New York Times
Everyone in the red state is piling on the redesign of the oval office, complaining it is not patriotic enough, even though George Bush took Bill Clinton's red, white and blue garish extravaganza and turned it into a muted southern living room (and lost the red, white and blue) showing more taste than patriotism. But since that was Bush and this is Obama, they now say "Those neutral colors do not connote honor, respect, awe, for the office or nation." The designers are also piling on, calling it boring and beige. Arianna Huffington calls it "The Audacity of Taupe." Blair Kamin says "I'd say we should all be glad that our President never followed his inclination to be an architect. "
Since the President gets criticized for everything from the cut of his jeans to the choice of his vacation spots and can't satisfy anyone, we might as well pile on and point out that it could have been greener as well as beige.
The Drapes of Wrath: Clinton
There are things to like here. The President's desk is recycled, made from the timber of the Resolute, a ship that explored was crushed in the ice while looking for the Franklin Expedition, and a gift of Queen Victoria.
Drapes of Wrath: Bush
It also appears that he kept the dreadful drapes from George Bush's office, which were a dramatic improvement over the crap that Clinton and his predecessors had but still should be ripped off the wall.
Drapes of Wrath: Obama
And he does work from home, which has a huge impact.
The rug is made of 25% recycled wool, and donated by Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There was an obvious attempt to stimulate the local economy; the coffee table is American walnut and mica. And whatever one might say about the cost of doing this at this time, a) the taxpayers didn't spend a dime, there is a fund donated for this; b) this is the place where the guy works all day, and George Bush's was not a working office, it was a formal living room.
They will call it insufficiently noble for a President's bottom, but everyone working that hard should have a good ergonomic chair and a healthy environment. The Steelcase Think Chair has Cradle-to-Cradle certification from MBDC See other choices in BuyGreen: Office & Desk Chairs
The sofa could have been from Verde Design Studio, handmade in Chicago, of all places, made with Sustainable hardwoods, non-toxic glues and adhesives (no polyurethane, formaldehyde, brominated fire retardants or other toxins are used across their entire collection), natural latex foam, organic cotton muslin and batting and eco-friendly textiles dyed with low-impact, heavy-metal-free dyes. More information at Buy Green: Sofas & Loveseats
And then there's that wallpaper. Oscar Wilde's last words were "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do!" and he had a point. But if you are going to have it, make sure that it is uncoated and PVC free. Planet Green has a wallpaper guide.
Just like Michelle Obama has promoted some pretty edgy fashion designers, I would have preferred to see an edgier interior designer than Michael Smith. But then as Palm Beach Designer Celerie Kimble said in the Washington Post,
The new design strikes me as tasteful and played very safe. I wonder if the treacherous political climate has caused the Obamas to become more aesthetically conservative. It seems cable commentators and bloggers will grasp at the most innocuous 'symbol' to score points, so maybe the president's staff and Michael Smith decided it is best not to give anyone any material to misinterpret.
Didn't work, because it's not red, white and blue with crying eagles. But Vanity Fair has some suggestions to spice it up.
Totally coincidentally, Matt Hickman at Mother Nature Network picks up the same meme.
More on Green Interior Design:
Green Tips for Interior Designers
Green Interior Designers Offer Tips on Washington Post.com