Obamas Appoint Michael S. Smith As White House Redecorator

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday January 14, 2009

In less than a week, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as our 44th President. The task before him is huge and daunting: there's an unpopular war in Iraq, unrest in the Middle East, terrorists still at large in Afghanistan, and domestic problems, including an economic meltdown and social fragmentation, to deal with here at home.

And then there's that other "here at home," the White House, into which the Obama family will be moving.

Obama has surrounded himself with qualified, competent, and sometimes controversial advisors, including several high profile gays and lesbians. Now, for the job of redecorating the White House, his wife, Michelle Obama, has turned again to acclaimed interior designer Michael Smith.

Smith's hiring by Michelle Obama was celebrated by lifestyle publication domino, which recollected that Smith, in an interview last spring, declared, "I would love to redecorate the White House-I am sick of the paint color!"

With Smith's wish coming true, domino has posted several articles about Smith, covering his bio and his design style, which is described as drawing on a palette of old-world sensibilities that are then channeled through a contemporary California ?lan.

Smith, reports domino, has been a decorator for the smart (and rich) set, with clients like Rupert Murdoch, Cindy Crawford, Steven Spielberg, and Lady Linda Rothschild on his resume.

According to the coverage at domino, Smith studied at the Otis College of Art and Design, then went on to soak up some European influences in London during a stint at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Later on, Smith worked with Gep Durenberger, a dealer in antiques, and then, in New York, with interior designer John Saladino; he returned to his native California to start his own business, Michael S. Smith, Inc., and has created a name for himself... along with fabrics, fashion, and home fittings for the general public.

Smith may have a rarefied talent, but he's a democratic designer, as evidenced by the publication of his book, "Houses," a user-friendly guide to decorating.

That common touch extends to his own preferences in shopping: according to domino, Smith counts Urban Outfitters and Target among his favorites.

In a Jan. 13 article, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Michelle Obama as saying, "Laura Bush has been a wonderful steward of The White House and created a beautiful residence for her family.

"I look forward to adding our own touch to the East Wing and creating a living space where our family feels comfortable, happy and settled."

Continued the First Lady-to-be, "Michael shares my vision for creating a family friendly feel to our new home and incorporating some new perspectives from some of America's greatest artists and designers."

The same article also quoted Smith himself, who said of his new commission, "I am delighted to work with the Obamas as they bring their own energy and style to the residence at The White House."

Added Smith, "The family's casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.