Over the last four years, Melania Trump has done a stellar job of turning Christmas at the White House into a disturbing, almost satanic affair, abandoning traditional trees, wreaths, and garlands in favor of decor that screams “THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE ELVES GO TO DIE.” In 2017, she had hundreds of spindly branches painted bright white, stuffed into little urns, and lined a hallway with them; the corridor looked as if it might lead to some kind of arctic torture chamber. In 2018, she filled the White House with blood-red Christmas trees, giant, menacing cones that resembled devil horns more than they did living flora. Last year, she hung “stars” from the ceiling that looked a lot like giant glass shards, primed and ready to fall on anyone who dared walk beneath them.
It’s been a thrilling, mystifying journey, one that peaked in October, when a former friend of the First Lady leaked a recording in which Melania admitted that she really, really doesn’t like having to decorate the White House every December. Her exact words: “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decorations?”
With Melania’s stint in the White House coming to a close, and her true views on gussying it up for the holidays out in the open, it seemed as if we might be in for her most batshit round of Christmas decorations yet—but alas, she played it straight. Eighteen-foot-tall firs, toy trains, tasteful wreaths—it’s all there, frustratingly tame, disappointingly appropriate.
Still, this year’s Christmas display at the White House isn’t flawless. Some rooms are stuffed with what must be at least 20 trees; others are almost barren, save for four spruces arranged in a perfect square. It’s hard to shake the feeling that something is just slightly amiss about the whole situation. To find out what that might be, VICE called up Vinny Nicastro, the owner of The Christmas Decorators, a bespoke New York-based Christmas decorating company. He’s been in the business for more than 15 years; if anyone is qualified to take a keen eye to Melania’s holiday decor and enlighten us with a critique, it’s him.
VICE: So you got a chance to look over the decorations.
Vinny Nicastro: Yeah, I did see it.
What did you think?
The trees are done pretty nice—they’re full, live trees. The tree skirts in the gold, personally, I don’t really like too much. I get that the curtains and everything is gold in there; it may have been just a little too much gold. I would’ve done a red, maybe a green.
What’s in that office looks a little sparse; it’s only like a tree and a mantle. I probably would have done a really big wreath above the fireplace and decorated the tree. The tree in that room looks a little bit weak, the small tree underneath the chandelier. It could’ve been a little bit bigger, I think, and maybe in a different spot. But overall, I think it looked nice. The inside trees are really nice. The train was a nice touch.
Were there any other aspects of the decor that didn’t really work for you?There’s a lot of trees. Everything is trees, mostly. So maybe the room with the little round table, switch that up. I would’ve done garland around the edges of the whole room, a nice garland with decorations in it.
On the outside trees, the branch wrap could be a little fuller. It is the White House. The wreaths on the windows, I know it’s a pain in the ass to run a cord, but they’re not lit. I don’t know if that stayed that way.
Several rooms are stuffed with giant trees, but otherwise they’re barren. What did you make of that?
You could’ve done curtain lights, wreaths could have gone up on the walls. They didn’t do all of the archways, so that’s something that could’ve been done, just to give the archways a little more decor. But overall, it’s a pretty nice job. I don’t think it looks bad.
There are rooms and great halls where there are, like, at least ten Christmas trees all lined up next to one another. Did that seem excessive to you?
A little bit. It seems almost like a Christmas store. It looks like a little too much. I don’t know if they’re into figurines or any of that kind of stuff, but instead of all trees, maybe some nutcrackers and statues could go in there.
If you were given this job, what would you have done differently?
Maybe line up a bunch of different soldiers or nutcrackers, and a few less trees. We may have done wreaths on the walls. And maybe even on the outside, we would’ve outlined the building with LEDs and xenon large bulbs. It would give it a brighter look on the outside. But overall, I think the job looks good. I’m not knockin’.
This seems like it was a pretty major, labor-intensive job. How expensive do you think this might have been?
It’s a little hard for me to figure that out because I don’t know every single room, I don’t know every single item. I also don’t know how long it took.
I think it was done over a weekend. Maybe two or three days.
If ten guys were there for three days, for me, I would get $30,000 plus materials. It might end up being a $50,000 job. This is just a ballpark—depending on how expensive those ornaments are, and all the other pieces, it could go up to the $75,000 range.
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