In a foreword for Smith’s new book, Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House, the former first lady reflected on the designer’s ability to make the home both child-friendly and presidential.
“Immediately, he understood that we were a young family with two little girls who preferred Crate & Barrel over antique credenzas and a grandmother who bristled a bit at any whiff of pomp,” Ms Obama wrote, according to excerpts shared by People. “But we were also the Obamas: the first black residents of the White House.”
Despite living in what she referred to as an “office” and a “museum,” Ms Obama wrote that she needed the house to be practical, considering her and Barack’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were seven and 10 years old when the family moved in.
“In addition to its vital role in our democracy, I also needed the space to play a very practical purpose,” the former first lady said. “A place where our girls could sprawl out on the floor with their Polly Pockets and stuffed animals, where they could invite friends over for popcorn and a movie, where they could play ball in the halls and go outside to play in the snow.”
In addition to updating the lighting throughout the house, Smith incorporated artwork and memorabilia that reflected the Obama’s interests.
In the family’s sitting room, which Smith explained in the book “always seemed particularly American to me,” he included “quintessential American art, including large paintings by Glenn Ligon and Sean Scully”.
In the private dining room, the designer added more personal items, such as a pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves autographed “to Barack,” framed notes from a speech by John F Kennedy and a seascape painted by Senator Edward M Kennedy,” according to the DailyMail.
The White House’s family sitting room, located on the second floor, became a sort of playroom for the couple’s children, who “would set up tepees in there, and a few years later they would move some of the furniture out and host sleepovers for their friends,” Smith wrote in the book.
In the foreword, the former first lady applauded Smith for helping to “foster the warmth and comfort for our family that I’d hoped,” adding that there were “cosy” couches where the family could cuddle with their dogs, Bo and Sunny, and that she even had her own space “where I could hide out in sweatpants and catch up on bad TV.”