In keeping with his persona as a man of the people, Bill de Blasio is taking the decor of New York's official mayoral residence in a populist direction.
The Obamas' White House has Michael S. Smith (who decorated a two-bedroom apartment listed at $50 million, complete with a gold bathtub surround). The De Blasios' Gracie Mansion has Johanna Mele, based at West Elm's store in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. You could have her too, for that matter: The company offers free in-home stylist services nationwide, and Mele is available locally by request.
Mayor De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, had shopped at West Elm in the past to furnish the family's rowhouse in Brooklyn's Park Slope, the New York Times reports. The brand is based in Brooklyn; in fact, its blog is called Front + Main, named for the intersection in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood where West Elm is headquartered.
So the store feels like a natural fit for the De Blasios, whose tastes are decidedly less formal than commonly associated with Gracie's Upper East Side locale. They moved in this week, becoming its first residents since Mayor Rudy Giuliani left office in 2001. Their new furnishings will adorn only the private residential quarters upstairs; the mansion's public areas remain untouched.
"We are honoring and preserving one of the nation's great historic residences, while turning Gracie into a modern living space that fits our family," McCray said in a statement. She oversaw the redecoration.
"We've moved to a new borough, but we brought some Brooklyn flavor with us."
All told, West Elm donated $65,000 worth of furniture and accessories to the Gracie Mansion Conservancy for the De Blasio decorating project. The items will stay with the mansion after his administration moves on.
By point of comparison, when billionaire Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he hired his longtime decorator Jamie Drake to refurbish the place, anonymously paying $7 million out of his own pocket (despite the fact that he didn't even live there). A 2003 Architectural Digest feature ticked off sources like Scalamandre, Safavieh and Brunschwig & Fils; some of the lighting, including an 1810 chandelier, came from H.M. Luther Antiques, where online pricing is broken into three tiers: $0 to $10,000, $10,000 to $50,000, and $50,000 and up.
And when David Dinkins was mayor, scandal flared over a city expenditure of $11,500 on a custom headboard for the mayor's bed, the Times notes.