After Living in the White House, Comfortable Home Design Reigns
Welcome to the world of house design, where history and architecture converge to create the most stunning living spaces. U.S. Presidents have always been known for their profound impact on history, but many people don't realize that their influence extends far beyond politics and into the world of home design. From George Washington's iconic Mount Vernon to the contemporary homes of four living U.S. Presidents, presidential residences have inspired and shaped some of the most popular house styles in the country.
Whether you're a fan of the classic Georgian or Colonial styles or prefer a more modern look, you're sure to find some inspired ideas from the homes of these southern presidents. So, come along as we take a tour of some of the most beautiful and historically significant presidential homes in the country, and see how their design elements can inspire your dream home.
Big, Bigger, Biggest
With six private residences the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, owns more homes than any other living president. These range from penthouses perched high in skyscrapers to mansions hidden deep in the woods or a luxury villa on a championship golf course. Perhaps his most iconic residence, currently designated as his primary residence, is Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth Lagoon, Mar-a-Lago was built in 1927 by the heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. The noted architect Marion Sims Wyeth designed the estate. The architecture of Mar-a-Lago is inspired by Mediterranean styles, including Spanish, Venetian, and Portuguese styles, and is characterized by its ornate details, arches, and towers. Situated on 17 acres of land, the property consists of a main house, several cottages, and various outbuildings. The main house boasts 126 rooms and covers an area of 110,000 square feet, making it one of the largest private residences in the United States.
View of Mar-a-Lago from Palm Beach's South Ocean Blvd. (Photo credit: "Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach FL" by Jud McCranie under CC BY-ND 4.0)
In 1969, Mar-a-Lago was purchased by Donald Trump and turned into a private club. After Donal Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016, Mar-a-Lago became known as the "Winter White House" and was used for official presidential business. Today, the Trump Organization owns the property, and serves as a private residence for the former president and his family. The club is considered one of the country's most prestigious and exclusive properties.
Donald Trump has been known to say he has tried to maintain the estate's historic character and preserve many of the original design features. And to this day, it remains a symbol of the grandeur and luxury of the Gilded Age.
If you can't get a membership at Mar-a-Lago, check out this beachfront Mediterranean-style home. With six bedrooms and seven-and-a-half baths, this home is perfect for family living and entertaining guests.
One view of the front entry (above) and the rear (below) of the this coastal, Mediterranean-style compound. (Plan # 107-1085)
The house has covered patios, a summer kitchen, and a luxurious master suite, which occupies most of the second-floor space with its private sitting area and covered balcony. Other amenities include a library, media room, and a large guest suite.
The ranch, with its simplicity, symmetry, and sprawling layout, is one of the most popular and enduring architectural designs. The 39th and 43rd Presidents of the U.S., Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, lived in ranch-style homes.
The modest Carter ranch house in Plains, Georgia—the family’s permanent residence since 1961—is the first and only home the Carters have ever owned. The home stretches on what looks like a pretty huge property. It has covered front and rear porches, many trees and plants, and plenty of windows for natural sunlight to filter freely into the interior.
A sweeping view of the Carter ranch in Plains, GA. (Photo credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, U.S. Government; Library of Congress Call Number: HABS GA,131-PLAIN,2--5)
Guests are greeted by double doors at the entryway and floor-to-ceiling paned windows and double doors (top). Above is the rear porch, a glimpse of the chimney, and patio furniture. (Photo credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, U.S. Government; Library of Congress Call Number: HABS GA,131-PLAIN,2--5)
If you want something elegantly simple with clean lines like the Carter ranch, take a look at this three-bedroom ranch-style plan. It is not as expensive as most homes because it is built as an efficient rectangle. There are flex options—with unfinished space on the second level and the basement. Inside the main house is a spacious Great Room—dining-living-kitchen areas—with its open layout. From the Great Room, there is access to a rear covered porch and grilling terrace. The master suite has its own patio with a fireplace.
