Architectural Digest

What's the point of reviewing Architectural Digest only to make fun of (pretentious) rich people and their multi-million dollar bibelots? That approach gets as obvious and tiresome as making fun of Donald Trump's hair. (And in the bad hair department, hasn't everyone moved on to Javier Bardem's Dora-the-Explorer page-boy look in ''No Country for Old Men"?')

Okay, well maybe there's still some country for an occasional zinger -- like the letter in the March issue in fulsome praise of ''Ryan Seacrest's Hollywood Idyll.'' (The effusive reader from Pennsylvania burbles on about the place's ''joie de vivre'' and ''gentle textures.'' Or maybe he's talking about Ryan Seacrest's hair. Ba-bom.)

Seriously, rich people (and/or their designers) sometimes have great taste; AD, without question, hires the best writers and photographers around; and, awash in the magazine's incredibly expensive, elevated aesthetic, a person can always dream.

What drew me to this particular issue was the cover exclusive: "The White House: A look Inside the Newly Decorated Rooms with Laura Bush.''I was interested in seeing how Laura would handle her Jackie Kennedy moment: I remember seeing tapes of the famous ''White House Tour'' when the then-First Lady spoke to the camera in her whispery, part-patrician, part-Marilyn Monroe-ish voice as she pointed out each historically accurate restoration. Apparently, by 1961, the place had taken so much wear and tear, and been inhabited by so many rubes and ruffians, that the interiors were shabbier than a foreclosed Motel Six. Nancy Reagan not only famously upgraded the china, but also her remodeling of the house was featured in an 18-page spread in AD at the time. Clinton decorator Kaki Hockersmith, who possesses one of my favorite all-time names, introduced blood red swags and gold Napoleonic Laurel wreaths, giving the place, it would seem, that special Belle Watling-edition look.

According to AD, Laura Bush began redecorating after her husband took office in 2001, with the help of the much more tamely named Fort Worth, Texas designer Kenneth Blasingame, who also decorated their Crawford ranch. The photos are lavish and museum-quality. I just wish the text on the stately pages had one iota of oomph. Instead, the story is as formal and stiff as George himself looks standing in the ''refreshed'' Green Room, while Laura sits to the side, giving him the Nancy Reagan eyes. One of the more lively quotes, for example, from the First Lady, is ''There's a great reminder of history when you live here.'' Well, um, yeah. I know she's too diplomatic to get into the history of the celebs who slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, which was one focus of the ''historically accurate'' restoration. (To be sure, the Bushes also invited some of their own high-flying supporters to stay there.)

Here's the extent of the dish: "George and I love to read in bed,'' says Mrs. Bush, ''and so we're very aware of having good lamps. And I also have a mother-in-law who stays now in these guest rooms and will be perfectly frank about what she would like in the rooms and what she wouldn't." Well, that certainly required a follow-up, notably missing on the page.

It's odd that the Bushes would undertake this now, just as they're leaving office. But as Blasingame says of the new ecru walls in the oval office, ''Ecru is the color of parchment, and it has a crisp quality.'' Crisp? Burned? That's hardly a ''gentle texture.''

The piece is interesting for what it doesn't say. It will be interesting to see who gets to redecorate next.


Published by:Condé Nast Publications

Frequency: Monthly

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