Since it’s election day, it’s time to prepare for a new first lady- or first gentleman. But we’re not so sure we’re keen on either Melania Trump’s or Bill Clinton’s decorating skills. So we thought we’d take inspiration from a first lady who had style that noone can deny: Jackie Kennedy.
Thankfully, the majority of homes to decorate out there aren’t quite on the same level as the White House, what with having to keep it as ‘an emblem of the American republic’ as Kennedy described it. But that’s not to say that we can’t get inspiration for our homes from America’s most stylish first lady. So let’s take a little history lesson…
In September 1961, LIFE Magazine covered Jackie’s restoration of the White House as her first job updating it while keeping the authentic look and feeling. Her focus? To bring in furnishings and art of America’s past while keeping it modern and comfortable. She worked with curator Lorraine Pearce searching the historic building for valuable relics. She unearthed pieces dating back to legendary presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, James Monroe and even Abraham Lincoln! Many of these pieces are seen in the pictures included here.
As always, antiques are an ideal way to add personality to any home. It keeps things dimensional and there’s always a story to tell. So remember to vary your furnishings here and there just as Jackie did.
The White House certainly has a good amount of color in its 54 rooms and 16 baths. There’s the ‘Red Room’, the ‘Green Room’, and more. But when you take a look at Jackie’s fashion sense, there’s no doubt that she liked things classic and crisp, and when it comes to the home, we agree. She was often photographed wearing classic colors like white with black. And there’s nothing more transitional than a classic white sofa. Slipcovers have come a long way and you can select custom fabrics and cuts to make them look like an upholstered piece, with the added benefit that you can easily wash them.
Keep in mind that Jackie was decorating for the White House families of the future too, so while she incorporated personal relics into some of the rooms, she also had to keep the artwork on the walls neutral and pleasing to all. Hanging above an antique table on a silk wall, she chose Paul Cezanne’s post-impressionist landscape: ‘the Forest’. And while it’s certainly not likely we will be finding any Cezanne pieces floating around Southern California, we do suggest incorporating some more ‘contemporary’ artwork. Consider doing a gallery wall if you want to mix in personal photos with art pieces.
Always detail-oriented, Jackie also focused on younger generations that would visit the historic home “to see what a fire in the fireplace and pretty flowers can do for a house.” She even encountered Lincoln’s lavender-bordered dinner plates during a scan of the house that she actually used when hosting an event. Now that’s a dinner party we’d like to be part of! The use of antique dinnerware combined with modern details such as floral centerpieces and towering candlesticks is something that can be emulated in any home. So whether it its colorful floral arrangements, cushy pillows or textured rugs, she recognized it’s the little things that make a home a home.
If you’re intrigued about this inspiring lady like we are, there’s a new film coming out in December called ‘Jackie’, focusing on America’s chicest first lady!