Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 2

Silk ribbon garland inscribed by a calligrapher with messages from military families on the Blue Room tree

Silk ribbon garland inscribed by a calligrapher with messages from military families Blue Room tree

Decorating the White House for over 68,000 guests is a mammoth task. An army of volunteers along with countless White House staff work feverishly to create a magical experience for all visitors. My volunteer assignment this time was the Blue Room which has the largest tree in the White House, topping off at 18 feet and one inch. Volunteers were scattered all over pitching in where needed, clambering up scaffolding and ladders to get every ornament and wreath hung in time. To read about my first time at the White House in 2011, go to Decorating the White House for Christmas . Check out Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 1, if you missed my first post for this year.

A pom pom Bo sitting on the entrance security desk at the White House in 2011

A pom-pom Bo sitting on the entrance security desk at the White House in 2011

Volunteers start working in a warehouse a couple of days in advance of working at the White House where I was assigned to the “bow team.” I can make bows in my sleep and I am always surprised by people when they have trouble with this task. It was a pleasure working with the sumptuous ribbon to create bows and garlands for all the sixty-two trees and assorted mantels in the White House. My team created multi-layered bows and garlands for two straight days before going to the White House to start decorating the rooms. Boxes of wired ornaments and other decorating items were delivered to the White House in hundreds of carefully marked boxes the morning that we started.

The Red Room tree wore a ribbon garland that I worked on at the White House

The Red Room tree wore a ribbon garland that I worked on at the warehouse

 

State floor room locations-Wikipedia

State floor room locations-Wikipedia

East Room

Continuing our tour of the White House, from the ground floor you ascend steps to the main State floor which includes the historic East Room, the largest room of the White House. Greeted by four imposing fir trees covered in frosty icicles, shimmery white and silver ornaments and dancing reindeer, the whole room sparkled. Displayed against one wall is the ornate historic crèche or nativity scene made of terra-cotta and carved wood. Fabricated in Naples in the eighteenth century, the crèche was donated to the White House in the 1960’s.

The beautiful shimmery white and silver ornaments of the East Room

The beautiful shimmery white and silver ornaments of the East Room

Flying reindeer on the East Room's mantel

Flying reindeer on the East Room’s mantel

White House DSCN6441

Green Room

The Green Room was probably my favorite decorated room (besides the Blue Room which was my team’s job!), because of the peacocks adorning the mantel and trees. Jewel tone ornaments were coordinated with the emerald silk covered walls. A historic meeting between first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart took place in this beautiful room. Teal, emerald-green, and purple colors dominated this room.

Mantel of the green room with peacocks

Mantel of the green room with peacocks

Close up of the mantel's peacocks

Close up of the mantel’s peacocks

Details of the ornaments in the Green Room

Details of the ornaments in the Green Room

Blue Room

I spent several days working in the Blue Room as my assignment and I was “star struck!” Stars were the overall theme in the room-wreaths, tree, and even the stanchions that surrounded the tree had stars. Holding the largest tree, at eighteen feet and one inch tall, the Blue Room tree comes from the famous Bustard’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA, only about a two hour drive from me in Maryland.

The red, white, and blue Christmas tree in the Blue Room

The red, white, and blue Christmas tree in the Blue Room

An oval room, the Blue Room is primarily used by the President to receive many of his guests. Ornamented with a beautiful 6 inch wide silk ribbon overlaid on top of large gold stars, the tree is a shimmering display of red, white, and blue, inspired by the U.S. flag. It took our team a full three days to completely decorate this monster tree, using ladders and scaffolding and lots of patience.

Families of the military were asked to write messages to their loved ones and the messages were beautifully inscribed on a wide silk ribbon that wound around the tree. After Christmas, when the decorations are dismantled, the families will receive the snippet of ribbon with their note.

Messages were inscribed by a calligrapher on the silk garland

Messages inscribed by a calligrapher on the silk garland

I helped design and construct the three star wreaths that hung in the Blue Room windows. Up high on a ladder, I wired the large stars in place and suspended stars from ribbons on the wreaths.

Star wreaths in the blue Room windows

Star wreaths in the Blue Room windows

Red Room

In 2011 when I was part of the team to decorate the Red Room, I really enjoyed the color scheme and rich decorations for this ruby colored room. In 2015, I was interested in how the decorations would change. Cranberries were still used in the wreaths and in topiary trees elsewhere in the room-no surprise there! This year though, different shades of red and gold were interwoven into the tree and mantel and the beautiful striped garland was striking. Magnolia leaves were also a nice addition to the mantel. The cardinals on top of the tree were perfect.

Red Room Mantel

Red Room Mantel

This is the Red Room color scheme in 2011 when I designed it-the mantel had more gold and copper added

This is the Red Room color scheme in 2011 when I designed it-the mantel had more gold and copper

 

Cranberry wreaths in the windows and cardinals on top of the trees in the Red Room

Cranberry wreaths in the windows and cardinals on top of the trees in the Red Room

white house

State Dining Room (Nutcracker Heaven!)

