The White House is a “dump”, or so its newest resident allegedly says.
If reports are to be believed – and, it should be said, the administration has denied it – Donald Trump has been complaining, or joking, about his accommodation’s standards.
According to Golf.com, Mr Trump has explained his frequent appearances at various golf courses across America by saying to fellow players: “That White House is a real dump.”
It led Chelsea Clinton, who is more than a little familiar with the interior of the White House, to tweet: “Thank you to all the White House ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers & curators for all you do every day.”
So, is it really a dump?
Well, it certainly doesn’t look like that in photographs released by Architectural Digest in July.
But, seeing as there are 132 rooms in total, are the non-pictured ones in such good nick?
On the face of it, the public ones certainly look to be well maintained.
In his 2008 book To Serve the President, author Bradley H. Patterson estimated that the White House budget includes $1.6m (£1.2m) for restoration and repairs each year.
And it certainly would not be considered a dump to those living in the 30 million households across the US that have hazardous homes, according to a 2016 report by the Center for American Progress.
Those hazards include “dilapidated structures, poor heating, damaged plumbing, gas leaks, or lead”, said the report.
That means, if you take the average size of an American household, there could be almost 76 million of Mr Trump’s citizens living in homes that could cause them “significant harm”.
A question of taste?
If the current president is displeased by his new residence, it may be due to a clash of personal taste.
After all, Architectural Digest described the private rooms at the White House as “an oasis of civility and, yes, refined taste”.
But how about Mr Trump’s personal home? His penthouse in New York’s Trump Towers certainly has a different aesthetic.
“At one level, [the decor is] aspirational, meant to project the wealth so many citizens can only dream of,” author Peter York wrote in Politico. “But it also has important parallels – not with Italian Renaissance or French baroque, where its flourishes come from, but with something more recent. The best aesthetic descriptor of Trump’s look, I’d argue, is dictator style.”
According to Mr York, who has written a book called Dictator Style, the apartment screams “I am tremendously rich and unthinkably powerful” – which is more than a little at odds with Washington’s more understated style. After all, its ” neoclassical public buildings” are supposed to “evoke stability and trustworthiness through their restraint”, he wrote.
However, Mr Trump will almost certainly have put his own mark on the White House by now, as all presidents do.
We know he swapped the red curtains for gold in the Oval Office, but what has happened behind the scenes is less clear. His wife, Melania, called in decorator Tham Kannalikham earlier this year, but what she will do to the Trumps’ new apartment is not clear.
However, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, senior adviser to the First Lady, assured lifestyle website WWD: “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.”
And how much would a large-scale renovation cost?
The last time the White House could perhaps more legitimately be called “a dump” was back in the late 1940s, following years of depression and the Second World War.
According to historians, President Harry Truman walked into the building and found a place that was not only too small for his needs, but also had baths sinking into its floors – which not only creaked but also “swayed“.
The repairs, which began in 1948, cost $5.7m, according to several reports, and included a major extension. If you consider the annual upkeep is now thought to cost almost a third of that, it gives you an idea of what a full-scale renovation would cost today.
In the UK, Buckingham Palace is about to undergo a 10-year, £369m renovation – although it is, of course, slightly larger – with 775 rooms.
The palace’s last major renovation was back in the 1950s, so potentially the problems encountered at the Queen’s official residence, like ageing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers, could be being experienced behind the glitzy public rooms at the White House. However it seems less likely, as the latter has been undergoing updates to make the building more energy efficient since 1993.
Over in France, the Palace of Versailles has been also been undergoing a major, €500m (£447m; $592m) renovation since 2003 – and there are still another three years left until it is complete.
So it seems likely any major renovation would run into the tens of millions – and what with Mr Trump’s multi-billion dollar wall needing funding, it seems unlikely it will be top of the priority list.