Worlds Best Homes

7 secrets about Kamala Harris's new home – from the former Social Secretary to the Vice President

The expert shares everything you need to know about the official Vice President residence – Number One Observatory Circle

Kamala Harris house, exterior of Number One Observatory Circle
(Image credit: GettyImages)

After more than two months in office, Vice President Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff moved into Number One Observatory Circle on Tuesday, April 6th. 

Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff were temporarily residing in Blair House while the property in the US Naval Observatory grounds faced an extensive renovation project. They have now spent their first weekend in the 33-room Victorian home. 

See: World's best homes – explore the most spectacular houses across the globe

Since welcoming every Vice President since the Mondale's in the 1970s, the Queen Anne-style property has built a reputation as one of the most important homes in the United States, but nobody knows their way around the property quite like the former manager Philip Dufour, who served as social secretary to Vice President Al Gore. In a conversation with Homes & Gardens, Philip revealed seven secrets from his time at the residence before offering us an insight into what Number One Observatory Circle might look like under Vice President Harris's rule. 

Kamala Harris house, Number One Observatory Circle, ice President Harris and Doug Emhoff

(Image credit: GettyImages)

How Number One Observatory Circle prepares for a new Vice President 

'Vice President Harris did not move in right away because the navy, who owns the house, had to complete a good amount of work. The wooden floors had to be redone, and all the chimney liners needed to be repaired,' begins Philip. 

'Unlike the White House, there is no state floor. It is a Victorian house, and the rooms aren't huge. The dining and living room are on the first floor, so while these floors are used for events, they are also where they live. Most residents bring their personal effects, including furniture. I suspect most of Kamala Harris's furniture will be on the second and third floors,' he adds. 

Kamala Harris house, Number One Observatory Circle

(Image credit: Philip Dufour)

The most surprising thing about the home 

'What surprised me the most is how homely it was. It is truly a wonderful, restful home,' Philip shares.

'Vice President Harris can leave work and recharge before the next day when she continues helping the President run the country.'

He continues: 'From my experience, Mrs.Gore was conscious of making it feel welcoming for people who visited, knowing that people might be anxious in visiting the Vice President's house. They certainly did a good job of that, and other residents have too. She was a drummer, and the Vice President gave her drums for her birthday, so they were in the foyer. They also had a great Imari umbrella stand by the door filled with their children's lacrosse and hockey sticks. As soon as you entered, you realized you were in a home.'

Kamala Harris house, Number One Observatory Circle

(Image credit: Philip Dufour)

 How Vice President Harris will change the property

'The first floor is redone by each family so it reflects them. You can certainly change the wallpapers and fabrics and update the dining room while there are pieces on the first floor belonging to the house,' Philip explains. 

He expands: 'Mr. Emhoff is Jewish, and Vice President Harris has Indian heritage, so some traditions are new for the house but not new to them. They are both from California, so I suspect the house will have particular ease to it. I imagine it will be very clean and very edited and simple, but very well done.'

How to mirror the style of Number One Observatory Circle in our homes

'First and foremost, you need to make your house your home,' Philip shares. He then emphasized how Vice President's have filled the home with pieces that spark joy among their families, adding:

'It should be a place to entertain, but also where you can recharge. You also need to make a place feel more curated rather than designed, so don't worry about adding personal effects.'

See: Joe Biden's houses – see the impressive property portfolio of the 46th President of the United States

Kamala Harris house, inside Number One Observatory Circle

(Image credit: Philip Dufour)

Secrets from the garden  

'When the Gore's were in residence, I would go out with a pair of sheers and clip wild  flowers from the back lawn, and I would work with gardeners to plant different varieties of tulips that I could use in the house to keep it fresh. I know many of my predecessors did this too,' Philip shares. 

He continues: 'The house sits on a beautiful plot. There are often cherry blossoms, Japanese magnolias, tulips, and daffodils. There is always something revealed each week of the blooming season.'

Colors associated with the home

Philip notes that many colors remind him of his time at Number One Observatory Circle, including white, the color of the exterior paint. 

'However, warm colors remind me of the house because it is so comforting,' he adds. 

'When the dining room was owned by the Gore's, it had a Venetian plaster with beautiful red drapes, but the Biden's painted the dining room blue.I would also say green because there is always something blooming outside the door.'

See: Obama house: tour Barack and Michelle's new Martha's Vineyard home

Kamala Harris house, Number One Observatory Circle

(Image credit: Philip Dufour)

The best seat in the house 

While each room boasts its own grandeur, Philip revealed the single most special place in the home, the Verdana.

'This was where the Gore's had meals and cocktail parties with guests,' Philip remembers.

'It is one of the sweet spots of the house because it is so welcoming and comforting. It's a great place to sit when the thunderstorms move in because you can stay pretty dry unless it's moving sideways. It's just terrific,' he adds.

For more information about the home, Philip recommends reading Number One Observatory Circle: The Home of the Vice President of the United States, which explores the secret past of the property.

As the property welcomes a new, historic owner, we can think of no better time to learn about this incredible property.   

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.