Monday, December 20, 2010

White House entry halls

Last night I had the opportunity to tour the White House for the first time and see all of the holiday decor.
Everyone knows this iconic building and the history is taught to school children the country over. I was embaressed to admit I had never visited given that it's a mere 4 blocks from my apartment!
Everyone says their first impression is that it's small, but that was not mine. It's a BIG house! However, I thought it felt sort of institutional and not residential at all, did anyone else ever get that impression? It could have been the crowds of tourists that led me to feel this.

Today I'm going to show some of the details I noticed in the entrance and cross halls - probably my favorite parts of the house; certainly the most elegant that I was able to see.
The space was dramatically lit, which probably helped my impression! I loved the uplit tree branches in the oversized urns.
The first of many trees greets you, flanking the colonnade.
I thought these drapery rods were unusual and interesting!
A portrait of Bill Clinton above an empire daybed sits on the right of the entry beside the fireplace -certainly a place of honor?
Across the entry hall from the fireplace is the grand staircase where we have all seen pictures of our many presidents before formal occasions, draped in poinsettias for the season.
Directly across the hall from the front door is the seal of the president over the blue room. As the hall is relatively monochrome, it really makes a statement!
The cross hall was probably the most beautiful room in the house. The pink and white marble checkered floor really gleamed in the light. No wonder so many presidential press conferences are held in the East Room with the hall as a backdrop.
I think these photos say more than a thousand words on how multiple lighting sources create a good effect!
A detail of the urns.
These chandeliers which line the cross hall really are stunning!
More poinsettias drape the entry to the State Dining room.
The mouldings are all intricate and obviously well cared for. They could have been made recently -no gloopy paint in sight!
Behind the main staircase was this empire settee. Now, the White House is full of Empire furniture, which I'm not a huge fan of -does anyone know why? A piece or two mixed in is great but a whole house full?
A bust of George Washington lies in the niche between the entrance hall and state dining room.
On the opposite side of the Cross Hall, Lincoln lies in the niche right before the East Room
Lafayette is in a niche in the overdoor of the beautiful cherry doors which lead to the back staircase.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more interiors from the White House!

22 comments:

Windlost said...

How exciting. Thank you for the lovely tour. We visited the outside last fall but I think the inside was closed to "foreigners", even BFF's from Canada/

:)

Terri

Reggie Darling said...

Thank you Stefan, for this tour. I think the uplit branches look gorgeous, and overall the place appears to be much more tastefully and naturally decorated than it was under the Bushes, when it looked like a Galleria shopping mall. Reggie

Emile de Bruijn said...

Great to see so many decorative details. I must say I like the Empire furniture, to me it goes with the crisp neo-classicism of the building, and it adds touches of vivid colour. And of course the imperial connotations are entirely appropriate to the residence of one of the most powerful people on the planet.

Perhaps it is the ultra-shiny stone floor that makes it look a little less homely? But presumably any appropriate period carpets would get worn out in a matter of months.

Francine Gardner said...

Stunning! The display of branches in the antique urns is so beautiful.

Woody said...

I LOVE these decorations. The dramatic lighting in the bare branches is very stark in effect but provides plenty to ooh and ahh over. It's perfect for the White House! First DADT and now christmas twigs? You're on a roll, Obama...

David Toms said...

Stefan, you lucky luck thing! Your photos are great! I love the elegance of the chandeliers and the red drapery, which seems just right!

Kathy said...

A great tour to start my morning! I'm looking forward to tomorrows installment! {I'm happy they let you take pictures)...K

Acquired Objects said...

I've placed branches in antique urns too but the up lights really set the tone. Thank you for the tour, love the architectural details, stunning!

Acanthus and Acorn said...

The branches in the urns are my favorite. They look as if they are covered in ice...the execution is perfect!

quintessence said...

How spectacular - thank you for sharing!! You're so lucky to have been able to see this in person. I LOVE the uplit branches especially against the chandeliers - just beautiful!!

My Notting Hill said...

These pics were a real treat. Love the branches in the urn, all lit up. The red empire sofa under Clinton's portrait did look a bit askew - maybe they drag all this red velvet Empire stuff out for Christmas...

lifeonthecutoff said...

