Commentary

Property Brother: Trump Remakes The People's House

“I will be so presidential, you won’t believe it,” President-elect Trump famously said, regularly, over the course of his campaign.

But that pivot has yet to arrive.

Or has it? As with most things Trump, it depends upon what you mean by “presidential.” As promised, he has already become the Shaker-Up-in-Chief, establishing new behavioral norms across the board, from continuing to fire off his combustible 3 a.m. tweets, to packing his cabinet with billionaires and military generals, to maintaining his laissez faire attitude toward the concepts of nepotism and conflicts of interest involving his children and his businesses.

He is also rejiggering everything related to the customary idea of a first family. It was news that Melania and Barron won’t join him in the White House until the end of the school year. Now it has been reported that Trump transition aides are already planning for an office of the First Family in the East Wing, where the current office of the First Lady is located. It looks as though his daughter Ivanka will perform that role, and that she will move to D.C. with her family, while Melania remains in New York City with Barron.

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But the big optic thing Trump has not updated for the last 30 years, from the time he moved in with Ivana and his young family, are the over-the-top furnishings of his Trump Tower triplex.

Starting with the massive golden double doors that visitors pass through, the place seems extremely oligarchically correct. I wonder how someone so attuned to optics, who is the President to “all the people,” as he said recently when he was defensive about getting stars to entertain at his inauguration, wouldn’t want to change that picture to something more inviting and democratic.

Because as a real estate guy, he certainly has multiple compounds to choose from.

Although he’s always branding, he barely mentions two of the residences he has already used for official business: the main house on his Trump National golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey and Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is now spending the Christmas holidays with his family.

For Trump the brandmaster, Mar-a-Lago has proven to be an undeniably canny -- and even visionary -- investment. He bought it for a relative song in late 1985: $5 million for the house and property and $3 million for the antique furnishings.  

The paltry price was partly due to his mind-bogglingly aggressive and unfriendly litigation with the locals, which reportedly included threats of building a wall to block the ocean view.  

Once he restored and developed the place as a private club, the future President managed to establish a Trump-emblazoned beachhead for celebs, visiting “dignitaries,” journalists who interviewed him, and the international philanthropy set who attend the fund-raising galas held in the ballroom. (Speaking of celeb royalty, Trump helped sell them memberships by floating the idea in the press that Prince Charles was buying in. The prince, apparently, was not amused.)

Perhaps, when he bought Mar-a-Lago, Trump was taking the long view, fantasizing about the presidency even 30 years ago. It seems that Mar-a Lago (a bit of mangled Spanish meaning sea-to-lake) was built in the late 1920s by Marjorie Merriweather Post, a cereal heiress, and her then-husband, E.F. Hutton (of Wall Street fame), with an eye toward eventually turning it into a winter White House.

Sure beats Camp David.

As for more standard, WASPY Presidential optics, nothing beats Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey manse.

The area is a very moneyed, rural enclave in horse country, where former First Lady Jackie Kennedy learned to ride as a girl, and later owned a farm. The name also suggests “Westminster: the dog show, not the Abbey. And certainly, it was “Best in Show” with Mitt looking like a beautifully groomed standard poodle, Monsieur Willard, arriving for his interview. Masters of Wall Street, the universe, and the Social Register have tended to live there unflashily for generations, like the Forbes family. (Publisher Malcolm’s son Steve also ran for President.)

Trump’s main New Jersey house -- a massive colonial with white columns -- looks old-fashioned and American, damn it, like out of a movie as opposed to the images of world leaders and Cabinet seekers passing through the chaotic, blocked-off, marble-entombed entryway of Trump Tower.  

And having the cameras poised at the front doors in New Jersey, complete with the brass knockers, allowed us to see all the back-patting, warm leave-takings, with both Pa Trump and Ma Pence kindly seeing the contender to the porch. (Even if, like poor Mitt, in the end they were not offered a rose.)

This was so different from the whole Roll of Shame departure created for the just-fired losers of “The Apprentice” to suffer. We watched them roll their suitcases into the empty elevator, descend all those floors, and then roll out of the building, to stand in the empty, dark street alone, hailing a cab while the doorman looked on, refusing any help.

