White House unveils blue-trimmed Barack Obama state china
Washington — The White House on Monday unveiled the official state china service of President Barack Obama’s administration, an 11-piece setting trimmed in a hue of blue that was inspired by the waters of his native state of Hawaii. The china will immediately be put into service at Tuesday’s state dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Michelle Obama’s office said the first lady chose what’s been dubbed “Kailua Blue” to distinguish her family’s china from the red, green, blue and yellow used on more recent state services.
A fluted band of Kailua Blue, framed by a textured gold rim and a simple gold inner line, appears on all pieces of the service, except for the dinner and serving plates. The solid white dinner plates are edged in gold; the service plates have a wide gold rim and the presidential coat of arms at the center.
“It’s a modern and fresh color not previously seen on state chinas, but Mrs. Obama’s main goal was to create a modern service that is completely compatible and interchangeable and usable with all the historic china services,” White House Curator William Allman said during a preview of Tuesday’s state dinner.
Each setting includes a first for presidential tableware — an individual tureen that can be used for soup, dessert or “any other dish that the chefs get creative and decide they would like to serve with a little panache in an individual serving size,” Allman said.
The White House did not disclose the cost of the china service, which has settings for 320 people. It was paid for out of a private fund that is administered by the White House Historical Association and used to buy fine and decorative arts for the White House.
The state china service then-first lady Laura Bush unveiled in January 2009 cost $493,000.
Planning for the Obama state china began in the fall of 2011 when Mrs. Obama and family friend Michael Smith, who redecorated the Oval Office and the Obama family’s private residence, began gathering feedback from the White House residence staff, including the chefs.
Three years ago, in the spring of 2012, Pickard China, of Antioch, Illinois, was brought in to consult on the project and produce the dinnerware. The company, based in Mrs. Obama’s native state, has made dinnerware for use at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and aboard Air Force One, but it had never before made any of the official White House china.
There is no requirement for presidents to have a state china service and some, including Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, had none.
Betty Monkman, a former White House curator and author for the White House Historical Association, said state china services have been purchased for a variety of reasons, including a desire to leave their own stamp on something that’s left behind.
In other cases, the china services were bought increase the number of place settings or to replace pieces that went missing over the years or were lost to breakage and wear and tear.
“If you’ve seen our state dinners, we really do a lot of mixing and matching — sometimes because we really do not have enough, sometimes because we’re trying to create a new modern, different, edgy kind of look,” Mrs. Obama told Architectural Digest last week when she previewed the Obama state china for interior design journalists and bloggers. “This Kailua Blue is one of those colors that will complement some of the other pieces already in the collection in a way that’s elegant, and I think it will be timeless.”
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