You made my day! I love every picture you have taken - and am awestruck at the White House decorations, as I am each year. HGTV used to do an hour special showing viewers how the decorations come to be. If it was on, I missed it this year. I always find it fascinating and find this White House to be tastefully decorated for Christmas.

Janet said...

I went through about 4 or 5 years ago. My first (and only) time too, so not so shocking. Loved being able to take photos!!!

John J. Tackett said...

I do not know the particulars on the settee, but some of the furnishings that appear to be from the Empire period were, in fact, designed by Stanford White and made for the MM&W restoration of the White House. According to James Archer Abbott in JANSEN, the decoration of the Entrance Hall for the Kennedys (some of which survives) was influenced by Stephane Boudin's schemes for Malmaison, Empress Josephine's country house which was much appreciated by Jackie Kennedy and her patron Jayne Wrightsman. For more about the Jansen book, see my recent post at The Devoted Classicist blog, http://tdclassicist.blogspot.com.

The Swan said...

INSTITUTIONAL. Wasn't that the point when it was first designed - to let the World know of our Great Belief and Institution of 'Freedom for ALL'. POWER is the "AURA" this legendary home exudes known as the WHITE HOUSE Worldwide...how could this every be just a white house!

Jackie, Jayne W & Jane E and Bunny Mellon...all contributed to this with the Master Boudin. Since that eventful time in the history of this edifice, well others could only paint, wallpaper or bring in new China to serve upon.

What else should our great country have but this 18th Century Jewel of Taste, Elegance and Grace.

I LOVE THIS HOME...would just love to see what Michael Smith did upstairs as well...must be Heaven on Earth.

I am so thankful that a Soul as Enlightened as YOURSELF, should live but 4 blocks from this Bijoux of Architecture...our own little Petit Trianon meets Versailles with a dash of Palladio...for thru your studied eyes, WE get a peek at these elegant rooms during this Holiday Season.

Love seeing thru your EYES...

Kerry said...

Nice detail pictures. I haven't been to the WH since I was a kid in the 1970s. A pal's father worked there and we went at night a few days before Christmas and there were mostly mauve and dusty green Victorian decorations. I guess its all about what is in vogue.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Thanks for the tour, Stefan. The moulding in the State Dining Room would be no later than the Truman administation, when the entire interior was gutted and rebuilt.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Or, I can just leave two comments and keep on going :-)

Re: the size of the house. I think it's only referred to as a small house in terms of the homes of world leaders and sovereigns---in other words, downright cozy compared to Buckingham Palace. But, when it was built, it was at a scale that no American House had ever reached before, or would reach until the Gilded Age. I can't find the quote at the moment, and forget which one said it, but when either John Adams or Thomas Jefferson moved in (damn, which was it?), he said something roughly to the effect that the place was to his mind 'big enough for two popes and a dalai lama".

Hill House Ramblings said...

Oh my, thank you for a wonderful tour! I've always wanted to see the Whitehouse during Christmas. The illuminated branches are my favorite I think. So dramatic...but the ceilings have me swooning as well. Gorgeous!

H.H.

teaorwine said...

I visited the WH two years ago over the holiday season as well and found it to be lovely. I truly felt it to be smaller inside than it appears from the outside. I think it may be that we want to beleive it is grand in size as it is the White House! Lovely photos here.

Quatorze said...

Empire, both French and American (which explains in part why there is so much of it at the White House)was emblematic of the era when America started to flex its muscles as a world power and economic force; and was also deemed preferable to the horrors of "Steamboat Victoriana" that had been inflicted on the residence over the years. We had little or no Georgian or Federal, after years of Presidential depredations and general wear and tear. Thank God Mrs. Kennedy gave the house a curatorial staff. The chandeliers in the entry are actually Anglo-Irish 18th century pieces, crown jewels saved from destruction by virtue of their being hung out of everyday reach. I believe McKim, Meade and White restored them under Teddy Roosevelt.

Grant K. Gibson said...

I love your tour! You have me jealous! I want to take a tour now!