Obama Chic: Time to Measure the Drapes

Editor's Note: The following is the second in a series of stories by FOXNews.com on "Obama Chic: The Changing Face of the White House."

A bowling alley or a basketball court?

Traditional presidential porcelain or contemporary American china?

A painting of the American frontier or one that captures Chicago's skyline?

These are some of the choices Barack and Michelle Obama will make as they transform the 208-year-old White House into the place they call home -- all while considering the historical preservation of times past.

As have all the First Families before them, the president-elect and future first lady will supervise the refurbishing and redecorating of the White House residence -- working closely with a team of interior designers, of course.

They will also be involved in restoring public spaces like the Red Room and State Dining Room, and the White House grounds -- although they will be required to consult with official groups like the Fine Arts Commission and White House Historical Association.

And, of course, their tastes will be scrutinized by millions of critics, professional and armchair.

"Get one person whose taste you really rely on and make sure that person knows Washington," advised Letitia Baldridge, Jacqueline Kennedy's former social secretary and chief of staff. "You can't bring a pal from Chicago or anywhere else who is not going to know Washington enough to be your adviser."

And consider the budget.

Congress appropriates money for the furniture and decor of the residence. The budget -- allocated once every four years -- was set at $100,000 for President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

But there can be some leeway in the allotment. "If there's something the president wants that will improve the building or the grounds, the budget can be stretched," Baldridge said.

In 1982, Nancy Reagan came under fire when she commissioned Lenox to design a scarlet and gold dinner set for 220 people -- at a cost of $210,399. Though the expense was privately covered, Mrs. Reagan was criticized for exorbitant spending when her husband defined himself as a fiscal conservative.

Obama's daughters -- 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha -- will have the same bedrooms occupied by John F. Kennedy's children, John and Caroline, and the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara.

"It's the White House, it's a home, it's a museum and it's a place of work, but it is going to be a home for the Obama girls and they certainly can have some fun at their residence," Sally McDonough, special assistant to the president and director of communications, told FOX News.

"The girls can certainly add their own personal touch if their mother and father say that is OK," McDonough said.

"I'm sure they'll have wonderful rooms," added Baldridge. "They can use all that furniture in the storage house, including four-poster beds for young girls."

The president and first lady also have the authority to restore more public spaces like the State Dining Room, which has seated royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II, and almost every head of state.

"The White House used to be very bland and stuffy and unexciting, and Jackie changed the lighting in the dining room," Baldridge said. "The original painters had painted the walls in three shades of white and suddenly there was all this light ceiling and light molding that nobody had ever seen before."

Kennedy also introduced new color schemes to the White House, Baldridge said.

"It was revolutionary...it was just a fairyland," she said.

For Laura Bush, the West Wing was the first area she decorated outside of the private residence -- a common first step for a president and first lady.

She also gave "a much-needed face lift to the Cabinet Room, with a new wool rug and new draperies," McDonough said.

And the Bushes renovated the Situation Room and the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, which were "both in need of updates," she added.

But perhaps the most sacred room is the Oval Office -- the president's formal workspace -- where the decor is most carefully considered in characterizing the background and personality of each president.

Paintings by William Henry Dethlef Koerner hang in President Bush's Oval Office -- capturing scenes of the American West. Another painting shows a landscape covered with Texas Blue Bonnets -- a piece the president says reminds him of his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"The Texas paintings are on the wall because that's where I'm from and that's where I'm going," President Bush says in a virtual tour of the Oval Office on the White House Web site.

And each president designs a rug bearing the Presidential Seal.

"The rug that Laura designed for the Oval Office captures the sun and it helps make this room an open and optimistic place," Bush says in the Web video.

White House recreation rooms -- like the movie theater and bowling alley -- might also see a change or two when the Obamas move in.

In an interview in June with comic Jimmy Kimmel, Obama joked about his less-than-impressive bowling skills, saying, "So we're getting rid of the bowling alley and replacing it with a basketball court in the White House."

Such dramatic changes are not unprecedented.

"The Kennedys created a magnificent swimming pool, and then President Nixon took it out and painted it over," Baldridge said.

Another piece of advice from Baldridge to the Obamas: "Develop a strong skin. You're always going to have people screaming and shouting no matter what you do, and therefore you have to have a strong point of view and be able to defend your decisions."

Click here to view past photos of the White House.

Click here to view the White House virtual tour.