White House shows off new West Wing renovations

(CNN)A sign just inside the front door of the West Wing greets White House staff this week: “Welcome back to the West Wing!”

The exact moment President Donald Trump boarded Marine One for his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, a team of more than 200 people started 17 days of much-needed renovations into the West Wing and the property’s exterior.
Working around the clock out of his August 6 departure through his Sunday return, the team of multiple agencies, such as the General Services Administration and the National Park Service, replaced the overworked HVAC systems, refreshed floors, paint and woodworking, and made additional cosmetic and infrastructural upgrades into the “people’s house.”
    “There has been an emphasis on bringing back the background for this building and the elegance,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters during a tour of the results Wednesday.
    That directive came from none other than the President himself. The real estate mogul, who’s famous for his attention was involved with the renovation, including the selection of new background for his Oval Office.
    “A lot of this was (Trump’s) sway. He wanted to bring back the attractiveness of the White House and the luster. He wanted to enhance a lot of items, the infrastructure, for example. He had been kind enough to leave for the vacation time period because it was really a functioning time,” a White House official said. “It was not very easy but he definitely supported us in saying, let us get the HVAC ready, let us get the electric supplies ready, let us fix those portico measures that have not been touched since Truman.”
    The HVAC improvements, that cost $1.965 million, per a GSA spokesperson, were accepted throughout the Obama administration after an initial around of renovations. The spokesperson noted that the HVAC systems could have failed “in the long run without intervention.”
    Carpet replacement cost $1.17 million and the painting refresh cost $275,000.
    “This cost is consistent, or beneath, what the past three earlier administrations have spent,” the spokesperson said, noting that “carpeting and painting is generally done in close proximity to Inauguration Day, but the administration opted to defer until the August break.”
    A key request from the Trump administration was that each of the materials used in the renovation were created in America.
    “It had been important for this administration that we use American-made goods, so everything that we used was created in America. It was also important for the administration to use small businesses,” said GSA White House Service Center director Alan Zawatsky, noting that they used “many” Native American companies and women-owned businesses.
    Limestone in the brand new measures on the South Portico came from Indiana, and the Oval Office wallpaper hails from York, Pennsylvania. The HVAC contractor was Calvary Mechanical Co.. Inc., and the carpeting contractor has been Microbase Corp., both of which can be minority-owned small businesses.
    When Trump assumed office in January, the Oval Office was embellished with President Ronald Reagan’s carpet, President George W. Bush’s couches, and President Bill Clinton’s curtains. The Resolute Desk and side seats are traditionally used throughout administrations. All of that furniture has been transferred into storage as the background that was new was set up and the wood floors were refinished.
    Obama-era background was stained and damaged, the White House official said, and needed to be replaced.
    Trump was presented with various ideas, samples and concepts for the background, Office of Administration interior designer and preservation specialist John Botello said.
    The President ultimately chose a timeless theme which includes sea scrolls and surrounded leaves enclosing floral medallions representing the flora and fauna of the Rose Garden, Botello said.
    However, this new background might be temporary: As is customary with every administration, the President will probably be involved with the design of a new carpet for the workplace, and it is possible that a change in background will be essential to match the layout. A timeline for the carpet has not yet been put.
    The West Wing itself, that is attached to the White House, was initially envisioned by President George Washington, but didn’t become a reality until 1902. Since then, each administration has left its own mark on the space.
    “We are trying to take various aspects from every administration and make them feel a little bit cohesive collectively,” Botello said.
    The goal, GSA historical preservation officer George Kanellos said, was to ensure that the paintings, artwork, and subtleties “all work in excellent harmony to create something that’s worthy of the President’s office.”
    That is particularly challenging given that the building houses both a residence and workspace.
    “Working at the White House, you must work on a nice balance between aesthetics and function. It is not just just a beautiful museum-like location, but there’s a functioning aspect as well,” interior designer Taifa Coger said.
    The aesthetic elements of the renovation were motivated by themes and medallions found on website, for instance, Greek key, flowers in the Rose Garden, Scottish masons’ carved rosettes, and eagles.
    After pulling over through a terrible thunderstorm a few weeks ago, Kanellos occurred upon an antique shop in Funkstown, Maryland, where he personally procured two gold carved wooden eagles that now reside in the Roosevelt Room.
    The layout team said to expect more eagles in the White House.
    Although Trump returned from New Jersey over the weekend, some of the exterior upgrades continue to be continuing. The putting green has been “temporarily” removed, and there was still a smattering of wheelbarrows, tools and jugs of water to the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday. Workers smoothed cement and put as coworkers walked toward the South Portico steps.
    The iconic measures were originally completed during the Monroe administration in 1824 and therefore are in the spotlight throughout state arrivals, the Easter Egg Roll and the Christmas tree lighting, among other crucial White House events. The steps that were previous dated back to the Truman administration and have been made from limestone, which can pose a security hazard and degrades over time. Per National Park Service White House liaison John Stanwich, work on the measures should be performed by Sunday.
    “The administration really felt that was something which was worth carrying on,” Stanwich stated, noting that instead of split work up into two separate stages for each side of the staircase, the administration opted to do all of it in one fell swoop, saving taxpayers money in the procedure.
    Other developments include new drapery in the first floor offices at the kind of the Franklin Roosevelt administration; 12 added 19th century seats carved with eagles in hallway corridors; and increased ambient lighting at the Rose Garden for night events. An 18th century bookcase at the VIP lobby newly added china at the design of Martha Washington’s and was refreshed, displaying Presidential papers.
    Before the interior renovations were finished Sunday night, the team noticed that the tassels dangling off the 1930s lighting fixture at the lobby needed painting.
    Kanellos climbed a ladder and painted the gilded tassels himself.
    “There is always the appearance of attention for detail,” he said.

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