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What Melania Trump’s New Designer Might Do to the White House

Melania Trump has hired designer Tham Kannalikham as the White House’s official decorator, W.W.D. reported Thursday. The Laotian-American designer will assist with adding Trump’s desired changes to the White House, just like Michael S. Smith did for former FLOTUS Michelle Obama. So, what might a White House designed by Kannalikham look like?

According to a piece by Architectural Digest, Kannalikham has very specific tastes—including 18th-century buildings and influences from French, English, American, and Irish culture—that might also be seen at 16Pennsylvania Ave.

The story notes, however, that the designer is very private, keeping her Instagram locked and her Web site password-protected. She appears to have deleted her Pinterest account. Kannalikham is, from evidence of her work, reportedly drawn to more classic designs and, as Architectural Digest notes, is in regular attendance at the events for the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. She previously worked for Ralph Lauren Home (Trump’s inauguration-ceremony outfit was designed by Ralph Lauren.

Melania Trump, who has been compared to more “traditional” First Ladies of the past, might just be on board with some more classic finds. This runs surprisingly contrary to the gilded palace in which she currently resides in Trump Tower, and the report that she will be adding a “glam room“ to the White House. In a statement to W.W.D., Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the First Lady’s senior adviser, pointed to Trump’s admiration of the history that surrounds her in her new home.

“Mrs. Trump has a deep appreciation for the historical aspects of the White House and with Tham’s traditional design and expertise, they are focusing on a seamless integration of elegance and comfort into where the president, the First Lady, and [their son] Barron will be spending their family time and calling their home,” Winston Wolkoff told W.W.D.

The First Lady and her 10-year-old son will not be moving into the White House until the end of the current school year, which leaves plenty of planning time for Kannalikham. No word yet as to whether or not Trump’s over-the-top husband will be allowed to weigh in.

#1. Mary Todd Lincoln, 1861

Mary Todd Lincoln, 1861

Corbis/Getty Images

Corbis/Getty Images

Mary Todd Lincoln was often criticized by the press and public for her opulent purchases during the Civil War. The First Lady was particularly fond of grand ball gowns, which would cost upwards of $2,000.

#2. Eleanor Roosevelt, undated

Eleanor Roosevelt, undated

George Rinhart/Corbis/Getty Images

George Rinhart/Corbis/Getty Images

Eleanor Roosevelt’s other accomplishments, which included being the first First Lady to hold regular press conferences, writing columns for newspapers and magazines, and hosting her own radio show, often overshadowed her style. That said, she would sometimes attend events in glamorous gowns and lavish furs—a noted difference from her everyday skirts and tops.

#3. Jacqueline Kennedy, 1961

Jacqueline Kennedy, 1961

AGIP/RDA/Everett Collection

AGIP/RDA/Everett Collection

Jacqueline Kennedy, now known for her classic style, was one of the first First Ladies to wear foreign designers, specifically from French houses like Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior. During a visit to Paris in 1961, Kennedy took a tour of Versailles with the French president, Charles de Gaulle, wearing a now-iconic dress by Givenchy.

#4. Lady Bird Johnson, 1965

Lady Bird Johnson, 1965

From Corbis/Getty Images

From Corbis/Getty Images

Unlike Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson did not have close relationships with designers, nor an overwhelming interest in fashion. Her focus during her husband’s term was to create beauty, not through her clothes, but in nature. She would wear the classic skirt suits of the 1960s while working on projects for her beautify America campaign.

#5. Betty Ford, 1977

Betty Ford, 1977

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Betty Ford was outspoken about issues such as women’s equality and addiction. She’s also known for an image that captured her on her last day in the White House, dancing on a table and wearing a pantsuit—a rare occasion for a First Lady at the time.


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