The first Christmas party in the State Dining Room was hosted by President John Adams and his wife in 1800, so like the rest of the White House, there is a lot of history here. Seasonal delights, such as the imposing gingerbread house with Bo and Sunny perched in front, is probably the star attraction. Close to 500 pounds, the gingerbread house has more than 250 pounds of gingerbread dough, 150 pounds of dark chocolate, 25 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds sugar work, and 25 pounds of icing. I liked the small groupings of snow people on either side and there was a small White House garden to one side.

Nutcrackers flank the door of the dark chocolate gingerbread house

Nutcrackers flank the door of the dark chocolate gingerbread house

Close up of the nutcrackers on the gingerbread house

Close up of the nutcrackers on the gingerbread house

A gathering of snow men outside of the mammoth chocolate gingerbread house

A gathering of snow people made out of gum paste arrayed in front of the chocolate gingerbread house

Nearby, a large gumball machine full of treats is on display along with the many nutcrackers and toys, sure to delight the younger children who visit.

Gumball machine full of treats

Gumball machine full of treats

DSCN6388

Nutcracker tree

Nutcracker tree

white house

A giant nutcracker on the State Dining Room table

A giant nutcracker on the State Dining Room table

Grand Foyer

The Grand Foyer held my favorite designed trees, which flanked the Blue Room. Imposing fir trees arrayed with giant glass balls and stars arranged with a very heavy gold ball garland positively glowed with color. The use of ball garlands used in several areas of the White House created a rich layered look and each one was wired in by hand so that they stayed put.

Grand Foyer trees with giant ornaments in jewel tones

Grand Foyer trees with giant ornaments in jewel tones

DSCN6360

Volunteer Reception

To finish off my week at the White House, all volunteers with one guest received an invitation to a special evening reception with food and entertainment. Tables in the Dining Room and East Room were laden with all kinds of food and drink. The dessert table was especially appealing with iced cookies, sticky pudding with caramel sauce, yule logs, cakes, macaroons and other special treats. Smoked salmon, crab claws, carved roast beef and ham, and the famous mac with cauliflower and cheese were enjoyed by all.

Early in the evening the dessert table was empty but quickly became jam packed

Early in the evening the dessert table was easy to get to but quickly became jam-packed

The sublime egg nog was served by an employee of the White House who has been there since the Kennedy administration

The sublime egg nog was served by an employee of the White House who has been there since the Kennedy administration

white house

A choir serenaded the volunteers

A choir serenaded the volunteers

The First Lady welcomed all the volunteers and graciously thanked everyone for all their efforts in making the White House a magical place.

I met lots of new people, learned some great tips on decorating in a grand manner, and had some of the best food of my life. I will never forget this Christmas!

I loved how these translucent ornaments shone in the dark

I loved how these translucent ornaments shone in the dark

 

Next: How to decorate you own mantel like the White House!

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About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
This entry was posted in Decorating Christmas, Floral Arranging, White House Christmas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 2

  1. Linda Vodney says:

    Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would so love to have my tiny home look as fashionable for the holiday. I just don’t have a team. ;( I love decorating for Christmas more than anything. You all did a wonderful job.

    Like

  3. judy norris says:

    Paula:Have new computer,thank goodness. Below is the Garden Diaries, and thought that you may be interested in tossing in your name and maybe havethe opportunity to decorate the White House. Just a thought. Guidelines below.

    Judy From: The Garden Diaries To: jtdnorris@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 5:36 PM Subject: [New post] Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 2 #yiv4386317596 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4386317596 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4386317596 a.yiv4386317596primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4386317596 a.yiv4386317596primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4386317596 a.yiv4386317596primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4386317596 a.yiv4386317596primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4386317596 WordPress.com | thegardendiaries posted: “Decorating the White House for over 68,000 guests is a mammoth task. An army of volunteers along with countless White House staff work feverishly to create a magical experience for all visitors. My volunteer assignment this time was the Blue Room which ” | |

    Like

  4. Jenna says:

    I am wanting to make the Apple cranberry wreath but I am having trouble finding apples that look like the ones used on the show! Help! Anyone know where I can find them?!?!?!

    Like

  5. ehhleeana says:

    Hi – thank you for your experience! I submitted my volunteer form last month and I’m very nervous and worried about the results. I hope I get a spot but it seems like there are very few spots compared to the number of people that apply. I will be practicing my bow making skills from now until I receive an email, do you have any other tips on what I can do to prepare (if I am selected)? The website states that we should plan on being in DC from Nov. 24th – 30th, does the work begin on the 24th? When is the volunteer reception, on the 30th? If you applied for this year, I hope to see you there! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of people apply and few are selected, but best of luck! On Thanksgiving evening, there is a volunteer meeting in DC where you get your assignments and the following Wednesday night is the party. I applied this year, and I just forget about it until October when you receive word. If I get in, fine, if I don’t then I will apply again. Good luck!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Trinda Crow says:

    Do you know if people have been notified by now? I applied and keeping my fingers crossed!
    10/23/16

    Like

  7. Pingback: Deck the Halls-Homemade Decorating for the Holidays | The Garden Diaries

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