Posted on December 11 2020
By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
Christmas at the White House is always exciting. I have been lucky enough to visit the executive mansion many times during the holidays and once assisted with the Blue Room tree during President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
As the Carters’ White House design consultant, I enjoyed designing events for first lady Rosalynn Carter and, especially, creating holiday decor for the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s visit to the White House in the 1980s.
During my visit to the White House with my associate Brinsley Matthews for a reception on Dec, 3, I saw that first lady Melania Trump had carried out the holiday decorations in the public spaces with an America the Beautiful theme.
To say that the 2020 decorations are sensational is an understatement. In the White House Library is a tree decorated to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured for American women the right to vote.
The tree features images of women who were pioneers and activists for gender equality. Among the pioneers celebrated on the tree are the late aviatrix Harriet Quimby, the late artist Georgia O’Keeffe and my mentor, the late designer Dorothy Draper. How proud I am to be carrying her legacy forward.
My favorite tree is the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room. It’s an 18-foot Fraser fir from West Virginia, decorated with ornaments depicting each state and made by children from across the country. The tree is also beautifully adorned with yellow ribbons.
I noticed many of the Christmas designs in the White House feature floral colors that recall the pale pinks, blushes, whites and yellows of the roses the first lady incorporated into her recent rose garden redesign.
In the East Room, the Christmas theme showcases travel. Planes, trains and automobiles hang from the greenery.
There is a tree honoring President Kennedy in the Vermeil Room, placed appropriately beside first lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s portrait painted by Aaron Shikler. The ornaments on the tree include sailboats and the new JFK portrait ornament produced by the White House Historical Council.
I so enjoyed seeing the decorations. And I send a thank you to the 125 volunteers who assisted in making America the Beautiful shine so beautifully in our White House. The decorations included 166 wreaths, 62 trees, 1,200 feet of garland, 3,200 lights, 17,000 bows and 151 types of foliage of greens from all 50 states.