When you see photos of the first family greeting dignitaries in the White House Diplomatic State Room this holiday season, the Christmas décor serving as backdrop is the handiwork of Haymarket interior designer Amy Lienemann.
Lienemann was one of about 150 volunteer designers, florists, artists and others selected from more than 7,000 applicants to serve on the White House holiday decorating brigade this year, a tradition that goes back decades.
The volunteers were each assigned a room or hall to decorate based on the vision of First Lady Melania Trump, then planned and executed by White House interior designer Nick Watts. The week before Thanksgiving, the army of volunteers from across the country came to the White House for three days to help make the first lady’s vision a reality.
Lienemann, who owns Sensibly Savvy Designs, was tasked with the room off the South Lawn, where the president greets diplomats under the watch of George Washington’s portrait.
Decorating the room involved festooning two Christmas trees in 34 to 36 strands of lights, running “up and down each branch with no wire showing,” Lienemann said. The trees were then covered in red and gold handmade bows and hung with ornaments.
The trees were topped with “very heavy metal eagles,” which had to be zip-tied to stay in place, she said. The mantle was draped in 70 to 75 pounds of garland, with large mercury pinecones added for decoration.
Lienemann also helped put together cranberries for the 40 much-discussed red topiary trees on the East Colonnade. The trees have been called creepy and troubling, compared to outfits in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and are currently the subject of countless memes across the internet.
“They’ve become a conversation piece,” Lienemann said. Her take? “I didn’t want to see another berry after that.”
Lienemann said some have tried to interject politics into the holiday décor, but for her bipartisanship has nothing to do with it.
“It was an opportunity to be part of history,” she said.
And now Lienemann says she faces the daunting task of decorating her own home for Christmas.
“How do you top that? Lower your standards,” she said with a laugh.
This year’s White House holiday decorations will be featured on HGTV this Sunday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m., with cameras following staff and volunteers on an exclusive room-by-room tour.