One Life Changing Week…
I spent 7 days in Washington DC. We started on Thanksgiving Day with a meeting and room assignments. Rafanelli Events, a Boston Company, is hired to execute the preliminary design wishes of Michelle Obama. All volunteers stayed at a local hotel. We did not stay at the White House. My main assignment was the Lower-Cross Hallway. This is the hallway that President Obama walks through everyday before entering the West Wing.
The day begins at 4:30 am until late into the afternoon. We are taken to an undisclosed secret location to prep, assemble, create, and hand fashion every detail that Michelle Obama wants executed. A debriefing takes place at the end of each day at the hotel. The White House Chefs prep fresh food and warm soup for us at the secret location. No pictures are allowed to be taken during the decorating process.
An early morning start as we headed back to the secret location. The scene at the location would remind you of Santa’s helpers frantically moving to make the Christmas deadline. I was able to pet the First Family’s dogs, Sunny and Bo, and had long conversations with President Obama’s personal butler, who was warm and kind gentleman.
This was a long day at the White House. All boxes assembled, created, and fashioned at the secret location are delivered to the White House. The design plan begins to unfold. The White House chefs cook fresh lunch for us and we dine in the State Dining Room daily. I had my first casserole with crushed potato chips on top- Yummy! Sunny and Bo come through the Lower-Cross Hall again and puts a smile on our faces. The butler allows me to pet them once again.
Although I am assigned to the Lower-Cross Hall, I was also chosen to work in the Vermeil room. I find out that Duro Olowu, world renowned designer, is tapped by Michelle Obama to decorate the Vermeil room. I worked on the entire room with this famed Nigerian Designer, who creatively utilizes African fabrics to embellish the room. I wrapped the gifts in fabric and pom-poms, mixing fabrics and trims with vibrant color combinations of my choice to create this inspirational ethnic mantle. I also assisted with adorning the two Christmas trees which were covered in triangular shaped tree skirts with beautiful fabric, an amazingly creative twist on the traditional holiday decor. I was “Super-Duper” excited to have been chosen to work with Duro.
The chef personally gave me a recipe of the delicious squash soup that was served. How sweet of her…
I was chosen to work on the Military Colonnade, prepping thousands of envelopes to be used to create beautiful garland and wreaths, and I hand painted the gold stars to highlight the sacrifice of our wonderful military families.
Designs and decorations are starting to take shape, but things still look a mess. The hallway is filled with Secret Service as we watch President Obama enter the Marine One Helicopter to travel to Paris and lay wreaths at the site after of the Paris bombings. We watched the Marines salute the President and the volunteers cheered and clapped with excitement. We all witnessed a precious patriotic, once in a lifetime, moment.
I was chosen by Rafanelli Events to hand fashion all the Christmas trees’ skirts in the State Dining Room, the West Room, and the Blue Room. The Blue Room is where the Official Christmas tree stands. The Rafanelli Event staff deemed me as the “TREE SKIRT MAGICIAN”. They gave me several yards of fabric sometimes in small pieces and asked me to make magic. When I received the frayed fabric for the Official Christmas tree, I decided to tuck the frayed edges under and create a pleated look all the way around. Click to see the finished rooms I worked on. http://www.vogue.com/13375187/white-house-christmas-holiday-decorations-2015-obama-bryan-rafanelli/
I had a conversation with Genevieve Gorder, from HGTV as she asked me questions about how we created the arches for the hallway. Check out the 2015 HGTV 2015 Holiday Christmas Special.
The White House throws a semi-formal party for the army of volunteers who helped to make the 2015 Holiday Decorating a success. The teams worked through the night to make things perfect. The official Holiday Theme is announced- ‘A Timeless Tradition”. Everyone was able to bring one guest. This party is the kick-off event for that initiates the start of the holiday parties the White House would host for the next two weeks. There are 2 parties everyday for the next two weeks- (And you thought your party calendar was full!) Michelle Obama was stunningly beautiful in a green flair dress. She gave a warm speech thanking us for serving. She then carved out time to meet and greet the volunteers. I had an opportunity to meet her and expressed how much we missed her in Chicago. The night was filled with plenty of pictures, food, fun and festivities. And yes…Michelle Obama’s arms are really that toned and beautiful.