Honoring History

Designing History (Rizzoli, 2020; photo by Michael Mundy)
1. Five-Light Chandelier in Polished Brass by Crystorama
2. Bombé Tea & Coffee Service
5. Buckingham Mahogany Sideboard
6. Chauncey Side Chair
7. Drake Oval Dining Table
8. Medium Yellow Roses

For years the White House’s Old Family Dining Room has been used for small dinners, working lunches, and as a staging area for large events. When the Obamas were residing in the White House, they wanted to expand inclusivity and diversity within the historic walls. Redesigning the space was the first step. Several contemporary pieces were included into the historically traditional space, including a piece of artwork by African American artist Alma Thomas—a first for the White House’s collection.

“The idea of juxtaposing contemporary paintings into traditional spaces is certainly not novel or new,” says Michael Smith in Designing History (Rizzoli, 2020). “But it was clearly groundbreaking for the State Floor.” Existing furniture, which included a Kennedy-era mahogany dining table with various antique and reproduction chairs, was mixed with a modern carpet based on an Anni Albers’s weaving. A Robert Rauschenberg piece anchored the room’s transformation. Lastly, Smith hung red linen-silk curtains to give a modest eighteenth-century feel to the background.

1. Five-Light Chandelier in Polished Brass by Crystorama // Fogg Lighting
2. Bombé Tea & Coffee Service // Hive Modern
3. Singing Woods by Alma Thomas, 1969, oil on canvas, 25”x25”// Mnuchin Gallery
4. Birch Rug // Company C
5. Buckingham Mahogany Sideboard // Layla Grace
6. Chauncey Side Chair // Ethan Allen 
7. Drake Oval Dining Table // Lexington Home Brands
8. Medium Yellow Roses // Infinity Roses
9. Honeycomb Jacquard Curtain // West Elm