Interior Design

White House interior designer secrets – the Obamas' decorator shares his top tips

Learn from The White House interior designer and bring the Oval Office into your living room

White House Interior Designer Secrets, View of the White House from the lawn
(Image credit: Rene Deanda)

If we're going to follow decorating tips from anybody, it is Michael S Smith, the interior designer during Obama's reign in The White House. 

While fans of the designer have spent years admiring Michael's luxurious handiwork, his designs have recently gained newfound attention, after he was praised by Michelle Obama in the foreword to his new book, Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House.

See: Interior design tips – decorating secrets for the world's top experts

According to People, who shared extracts of the former First Lady's words, Michelle Obama had praised the designer for crafting The White House, so it felt less like an office and more like a home. This was particularly important for her two daughters, who were only seven and 10 when her husband first held office. 

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

Barack Obama in The White House interior designer secrets

(Image credit: Alamy)

Michelle Obama also admired Smith's luxurious use of classic American design in the sitting room, which included 'quintessential American art, including large paintings by Glenn Ligon and Sean Scully.'

Studying Michael's Instagram will give you a glimpse of the types of interior styles and trends which this Obama-admired designer recommends, so you can learn from the man who styled the most famous home in America. 

1. Don't be afraid to contrast colors and patterns  

Whoever says you shouldn't mix bold prints might just need to see this photo. If Michael allows it, then who can disagree? 

While the combination of vibrant colors and striking patterns might have previously seemed slightly unconventional, Micheal has brought this daring palette into a wholly traditional setting. In doing so, the timeless grandeur of the room is complemented by a fearless contemporary statement, and we encourage everybody to follow suit. 

2. Try a four-poster bed  

Before 2021, the thought of bringing a four-poster bed into an ordinary home might have seemed slightly excessive. Though, thanks to the prevailing Bridgerton effect, demands for four-poster beds are at a level we haven't seen since the Georgian period. 

With that in mind, we simply can't overlook Michael's admiration for this dramatic piece of bedroom furniture. It looks like this designer saw this trend coming long before the Duke of Hasting's came into our lives. 

See: Bedroom ideas – designs and inspiration for beautiful bedrooms

3. Add French doors 

Nothing adds opulence to a room quite like French doors, so it's unsurprising to see them appear on the feed of this elegant interior designer. Here, we can admire the beautiful aura of French doors in all their glory.

4. Bring plants into the bathroom 

As we all become increasingly aware of the therapeutic power of plants, we are all looking to fill our lives with more greenery, and thankfully, it appears that Michael would agree. 

Experiment by bringing plants and flowers into the most unexpected of rooms, your bathroom, then bathe in the organic benefits of this unconventional trend. 

See: Bathroom ideas – stylish decor ideas for all bathrooms

5. Double up on the lights  

Why have one when you can have two? There is one way to make a bolder statement with a lighting fixture, and that is to make it twice, just as Michael demonstrates. 

This not only adds some symmetrical geometry to your home but also provides more light for nighttime activities, or, better still, for parties, as soon as the pandemic allows. 

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.