Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blair House and the First Lady

Now that I call DC my hometown I have reconnected with friends from my first years as a designer - One of which is the lovely and talented Carolyn Thomas.  I had the privilege of working as Carolyn's assistant in my early years and consider her to be a great friend and mentor.  Luv you Carolyn :)

 A longtime professor, designer and native of DC she kindly invited me to the historic Blair House for a reception and I eagerly accepted!  Carolyn designed and orchestrated the renovation of the Principal Suite bathrooms in Blair House and we were in for a treat as the First Lady Michelle Obama was rumored to be thanking volunteers and supporters for their varied contributions.  With all the security checks and secret service looking us over there was no doubt someone VERY important would be in attendance. 

The unassuming facade which faces the White House

If you haven't heard of Blair House it is often referred to as the "President's Guest House".

American Presidents and their families often reside at Blair House before they take residence in the White House.  The rooms of Blair House hold many American treasures and have housed diplomats and heads of state as well as their families and entourages in warm, welcoming, American style.  

As the Navy Band played delightful jazz standards, I walked through the rooms feeling an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.  Each space is overflowing with history and meaningful memorabilia.  I will show just a bit of the house in this post but I encourage you to go online to the BLAIR HOUSE WEBSITE to learn how it has been an important diplomatic tool for our country.  Most of the furnishings, artwork and objects have interesting stories to tell.  The trick is to view the house with someone in the know. 

 My favorite room features this verdant, green chinoiserie wallpaper.  It is simply breathtaking in person as you can see in the photos below which hardly do it justice.    

President Obama and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu sit and for a chat....

Chuck Hagel meets with the Sultan of Brunei 

Another favorite is the Lee Dining Room pictured below.  
It features Fortuny curtains and hand embroidered seat cushions commissioned by Lady Bird Johnson herself.  Ya'll know I just love Fortuny!

And here is the Lee Dining Room Decorated for the holidays by Barry Dixon....

The Lee Dining Room looks over the Authur and Janet Ross courtyard garden

Tables in the ballroom were set with finger sandwiches and other delectables.  The staff of Blair House were simply delightful as I'm sure they have been in service for many years.

Sorry for the fuzzy photos and dirty plates as this was taken after the event...

The Presidential China

A John Singer Sargent painting I noticed hanging in a hallway...

The President's Desk

In the same room, books penned by various Presidents and First Ladies are displayed...

Theodore Roosevelt

Books by President Obama and First Lady Laura Bush

And this caught my eye.....

Plaques give credit to their various underwriters as you enter....

And finally here are the luxurious Principal Suite baths Carolyn renovated.

Major Gifts | Redecorations

I loved that she included a makeup area on the President's side assuming 
there will one day be a female Commander in Chief....Here Here!!

Major Gifts | Redecorations

After touring the house Mrs. Obama gave a appreciative and thoughtful speech thanking the many volunteers and contributors for their ongoing restoration efforts.  She recalled her initial days as a First Lady and the comfort Blair House provided to herself and her two young daughters in a time of great transition before they moved into the White House.  Not an easy adjustment I am certain.  

Afterwards she graciously shook hands and spoke to as many attendees 
as the necessary, although looming, secret service would allow.  

If you would like to learn more about or donate to Blair House visit the official 

Until Next Time,


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