The Californian interior designer Michael S Smith was recently appointed as the Obama’s chief home designer, or in this particular case, White House decorator. Michelle Obama hired the well known and widely respected designer to refurbish the private quarters of the White House because of, as she herself put it, “a shared vision”.
Michelle wants Smith to create a family orientated feel whist at the same time adding new perspectives of American art and design from past and present. It’s expected his first job will be to decorate the bedrooms of Sasha and Malia, Barack Obama’s two young daughters.
A grand total of $100,000 is alloted per presidential term to the president for spending on his family’s private quarters. Compared to the other clients of Michael Smith, this is not a lot. Hollwood actors and directors including Dustin Hoffman, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Spielberg have all had their homes decorated by the Los Angelies based interior designer.
Widely considered to be one of America’s top home designers, Smith’s style is heavily influenced by the English country-house look which can be seen in many of his works. His knack for combining the historical and classical with modern family items and decor is part of why his popularity has soared. After all, it’s not often a designer can work together a Sultanabad carpet and guilded screens with a television, monopoly board and a games station, as successfully as Smith can.
Quite how exactly he will design the Obama’s private quarters in the White House is yet to be seen. However, the following images will give some hints and clues as to what the American President and First Lady might expect to see upon completion.
Encinal Bluff, California – This interior comes from a Palladian villa which overlooks the ocean at Malibu. The walls have been decorated with Venetian plaster in the style of the original Palladio villas in the city of Venice, Italy. The floor is made from pietra serena stone which was the same material used to construct most of Florence. A lovely 17th-century Persian carpet compliments the stone flooring.
Notice the fireplace. There are actually two at each end of the room which provide a focus point for two seperate seating arrangements. These are seperated by a large wooden table in the center of the space acting as a kind of pivot. The sofas are made from custom-woven hemp whilst the fabric on the Georgian-style chairs was inspired from antique Indian textiles.
Japanese-style Kitchen – This modern looking kitchen is in fact partly inspired by old feudal Japanese palaces. Smith then hit upon contrasting this theme with that of the European castle designs as can be seen with the wooden ceiling beams and cream-tinted plaster walls. A healthy dose of 21st Century Minimalism has also been added.
The island in the middle is made of stainless steel but with a walnut wood covering. There is also an inset of stone surrounding the sink. Up against the wall is an absolutely beautiful 18th Century Japanese Tansu Chest. These versatile wooden cabinetry pieces date as far back as the 7th Century in Japan.
Up above you can see two lampshades. These were actually salvaged from a department store in Japan during World War Two. They are made of fabric over a wooden frame.
Dining-room in Santa Barbara, California – A small part of Michael Smith’s creation can be seen in this dining room picture. The wall looks like a hand-painted mural, which Smith has been known to create. However, this particular one is actually a hand-painted mural wallpaper by the British firm De Gournay.
Have a closer look at the chair and you will notice that it’s covered in a damask linen. I’ve written about this style in a previous post which you can read here: Damask Linens, Prints and Fabrics. Again, a very Mediterranean feel has been created with the northern Italian-style furnishings.
Michael Smith’s Library – This picture is from the home of the famed Interior Designer in Los Angeles. A wonderful array of deep rich colors are paraded on the furniture of Smith’s library. The light yellow English Regency sofa is covered with a quilt of a traditional Indonesian style. These are superbly matched with cushions in both Indian fabrics and Turkish ikat.
In case you’re wondering, Ikat is a special style of weaving that uses a resist dyeing process. The different colored threads are woven together in various patterns and designs. The name comes from the Malay word “to tie” or “to bind”. This style and process can be found in various forms including in East Asia, South America, India and Turkey.
It’s quite delightful how Smith has contrasted the bright sofa with the darker painted leather screen behind. The coffee table you can see poking out from the bottom left hand corner is a 19th-century Chinese table which was especially adapted for this interior by being reduced in height. A wonderful sense of charachter is imbued with the additions of porcelain, vases, a marble obelisk and antique French maps.
Guest-room in London – Eaton Square has to be one of the most charming and attractive squares in central London. This guest room is actually quite small but Smith overcame this with a cunning solution. He wrapped the walls in a fantastically original wallpaper called grisaille by Zuber. The country scene with trees and rolling hills expands the narrow space creating an illusion of grandeur.
To the right, you can see a neoclassical Russian secretaire which adds a sophsiticated feel to the rest of the interior. Claret-red curtains contrasts well with the grey-blue of the walls, adding a crispness and romance.
Michael Smith’s Bedroom in Los Angeles – We spend around a third of our lives in bed which means the decoration of the bedroom should be an important part of your overall interior design. Here you can see Michael Smith’s very own bedroom in the Californian city of Los Angeles. The four-poster bed is in fact build from four Georgian wooden posts with a framework to hold the mattress, built to match. A decorative fabric canopy is hung above.
The room receives a lot of natural light which is further enhanced by the various mirrors. Comfortable thick cushions and pillows adorn the bed. As with previous interiors, personal items, vases, books and wall decorations have been added to create a more homely ambiance.
You can see much more of Smith’s work and his collaberation with Christine Pittel in his book Michael S. Smith Houses which the Washington Post has described as being “like an extended issue of Architectural Digest, and, like that magazine, it leaves you with a mix of envy and desire”.