President Donald Trump's administration has spent $1.75 million on decorating the White House and associated offices, NBC reports.
The sum, which is slightly higher than the approximately $1.5 million Barack Obama had spent on redecorating after a similar period of time, "includes $17,000 for custom rugs, $7,000 for 'furniture pedestals,' and $5,000 for wallpaper," according to the network.
Government records cited by NBC also include the $12,800 purchase of a custom conference table made by a company that produced one for Richard Nixon in 1969; "President Nixon paid for the table himself," the company's website notes. Indeed, Obama also personally paid for some of the renovations during his tenure.
Trump, meanwhile, told Time that he paid for a crystal chandelier in the dining room out of his own pocket. A White House spokesperson told NBC they were looking into whether he had paid for any other parts of the renovation.
Not all of the $1.75 million was spent in work in the White House. The sum is the total amount spent since Trump's inauguration by Executive Office of the President (EOP), which "includes thousands of employees who work in buildings adjacent to the White House in organizations like the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget." A $291,000 figure paid to an office-wall vendor is the largest single expense, apparently designated for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The White House's extensive renovation took place while Trump spent 17 days at his Bedminster golf club in August and was conducted by a team of more than 200 workers. Updates included replacing the 27-year-old heating and cooling system, refreshing the paint and carpets throughout offices, and meeting rooms and hanging Trump-approved wallpaper in the Oval Office.
The president was especially pleased with the work in the dining room. "We found gold behind the walls, which I always knew. Renovations are grand," he told Time, adding that the project was completed in two days. "Remember how hard they worked? They wanted to make me happy."
The goal was to enhance the space for staff and the public, said John Botello, an interior designer and preservation specialist for the Executive Office of the President. He said they wanted to keep in mind "the American people and when they tour."
The entire renovation, which was carried out at the presidential mansion from August 4 through 20, was "more out of necessity than cosmetic," a White House spokesperson told Town & Country that month.
Here's how the work happened:
Within an hour of Trump's departure on August 4, the Oval Office was nearly empty, and the next day workers removed the Resolute desk. (The final result is pictured above.)
A week later, on August 11, the Oval Office walls had been covered in plastic sheeting.
The work, which was carried out by the General Service Administration, included:
- Refurbishing cracked stairs leading into the White House from the South Lawn, which have not been restored in 64 years
- Performing exterior electricity upgrades, power-washing, and resurfacing an exterior door
- Upgrading the 27-year-old HVAC system, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That use makes it effectively 81 years old, the White House spokesman said.
- Fixing leaks in the lower press area of the West Wing
- Renovating the kitchen of the Navy Mess
- Painting and renovating to freshen up the colors and switching out curtains and carpets
- Removing temporary stairs by the press briefing room
While renovations typically take place in August when presidents traditionally take their vacations, this one was "definitely a much larger overhaul," the White House spokesman said in early August. "Many of the existing systems are in dire need of repair and replacement, which is why this renovation is so crucial. The GSA teams will be working around the clock to complete these projects; they're preparing to have people here 24/7."
In addition, in a move that is not typical of regular annual renovations, West Wing staffers who are not traveling with the president during this time were relocated to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
This work, the spokesman said, was approved under the Obama administration. They are known as the "West Wing Phase Two Renovations" because they follow an initial renovation that was completed in 2012.
The West Wing HVAC upgrade was awarded in 2014 for $1.965 million, a GSA spokesperson told T&C, adding, before the project began, that the "HVAC system is well past its life cycle and will fail in the near future without intervention."
The complete carpet replacement in the West Wing was estimated to cost $1.17 million with the painting refresh at $275,000, the GSA spokesperson said. The costs were "in line, or under, what the past three prior administrations have spent."
The spokesperson also said that "although carpet and painting is typically done in close proximity to Inauguration Day, the administration chose to defer until the August break."
The GSA used two 8(a) firms for the renovation, a designation that refers to "minority-owned, small, disadvantaged businesses;" the West Wing HVAC contractor is Calvary Mechanical Co., Inc. and the carpet contractor is Microbase Corporation. The painting contractor, Cypress Painting Systems, Inc., was an 8(a) firm when the contract was written but has since graduated from the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.
The president spent the 17 days of the renovation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey on what was his first extended vacation since taking office in January. Earlier in his term, he reportedly told members of his the golf club that the "White House is a real dump," which is why he spends so much time away from Washington. The president then denied that he made the claim in a tweet earlier this month.
When asked for comment on the president's reported remarks, the White House spokesman responded, "The president has spoken in the past about what an honor and privilege it is to live and work here at the White House. He has spoken very highly of the White House and I'd refer you to those other comments."
(For his part, golf journalist Alan Shipnuck said in a podcast published on golf.com that he stood by his reporting: "The president said this in front of eight or nine members and staffers at [Trump] Bedminster. It was his first visit to the club after he had been residing in the White House. It was a moment of candor.")
With reporting from the Associated Press
Sam Dangremond is a Contributing Digital Editor at Town & Country, where he covers men's style, cocktails, travel, and the social scene.
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