Only heaven knows who’ll end up becoming the next U.S. president, but here’s what we can say with certainty: The Obamas are moving out of the White House soon. They’ve already locked in a new house (which is gorgeous), but the question remains: What’s their current home really like? We know they live in the White House, of course, but the first family has never really shown off its private quarters—that is, until now.
Thanks to Architectural Digest, we have the first-ever peek inside the second floor of the White House, where President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle, their teenage daughters Malia and Sasha, and (last but not least) Portuguese water dogs Bo and Sunny have been living for the past eight years. And we’ve gotta say, their home décor choices are full of surprises. Here are some of the biggest:
Fact No. 1: The Obamas paid for it themselvesNew presidents are traditionally allotted $100,000 to decorate the White House residence however they please, but the Obamas turned down this handout and spent their own money.
Fact No. 2: Malia and Sasha’s rooms were furnished first
For a mom, even a first lady mom, kids always come first, even on the decor front.
“The No. 1 priority for the first lady was getting Malia’s and Sasha’s rooms and her mother’s room set up,” first lady senior adviser Melissa Winter told Architectural Digest. “The most important thing was ensuring the comfort and happiness of her family.”
Fact No. 3: The artwork is way out there
Michelle made some pioneering art selections, according to her interior designer, Michael Smith. “We selected artists and designers who would never have appeared in the White House before,” he says. “Mrs. Obama often talks about bringing new voices into the national conversation, and that idea informed many of the decisions we made.”
Fact No. 4: The historic dining room got a big-time modern overhaulThe Obamas made a slew of changes to the Old Family Dining Room. It’s a nice mix of old and new. The old: a 19th-century mahogany table and a sideboard once owned by statesman Daniel Webster. The new: a handful of American abstract works, including Josef Albers’ nested squares, a 1998 pop art piece by Robert Rauschenberg, and a 1966 painting by Alma Thomas—the first African-American female artist represented in the White House.
Fact No. 5: The master bedroom is a real oasis
After a long day running the country, the president retires with his wife to a master bedroom that’s serene and surprisingly monochromatic, graced with an antique canopy bed topped with Italian linen, family photos on footed tables, stacks of books, and a nocturne painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler hanging over the fireplace.
Smith notes, “This is their sanctuary—private, elegant, and calm. You really want to make sure that the president of the United States gets a good night’s sleep.”
Fact No. 6: It really did feel like home
Think it’s hard to truly kick back and feel at home in the White House? Not according to the first lady.
“Because of Michael Smith, the private residence of the White House has not only reflected our taste but also upheld the proud history of this building,” Michelle says. “Above all, it has truly felt like a home for our family.”