Obama’s White House Interior Designer on How to Update Your Home for Spring

Courtesy Michael S. Smith

Michael S. Smith is responsible for the Oval Office's 2010 makeover, as well as the 2008 redo of the private quarters of the White House.

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One look at interior designer Michael S. Smith’s client list is enough to tell you a lot about his expertise, talent, and impeccable style: Cindy Crawford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, and Dustin Hoffman have all hired him at some point. And of course, there's the Obamas. In 2008, Michelle and Barack Obama asked him to redecorate the private quarters of the White House and two years later—the Oval Office (“I was in equal parts shock and then I was completely overwhelmed by the honor of it. And what’s wonderful is that those two feelings never went away,” Smith says about it.) And then, there is his line of fine furniture, fabrics, leathers, and home accessories, Jasper Workshop, that he recently added candles to, so when it comes to interior design, Smith is the number one authority in the country.

Jewel Samad/Getty Images

That’s why we reached out to him to chat all things spring updates. If you are considering freshening up your home but aren’t ready to commit to a timely and costly renovation, Smith has a tip or two for you.

“Paint is the number one thing,” he says. 

Courtesy Michael Mundy

It’s an easy and inexpensive way to brighten up any room, according to him. His go-to colors for spring are pale celadon green, butter yellow, and pale cream or blue. Even Smith who currently lives in a rental while he is renovating his home opted to paint the cabinets and walls in his current residence.

“I painted the walls like a pale, pale pink. It makes the white trim that was already there look fresh and kind of pop out,” he added. “It’s like putting Chanel powder in my room—it looks really, really pretty at all times of the day.”

Simon Upton/The Interior Archive

Your next step? Switch up your heavy wool carpets for lighter rugs from natural fabrics.

“A carpet is like a scarf on an outfit. It very much sets the tone and the vibe of a room,” Smith says. “If you have a dark, classic, old-fashioned carpet [it] can be really beautiful in the fall. And in the winter [it can] make a room feel cozy and kind of warm. And I think in the summer, if you replace it with a really inexpensive neutral cotton rug or a woven sisal rug, then it gives you a whole different vibe.”

And speaking of textiles, pillows and throws are another way to freshen up your sofa or bed and they are available in every possible fabric and color. Just stay away from dark colors (burgundy and navy, for example) and heavy fabrics such as faux fur throws or sheepskin rugs or anything that would make you feel hot. For instance, instead of a cashmere throw, opt for a cotton one.

Courtesy Michael S. Smith

“Things that are cozy don’t necessarily translate into the summer,” Smith adds.

And since we perceive our surroundings with all of our senses, now is the perfect time to get rid of all your woodsy or pine-smelling candles that can be too heavy for spring. Instead, opt for scents that are natural and feel clean such as green tomato or citrus. 

Finally, adding a few plants and greenery will really transform your home and introduce a fresh vernal vibe to it.

Now check out some of the things Smith recommends you add to your home for a stylish spring makeover.

Jasper Workshop Greco’s Garden Candle

Eric Staudenmaier/Courtesy Michael S. Smith

To buy: $84, michaelsmithinc.com

West Elm Embroidered Etched Pillow Covers

Courtesy West Elm

To buy: $39, westelm.com

Jasper Workshop Kashmir Pillow in Taupe/Teal


To buy: $250, michaelsmithinc.com

Swan’s Island Watercolors Throw in Indigo and Teal

Courtesy Swan Island 

To buy: $595, swansislandcompany.com

Amanda Lindroth Island Tray

Chris Salata/Capehart Photography/Courtesy Amanda Lindroth

To buy: $60, amandalindroth.com

Lawson Fenning B Zippy Jumbo Diamond Vicky Teal Vase

Courtesy Lawson-Fenning

To buy: $380, lawsonfenning.com