A lot like the Carter house, this three-bedroom ranch style home is quite simply designed but is striking with its stone and wood siding. (Plan #106-1274)
A spacious Great Room and a modern kitchen with a kitchen island are some of the attractive interior features. (Plan #106-1274)
The Ranch Home à la George W. Bush
President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, built the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, on a rolling landscape of 1,600 acres. The property has a main house, pool, lake, guesthouse, bike paths, and oak trees all over. The one-story, eight-bedroom home has no stairs and is practically one big room because of its open floor layout.
The main house at Prairie Chapel Ranch, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, has plenty of oak trees to provide shade from the afternoon sun. Above: President George Bush with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in front of the Western White House Crawford, Texas. Below: President George W Bush on the porch of his ranch. (Photo credits: Above: White House photo by Susan Sterner; Below: White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
According to a 2001 article in USA Today, “most of the rooms are relatively small and have high ceilings” with large glass doors that open to the porch. The living-family room and the kitchen-dining area, which are laid out for frequent entertaining and large family gatherings, are quite spacious.
When the ranch was built, the Bushes made sure that it was environmentally friendly. The house uses a geothermal heating and cooling system; rainwater and household waste water are reused for irrigation.
Inside the Bush home (circa 2001-2007): relaxing with their daughters in the living-family room (left). On the right, an unofficial meeting with cabinet members in the study. (Photo credits: Top: George W Bush LIbrary and Museum; Below: White House photo by Susan Sterner)
While not everyone can live on a 1,600-acre property and own an eight-bedroom home, there are some attractive choices in ranch/Texas-style homes out there.
From its landscaped courtyard to a covered front porch, rear patio, and great interior, this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath Texas-style home is one appealing package. Here are two views of the home. (Plan # 117-1092)
For example, the one-story home shown here has an open floor plan and lots of bonus space in the basement. The foyer opens on the right into the dining area; to the left is the media/study room, and ahead is the Great Room space—a family room, kitchen with a walk-in pantry, and breakfast nook. The master suite has a sitting room. In the rear of the house, you will find a lanai and a BBQ porch. There is also an option for an in-law or guest suite in the basement.
Here is a peek at the dining room and living room. From the living room, one can see the rear lanai and BBQ porch. (Plan # 117-1092)
Beach, Beach, or Urban Living? Let's Hit the Beach!
Since leaving the White House, Michelle and Barak Obama have been on a real estate shopping spree. Though it all, they've kept their brick home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. It was their primary residence before they moved to the White House in 2009 and where they continue to vote. The historic house was built in 1917. While it has undergone numerous renovations, it still has its classic, symmetrical exterior with a wide front porch, curved entryway, and impressive windows.
A look at the rear view of President Obama's home in Hyde Park, Chicago. (credit: "Barack Obama house in Hyde Park, Chicago" by victorgrigas under CC 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)
Since leaving the White House in 2017, the Obama family settled in the Kalomora neighborhood of Washington, DC so they could be close to where their daughters, Malia and Sahsa, attended school. A brick Tudor-style home is characterized by its use of dark wood timbers, steeply pitched roofs, and ornate brickwork. Other features include leaded glass windows and a decorative chimney. However, the interior has been updated and modernized, combining traditional and contemporary features.
Yet, President Obama grew up in Hawaii. It seems the sound of the waves calls to him. In 2018, he and Michelle started planning to build a house on the ocean island of Ohau in Hawaii. While specific details about the house have been kept under wraps, reports indicate the estate will include three structures and two swimming pools. The main house will likely be in a contemporary style with a sleek and modern design, a flat roof, and minimalist touches. Other expected features include an open floor plan and plenty of outdoor space for entertaining.
