Last month the Obama family moved out of the White House to make way to our new First Family. The Trumps are slowly adapting to their new living quarters, and while the First Lady Melania Trump is still spending her weekdays in New York, she has hired the interior designer Tham Kannalikham to start redecorating the White House, according to US Weekly.
Historically, the First Lady has taken the charge of redecorating her family’s new private quarters, - located on the top two floors of the 132-room building - along with an official White House curator and an interior designer of her choice. The Clintons hired Little Rock decorator Kaki Hockersmith, the Bush family brought in Fort Worth designer Kenneth Blasingame, and the Obama family chose Hollywood decorator Michael S. Smith to redecorate the iconic house.
About the Designer
Tham Kannalikham started her career working at Ralph Lauren Home in New York, and is now head of her own firm Kannalikham Designs, having an extensive experience working with private clients from around the world. According to Architectural Digest, the Laotian-American designer is a fan of classical architecture, eighteenth-century buildings, interiors and culture, such as French, English, American, and Irish, and she’s been a regular presence at events hosted by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.
How They Met
It is uncertain how the First Lady and Kannalikham first met. The designer’s lack of web presence and increased client privacy could be what drew the new FLOTUS to the designer, who is known to keep a low profile, with a private Instagram account and a website that requires a password. But her association with Ralph Lauren could be what attracted Melania, who wore a blue Ralph Lauren outfit for the January 20 inauguration.
In a statement released recently, Kannalikham confirmed the news and said “I am honored by the opportunity to be working with the First Lady to make the White House feel like home”.
What They Can Change
Each new First Family has redecorated the living quarters to their taste in the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue building in Washington, DC, but that only stretches to their private quarters on the top two floors of the building. The interior designer will work closely with a White House curator to make sure that no changes compromises the history of the house.
The new family can repaint the rooms to their liking, pick out their own furniture, wall decorations, bedding and basically fully redecorate their private quarters. They can also make unique additions to the site, with the approval of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. Each president has made their own: The Kennedys added a swimming pool, the Nixons added a bowling alley and Obama had the tennis court adapted to also be used as a basketball court.
The Trumps will also have the possibility of using any furnishings and artwork collected by past presidents and the White House Curator, that are now located in a high-security White House storage facility that is full of historical options.
What They Can’t Change
While the Trump family can fully revamp their living quarters, everything else needs the approval of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. The house can and should be redecorated to make it feel like home to its new residents, but it is and always will be a living museum of American history and many of its iconic rooms and general building cannot be changed and shall be preserved.
Any sweeping structural changes are forbidden, and historic rooms such as the Lincoln Bedroom and public spaces like the Green Room and the state dining room are protected and need committee approval for any desired changes. While the house is a home for those living there, it also belongs to the American people.
What are Their Plans
While Trump’s penthouse in New York has marble walls, floors and columns combined with 24-carat gold accents all throughout the 66th floor of the Trump Tower, their plans for the White House are way more toned down. In an interview with People from November last year, the new president talked about his plans for the house and it doesn’t sound like he’ll want to duplicate the extravagant decor of his penthouse: "If I were elected, I would maybe touch it up a little bit, but the White House is a special place," he said. "You don't want to do too much touching".
Regarding Melania’s plans, the First Lady’s senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff said to WWD:
“Mrs. Trump has a deep appreciation for the historical aspects of the White House and with Tham’s traditional design and expertise, they are focusing on a seamless integration of elegance and comfort into where the President, the First Lady and [their son] Barron will be spending their family time and calling their home.”
Barron is Priority
While Melania is embracing her hole and responsibilities as First Lady, she is a mom first, and their 10 year-old son Barron is priority for now. While the president is in DC, she is currently living with their son in NY and wants him to have a childhood as normal as possible. Once the school year ends, however, they’ll reevaluate the arrangement and maybe bring him to live in DC, to keep the family together.
The family is slowly adapting to their new situation, and President Trump said he sees the white house as his weekday office and his penthouse as his actual home, but that may change once the redecoration is done and the house feels more like home for them.