Trump inauguration: Inside the crazy five-hour operation to refit the White House for its new occupants

Moving Obama out and Trump in - What happens at the White House on inauguration day?

It's Barack Obama's last day of term today. Well, sort of

Friday, January 20, 2017

As the world converges on Washington for the Trump inauguration, Barack Obama and his family are going the other way - kicking off one of the trickiest interior design jobs imaginable.

Today is, of course, all about Donald Trump, who will be sworn in as President on the steps of the Capitol Building this afternoon. But, behind them, a feverish operation will be taking place to fit the White House out for its new occupants, as frantic and well-planned an operation as any seen in the Oval Office during Mr Obama's administration.

A team of 95 butlers, maids, plumbers and electricians has just five hours to turn around the White House, converting it from the Obamas' taste to the Trumps'. Mr Obama and his family will vacate the premises in just a few minutes' time at 10.30am (3.30 GMT), and if the place isn't completely ready for Mr Trump and his family, who arrive at around 3.30pm, there'll be hell to pay.

The vast majority of the Obamas' stuff has already been removed, of course. The moving vans have been arriving over the past couple of weeks at both the White House and the Obamas' new home in Kalorama, Washington. Preparations for today's big move began at 4am local time (9am GMT). One doubts that Barack and Michelle have been living out of a cardboard box, but their surroundings won't have been quite as opulent as usual.

The Obamas will have said their goodbyes to staff at around 8.30am local time, so they won't be rushing as they prepare to head off for the inauguration. Staff will be under strict instructions not to pressure the Obamas. Former White House chief usher Stephen Rochon, who oversaw their entry, said the outgoing occupants must not be made "to feel like they are kicked out of the house." If one of the kids is hanging around in the bathroom messing with their hair, they won't be rushed.

Mr Obama and his family will leave from the west side of the building (interestingly, the new incumbents will arrive from the east side). As soon as the Obamas are out the door, the person overseeing the operation will give the order to begin the re-fit. The things Donald Trump and the family don't like will be taken out, and the items they have requested - perhaps including that famous bust of Churchill - will be whisked in. Melania Trump has made plain that she has big plans for the refit, so no doubt she's had a major hand in the process.   

As items are moved in and out, curators, who keep computerized inventories of artefacts, will ensure that the outgoing President does not take anything from the permanent collection of the White House, but does take all personal items. Basically, they're on hand to ensure Barack doesn't take a cheeky souvenir for himself, like a spoon or something. It must be tempting - we'd probably do that if we were in his position.

Every request will be catered for, no matter how trivial - even the room temperature will be tweaked to the new occupants' specifications. Mr Obama apparently requested a new shower head, because he's very picky about such things. One wonders what Donald Trump has picked out - although safe to say it will be made of gold.

Some of the refurbishment will have to wait for another day. The New York Times reports that some rooms in the White House will be redecorated for the family, including a “glam room’’ for makeup and hair preparations, but not even the most gifted painter and decorator can get all that done in five hours. However, if anything on today's tasklist isn't finished by 3.30pm, there'll be hell to pay. Maybe Mr Trump will be pointing his finger and saying "you're fired" for real.

The only White House staff not involved in this meticulously planned operation will be from the kitchen, as they will be preparing the food for the inauguration. Mr Trump's favourite food will be stocked in the fridge, and the chefs will be going through their preparations, ready to make the President-elect whatever he desires. Mr Trump apparently likes steak, bacon, eggs and tacos, which sounds like a fun meal.

As the Trumps settle in to their new pad, the Obamas will be jetting off for a holiday in Palm Springs, California, and will then come back to their new home - an 8,200 sq ft mansion with eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Not quite the White House, but they'll probably survive.