This was the scene yesterday as the Blue Room Christmas tree was delivered to and accepted by Mrs. Obama. Today, thanks the National Parks Service people, the tree was upright in the the oval room that is the centerpiece of the State floor of the house. The chandelier that hangs in the room first had to be removed, and the tree is supported by a cable that hangs where the fixture normally is. All this work is done with utmost care because what they are dealing with are national treasures. There are no “oops’s!” at The White House! The house for the last 50 years has not only housed the FIrst Families, but has been a museum, as well. There are curators and ushers at every turn to insure that nothing is bumped or damaged during this transformation.
I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be in the house today. We entered through the East VIsitors’ entrance, and walked through the East Colonnade, peeked into the Library and the Vermeil Room, and then up the stairs that lead to the State Floor. As I said a few days ago, it isn’t a big house, but it is ‘grand’. The doors, floors, paneling, plaster work, and moldings are simply extraordinary. Then you notice the chandeliers and priceless furniture and art that surround you. Seeing the iconic portrait of President Kennedy, in person, was amazing.
So, the lay of the land on the State Floor is pretty straightforward. Through the Grand Foyer, you walk across the Cross Hall that runs the length of the floor. The Blue Room is ahead of you, on your left is the Green Room, and on your right is the Red Room. At the far left is the East Room, which runs the whole width of the house. It’s the largest room in the White House and for many years was unfinished. Abigail Adams (wink!) famously hung her laundry in this room as she didn’t want the public to see her ‘dirty laundry’! There are so many great facts about what went on in this room from First Daughters Senior Proms and weddings to rainy day roller skating, and it was even the home to a live alligator!
Today, I hovered 20 feet off the ground on ladders and scaffolding (George and Martha Washington’s life size portraits- the oldest in the house, obtained in 1800- were thankfully covered by boxes so they wouldn’t be damaged!) in this room installing what I helped to create yesterday (my four words yesterday were: white pine, cedar, and magnolia…) Today I add golden cedar to the mix- wow! Also HGTV’s Genevieve Gorder was there filming the special that will air on December 11. She is as beautiful and lovely in person as she is on television!
For lunch, we broke and ate in the State Dining Room, which is at the opposite end of the Cross Hall from the East Room. There were tables set up and I ate right under Abraham Lincoln’s portrait that hangs over the central fireplace- it was very heady, to say the least!
One of the greatest experiences, though, is meeting the other volunteers and designers. There are over 40 states represented by folks who, like me, traveled to help pitch in. It is a fantastic experience and even though I am sore from climbing up and down scaffolding and ladders while nursing a healing fractured elbow, I wouldn’t change a thing!