Room upstairs was redecorated by Jacqueline Kennedy using French wallpaper depicting the US Revolutionary War. The Zuber paper was found in a London antiques shop and Jackie’s friend, Brooke Astor, paid the bill.

The paper remained in the room until the Fords removed it, finding the war scenes disturbing.  Here, the Fords eat with the Queen and Prince Philip!!  OMG, that hat!!!

The next president, Jimmy Carter brought back the murals which remained hanging until the Clintons papered over the murals where they remained hidden until the Trumps had it uncovered.   Thank you!!. 

And here is the Family Dining Room under the Obamas, designed by Michael S. Smith.

It will be up to Jill Biden to show us the finished Zuber restoration in the Family Dining Room.

As of now, we haven’t seen any rooms on the private floor, designed by Melania’s decorator Tham Kannalikham.  But a source was quoted as saying   “Mrs. Trump preserved, restored, and enhanced many of the rooms in the private residence from the Dining Room, Yellow Oval Family Room, and the Queens’ Bedroom and Bathroom.  All of the designs were carefully researched and the best craftsmen were hired to complete the work.”

Still, Melania would not comment about any of the work done in the private quarters.  Will we ever see her work on even the Yellow Oval Room, something that we have seen with almost every recent administration?

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff wrote in her book “Melania and Me” that Melania’s favorite paint is Farrow and Ball’s Middleton Pink which she used in her East Wing office. 

Here is Middleton Pink, the paint in Melania’s office – quite gorgeous, isn’t it?   Besides repainting her office, it is said Melania asked for new bathroom facilities.  But, apparently, the East Wing still needs new bathrooms because they are currently being replaced for Jill Biden at quite a hefty sum!!

Here is Michelle’s East Wing Office in “Benjamin Moore’s Myrtle Beach.”  Interesting  - it’s a slightly darker pink.  Wonder what color Jill’s office was painted?

And, here is a sneak peek at the new First Lady’s East Wing Office, all in pretty creams.  I like the curtains (thouogh they need rehanging,) but not crazy about the furniture and rug.   So, so missing Michael S. Smith!!!   But, it does look like Jill is reusing Michelle Obama’s lamps.  Probably Spitzmiller!!!


There was one change that recently caused a lot of noise, but not from the Trump’s Press Office.

Each President and First Lady have their portraits painted and then the newly elected First Family invites the formers back to the White House to unveil those paintings.  Needless to say, that since the Trumps did not invite the newly elected Bidens to the traditional White House tour as their predecessors all have done before them, it would stand to reason that they would not invite the Obamas to reveal their portraits. 

They didn’t.

The portrait unveiling is typically a fun time for both the new and old  administrations to put aside their political differences.  But – this time,  the Obamas will now unveil their portraits with the Bidens, which will probably be better for them anyway.

Here the Bushes invited the Reagans to their portrait reveal.  Reagan’s portrait was not well received by the art world or the Reagans themselves.  I think it’s the white background or his expression that is objectionable?   Reagan disliked it so much, he had his official portrait repainted!   The artist?  Aaron Shikler which is surprising because some of the most beautiful White House portraits were also painted by him. 


By contrast, Nancy’s official portrait is strikingly gorgeous!!!  Just stunning!!!  Aaron Shikler painted this too, as well as both the Kennedys which are considered the two most popular portraits in the series.   How could he get Reagan’s so wrong and Nancy’s so perfect?

After the Reagan’s unveiling, next came the George H.W. Bushes portrait reveal, hosted by the much younger Clintons.  Here, Bush’s portrait is very nice – with a dark background, which I think is the trick to a successful serious portrait.  Once political enemies – Clinton and Bush became great friends and worked together on Haiti’s recovery after a hurricane destroyed much of the island.

And the George W. Bushes revealed the Clinton portraits.  Happy faces all around.  See?   Political foes CAN be civil to each other – and even enjoy each others presence.

I like Bill Clinton’s portrait and to me, it looks like he is trying to look contrite.  Operative word here is “trying.”

And the next Presidential portrait is George W. Bush’s, posing exactly in the same spot as Reagan did!  Was that intentional?  Notice he brought one of the Bellange chairs into the Oval office.   W.H.D. Koerner’s “A Charge to Keep” one of his favorite paintings, is in the background.

Which brings us to the “UNPUBLICIZED CHANGE.”


The Unpublicized Change that was never revealed by the Trump Press Office involved the portraits of both Bill Clinton and  George W. Bush.   By tradition, these are the two latest presidential portraits, and as such hang in the Grand Foyer.   Late last year, reporters noticed a change in the foyer…Clinton’s and Bush’s portraits went missing – not to be found. 

In their place now? William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt – two very, very long dead presidents.  Certainly NOT the two latest presidential portraits!!

President McKinley

The missing Clinton and Bush portraits were finally discovered hidden in the Old Family Dining Room, that small dining room off the State Dining Room.    This is the room that Obama had redecorated with the Alma Thomas painting that Trump banished to the Vermeil Room.   The Clinton & Bush portraits could not even be seen by the public since Trump took this room off the official tour!!!!  


John Singer Sargent, John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Here, in the foyer is where the Clinton portrait hangs.

And across the foyer is President Bush, in his rightful place.

I can’t imagine what the White House curator thought as he removed the Bush and Clinton portraits from the front foyer to a place where they would be completely hidden from the public. 

If it wasn’t so noticeably petty, these portraits might have remained where the Trumps moved them, but the White House curator recognized the politics involved and on the very day of the Biden inauguration, he moved the Bush and Clinton portraits back to their rightful places in the Grand Foyer.   I’m not sure where McKinley and Teddy went to?

President Biden will now probably host both Obama’s and Trump’s portrait reveals – just not on the same day!!!!!!!!! 

That’s all folks, for now!   I’m eagerly awaiting a book about Melania Trump design changes in the White House and hope that rumor of a coffee table book by Melania is true. 

So, how did First Lady Melania do with all her White House renovations during her four year term?

Let’s give her a final grade!

I thinks she did a great job on both the bowling alley and the White House Tennis Pavilion.  I love that she initiated bringing back the Zuber wallpaper in the Family Dining Room.  I’m on the fence about the new Rose Garden and recognize that time will tell if it is better or not when the plants grow out this spring and summer.   I love all the Red, Green and Blue Room changes, along with the East Room floor restoration and elevator redo.

But..and a huge but, the shenanigans with the Presidential Portraits and the closing of the Old Family Dining Room and moving the Alma Thomas to the Vermeil Room is all petty politics and seems above the office.  Maybe we will just blame it on the times???

All in all, I give Melania – a grade B.

What grade would you give the Melania Trump White House changes?????