Back to New Jersey and the clubhouse there. It turns out that Trump bought the property from John DeLorean, the inventor of the eponymous gull-winged car that played a starring role in the movie “Back to the Future.” Seems as if this brings the symbolism of the winning Trump phrase, “Make America Great Again,” full circle.

Visually, Bedminster is still the epitome of the 1950s Eisenhower era, a perfectly designed and manicured enclave for white people with money.  

Maybe that idea of going backwards in time comes across too starkly, and he thinks his voters would rather imagine themselves covered in gold.

It will be interesting to see how (or perhaps even whether) after being sworn in as President, Trump inhabits the White House: a place, unlike the other Trump properties, that he hasn’t bought or branded. Let the pivoting begin.

13 comments about "Property Brother: Trump Remakes The People's House".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, December 23, 2016 at 3:56 p.m.


    I consider all this very good news, since when the mobs of Trump's ex-followers finally come to their senses and descend upon his hiding place, wielding pitchforks, torches and an ample supply of tar and feathers, the odds are in our favor that it won't be the White House that they burn to the ground. 

    (Great article, by the way)

  2. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, December 23, 2016 at 4:09 p.m.

    Thanks, Chuck. Happy Holidays and here's to a tank-free 2017!

  3. Frank Newcomer from Dystopian Empire, December 23, 2016 at 4:43 p.m.

    Yes, well, good taste is a curse. 


  4. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network replied, December 23, 2016 at 5:05 p.m.


    Of all the hundreds and maybe thousands of comments I've read about our approaching nightmare, reading your wish for a "tank-free 2017" is the only one that widened my eyes, and made me clinch my jaw, lean back in my chair and stare out the window in a semi-paralyzed state. Scary and brilliant. And scary. Very, very scary.

    And Happy Holidays right back at you. I think many of us will be "celebrating" with some extra punchy egg nog this season.

  5. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, December 23, 2016 at 5:08 p.m.


    Oops. Make that "clench", not "clinch."  ... I guess the details still matter, yes?

  6. Claudia Caplan from MDC Partners, December 23, 2016 at 6:49 p.m.

    And speaking of bad home decor, let us not forget the Clinton's redo of the White House featuring a Little Rock decorator named Kaki.  Bad taste has no party.

  7. Jane Farrell from Freelance, December 23, 2016 at 6:53 p.m.

    Trump would never change the furnishings in his Trump Tower place  because that is what most people (and my guess is, all of his followers) associate him with. He takes far more pride in it than that plain old home in Bedminster. Over-the-top trappings of spectacularly bad taste, lacking (like him) in the basic civilized amenities. Sold gold bathroom fixtures but no hand soap.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 23, 2016 at 8:32 p.m.

    Great and scary, Barbara. No one can describe the situation like you and you pretty much know how I feel about what will happen as a result. We should invite the deporables to visit him.

  9. James Boldebook from CBC, December 24, 2016 at 2:59 p.m.

    I can't wait til he's in the White House. I could care less about his taste in architecture or furnishings. I'm excited about making America great again. And it is time. Merry Christmas!

  10. George Parker from Parker Consultants, December 27, 2016 at 8:59 a.m.

    As I post over at "AdScam"... Perhaps he also used DeLorean as a role model. He persuaded the British government to build him a factory in Northern Ireland that would employ thousands and boost the economy. This of course never happened and the government was left holding the bag for millions. They were also left with the country mansion they had bought for him… The one that he insisted on having all the bathroom fixtures gold plated… He was later arrested for trafficking cocaine!

  11. George Parker from Parker Consultants replied, December 27, 2016 at 1:21 p.m.

    Wanker...

  12. John Grono from GAP Research replied, December 27, 2016 at 5:45 p.m.

    Chance or coincidence that an anagram of your name is 'Babel Doom Jokes'.

  13. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 28, 2016 at 8:48 p.m.

    Very interesting....George Parker. His new transportation secretary's father - she is married to Mitch McConnell - owns a major shipping company. Only once has be been "caught" publicly of shipping illegal drugs. Shipping is shipping. Lots of shipping goods from the heroine capitals and manufacturing capitals coming into the US ... unchecked. Favors ?

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