January 16, 2009 / 5:48 AM / 10 years ago

Obamas choose stars' designer for their White House

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Interior designer Michael Smith, favored by Hollywood celebrities, has landed the role of a lifetime — redecorating the White House.

President elect Barack Obama and Michelle Obama get their daughters Sasha (L) and Malia (second from left) ready for their first day of school at Sidwell Friends in Washington January 5, 2009.REUTERS/Callie Shell/Obama Transition Office/Handout

Los Angeles-based Smith was named this week as Barack Obama and his wife Michelle’s choice to put their mark on the private quarters in the East Wing of the executive mansion, including the bedrooms of their daughters.

“Michael shares my vision for creating a family-friendly feel to our new home and incorporating some new perspectives from some of America’s greatest artists and designers,” Michelle Obama said in a media statement.

For Smith, 44, one of the United States’ most sought-after interior designers, it is a dream job and one which he publicly expressed an interest in last year.

He said he was confident he could bring a new look to the White House for the Obamas.

“The family’s casual style, their interest in featuring 20th century American artists and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home,” he told home style magazine Domino.

The Obamas’ choice has fueled an online rush to find out about Smith, and his style.

A Californian native, Smith studied at Los Angeles’ Otis College of Art and Design and spent a year studying at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum before working under the tutelages of antiques dealer Gep Durenberger and designer John Saladino.

He launched his own design firm in 1990 in Los Angeles where he is well known among the celebrity set, having worked on homes for model Cindy Crawford, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, actor Dustin Hoffman, and director Steven Spielberg.

He has his own signature furniture and fabric lines, Jasper, which are sold in the United States and Britain, and has partnered with several manufacturers on lines, including Kohler, Cowtan and Tout.

His style was described by Domino magazine as “old-world European influences filtered through a bright, light California sensibility” which can include antique textiles on beds, checked fabrics on chairs and four-poster upholstered beds.

“There’s nothing more tragic than rooms that look as if the furniture all arrived on the same day, in the same truck,” he was quoted as once saying.

Smith, who rebuilt his own home in Bel Air over five years, has two books to his name — “Elements of Style,” published in 2007, and “Michael S. Smith Houses,” which was published last year and is an overview of his work.

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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