Two swimming pools and direct access to the ocean. Talk about fun in the sun for the Obama family and their guests. (credit: Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash)
Most recently, in 2019, Michelle and Barack Obama purchased a 22-acre property with a 7,000-square-foot mansion in Edgartown on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The house has a classic New England look with a cedar-shingled exterior, porches, large windows, several gables, and dormers. It combines traditional and modern styles, including clean lines, an open floor plan, and sleek, minimalist furnishing. The Obama family uses this residence primarily as a vacation home.
Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard is only a short trip away from the Obama family's 22-acre estate. (credit: Photo by MV Vacation on Unsplash)
Country Life According to the Clintons
If you want quiet and privacy, take your cue from William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, the 42nd U.S. President. After eight years in the White House, the Clintons purchased a Dutch-style villa in Chappaqua, New York—a population of less than 2,000.
The two-story home, built in 1899, sits on 1.1 acres at the end of a cul-de-sac. The home, enclosed by a white fence, has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a pool, and a barn. There is a short gravel pathway to the front entrance.
Open the gate, and you are greeted by plants, shrubs, and trees that line the path. The house has many windows; inside is the living room, which flows into the library, and the family room, which is connected to the kitchen and a screened porch.
The Dutch-villa style home of President Bill Clinton and his wife, fomer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Chappaqua. NY. A white fence surrounds the home and separates it from the next-door neighbor. (Source: Google Maps / Street View)
There is no white fence around this two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath luxury house plan. But it is built on a corner lot, with a wide courtyard entry and enough tall trees to ensure shade, quiet, and seclusion.
The home has wood siding and stone for its exterior plus a welcoming covered front porch. Inside is a Great Room that opens into a Hearth Room and kitchen/breakfast nook area. There is a separate dining room and two guest rooms on the main floor (one could be a home office). The first-floor master suite is spacious and has a whirlpool tub, a huge walk-in shower, and his-and-her walk-in closets. Two more bedrooms, a computer room, and a game room are on the second floor. Other features include two indoor fireplaces, one outdoor fireplace, plenty of porch space, and an attached breezeway to a three-car garage.
With tall trees and shrubbery, this two-story luxury house plan allows you all the privacy you desire. (Plan # 153-1121)
If like the Clintons, you prefer a gated entry to your new home, try this two-story French/European-style house plan. With five bedrooms, three-and-half baths, and lots of space inside, this home can rival any Presidential residence. It has a stucco exterior, hip roof with asphalt shingles, and matching stucco columns at the gate and the courtyard entry.
While it exudes Old World charm, its open layout design is made for a modern family. All of the social spaces are located on the first level: patio and Great Room (family-living-kitchen-dining areas). The kitchen comes with a nook/breakfast area, peninsula eating bar, and a pantry. Other features include a library, den, mudroom, balcony, sundeck, second-level laundry, and two fireplaces. The master suite and other four bedrooms are on the second floor.
A wrought-iron gate opens onto a winding paved driveway and a lush front courtyard. (Plan # 168-1024)
No matter your design preferences, there is always something to be learned from the homes of former presidents. From the eco-friendly ranch-style home of President Carter to the oceanfront estate of President Donald Trump in Palm Beach to the Old World charm of the country cottage in a New York hamlet that President Clinton calls home, the styles of these presidential residences are as varied as the presidents themselves.
Whether you are looking for inspiration for your dream home or simply want to appreciate the unique beauty of these historic homes, there is much to be gained by studying the architecture, design, and details of these iconic residences. So why not be open to new design styles and explore the homes of our former presidents, from the classic Georgian architecture of Mount Vernon to the modern style of Obama's house on Ohau? You never know what design elements you might discover that will inspire your home design.
Footnote: The lead image in this article is that of President George H.W. Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine (Photo credits: Top: Résidence Bush à Kennebunkport by Georgio2 under CC BY-SA 3.0; Lower Right: Historic American Buildings Survey, U.S. Government; Library of Congress Call Number: HABS GA,131-PLAIN,2--5); Lower Left: White House photo by Shealah Craighead)