How White House Renovations Can Inspire Home Remodelers

Mary Butler

One of the most historic homes in the nation should soon be getting a makeover, and many in the interior design community have already begun to throw in their two cents about how it should be done. But one thing most designers agree on: the White House can--and should--be greener.

The Bush family, whose Crawford, Texas ranch has many eco features including a system for recycling household water, has already made several renovations to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including the use of compact fluorescent lights, energy-efficient cooling units, solar heating, improved insulation and low-flow faucets and toilets. Smart sprinklers water the White House lawn and energy efficient lighting illuminates its exterior.

Congress approves $100,000 every four years to redecorate the White House's family living quarters, and additional money is often provided by the White House Historical Association or by private donors. The White House was originally built between 1782 and 1800. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 1820s and added onto several times during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But no major changes have been made to the structure since the Truman administration.

Proponents of sustainability hope that whatever renovations the incoming First Family makes to the White House serves as a good example for the rest of the nation's home remodelers. 

Greening the White House
Here are a few of the low-impact suggestions for the Obama family as they update the look of their new historic home:

  • Reuse and repurpose what's already there. That could mean reupholstering furnishings, moving artwork, and playing with color and accessories to reflect the family's personal style.
  • Choose simple, elegant styles. Anything flashy would be inappropriate given the nation's current economic downturn.
  • Plant an organic garden from which the White House chef could cook meals and require composting of kitchen scraps.

Some other ideas include planting a green or living roof, the use of permeable walkway pavers and rain barrels to capture rain water for irrigation.

While the Obamas' every home remodeling choice may be scrutinized, Americans will have the luxury to watch, learn, and hopefully be inspired to follow in the First Family's carbon-friendly footsteps.

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado-based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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