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Dream House: The White House as an American Home


Ulysses Grant Dietz and Sam Watters
With essays on architecture by Thomas Mellins
10 x 12 x 1.375 inches, 312 pages ,over 350 illustrations
Cloth, dust jacket $50
ISBN: 978-0-926494-65-7
September 2009

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This unique book began with the premise that White House once mirrored national trends and aspirations in domestic design. For over a century, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was decorated and landscaped like the house next door to keep presidents and their families living like fashionable American families.


Compare Louis Comfort Tiffany's aesthetic style interiors for Chester Arthur's state rooms with the decorator's avant garde designs for George Kemp. Discover why the Georgian-style dining room in Henry Phipp's New York mansion was almost identical to Stanford White's design for Teddy Roosevelt's state dining room. Did department store B. Altman intend for Harry Truman's White House to be a house with model display rooms?


Dream House: The White House as an American Home, illustrated with over 300 period photographs, plans, drawings, hand-colored stereoscopes and Kodachrome slides of the president's  house and comparable American houses and gardens, takes you through important decades as the nation's finest decorators, garden designers, architects, and retailers Herter Brothers, Beatrix Farrand, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., McKim, Mead ; White and Sister Parish kept first families living like country gentry in the 1820s, Vanderbilts in the 1890s, and like the quintessential suburban family, the Cleavers, in the 1950s.




ULYSSES G. DIETZ, a great-great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, has been the curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum snce 1980, and Senior Curator since 2007. He received his BA from Yale in 1977, and his MA in Early American Culture from the University of Delaware's Winterthur Program in 1980. Mr. Dietz restored the centerpiece of the Newark Museum, its 1885 Ballantine House. He has published numerous articles on decorative arts and books on the Museum's Studio Pottery, Art Pottery, and 19th century furniture collections.


SAM WATTERS writes and lectures about American house and garden culture. He is the author of American Gardens, 1890-1930Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1935 Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 and essays on wide-ranging subjects including cactus theft for suburban gardens, the public gallery in the private house, and photographing Hollywood at home. Educated at Yale University and the University of Marseilles, he lives in New York and California.




Dream House: The White House as an American Home is 304 pages of cold comfort for those who think 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is immune to charges of ghastly taste. Ulysses Grant Dietz, the Newark Museum s curator of decorative arts and the president s great-great-grandson, and Sam Watters, an architecture critic, began with the premise that the White House once mirrored national trends and aspirations in domestic design: Jefferson inhabited an Anglo-aristo country estate; Jackson, a genteel villa enshrining democratic values; Franklin Roosevelt, a suburban crib with the design integrity of a midprice hotel chain. The evolution ended with the Kennedys, Mr. Watters said, saving his most withering criticism for Jackie: The idea is that she restored it as it was under the early presidents, he said, when in fact, she restored it to how she thought they should have lived. --The New York Times, October 1, 2009


Perhaps the most intriguing chapter is the last, where the authors take on the legend that is Jackie O. As midcentury modernism took off, Jacqueline Kennedy revered the past, embraced antiques and famously redecorated the White House with the zeal of a museum curator. Though her refined taste made her an icon, the authors argue that Kennedy turned the White House into a shrine -- not a living, breathing, evolving home that reflected a changing nation, but rather a locked-in-time fantasy of how the American upper class lives.<...> --The Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2009


Great book...The White House is the symbol of the American presidency, it'™s a museum and it'™s a family home, and Dream House covers all of them. --Today Show, December 15, 2009





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