Monday, January 7, 2008

Presidential Design and Carpet

My initial memory of a presidential election took place in my first grade classroom in 1988. I was six, Ronald Reagan was leaving office, and Weekly Reader had featured photos of contenders George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis that week, along with a poll for us to take in our classrooms. As many people do, I (very solemnly and self-importantly) voted based on how nice I thought the candidates looked. And because my choice, Bush, was elected to office a few months later, I believed that somehow, I had a mystical sway in his election.

For me, this aura of mystery has never really left the White House. I’m so far removed from the president and his family that they seem almost unreal. Do they swap stories around the dinner table? Do they have to walk the family dog in the pouring rain? Do they ever have to clean the bathtub?

Recently, my curiosity was mildly alleviated when I came across a Washington Post story from 2006 about President George W. Bush. Unbeknownst to me, each president designs a carpet for the Oval Office when he (or she?) is elected to office. According to this particular article, President Bush is just like many men in the U.S. – he turned to his wife to help him decorate. Apparently, the presidential family is closer to normal than I suspected.

President Bush’s only stipulation about the carpet was that it would reflect him as an “optimistic person.” So the First Lady designed the carpet with yellow sunbeams emanating from the presidential seal in the center, the one consistent design element in all Oval Office carpets to date. According to the Washington Post article, President Bush really likes his carpet. Translation: he loves his carpet. The White House communications director is quoted as saying that the carpet is a constant source of conversation for him; mentions of the carpet come up in tours, in interviews and even online. Because of the bright yellow color and the rays of sun, the carpet truly reflects the optimism the President wanted to convey.

It’s strange, but this carpet comforts me somehow. The President of the United States has such a high-pressure job, his family must really feel the strain of his position. But even under all that weight, he can still be happy about his sunny yellow carpet, and use it as a metaphor for life. It just shows that even the things that seem small, like flooring and color selection, can make a big impact on mood and outlook.

The next time you redecorate, consider the Oval Office carpet. In your own home, do you want to feel cheerful and optimistic? Relaxed and content? Color alone can have a huge impact, and coupled with design, your d├ęcor can say a great deal about who you are.

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