While they don't officially move into the White House until after Mr Obama's inauguration in January, the new first family are about to get a good look at the place they will spend at least the next four years.

During the next few days George Bush and his wife Laura will welcome the Obamas to the White House, giving them a chance to familiarise themselves with their new home, and more crucially - decide what they want to do to change it.

The outgoing first lady traditionally gives the new on a tour. And once changes have been decided upon, an army of painters, electricians and other workers will decend on the 132-room property to prepare it for the arrival of Barack, Michelle and their young daughters Sasha and Malia.

Helping in the handover will be the White House's chief curator, who collates the transition books featuring over 40,000 items of furnishing and decoration from which the couple will choose. And one of the most pressing questions on the list will be whether they would prefer an antique or modern bed. They have £150,000 of government money to spend on home improvements, plus whatever can be raised from private donations.

The presidential residence ultimately comes to reflect the tastes and interests of every first family in some way. The Bushes refurbished the Lincoln bedroom and sitting room in an effort to restore them to how they would have looked in President Lincoln's time, while Bill Clinton installed a running track around the inside of the south lawn.

Mr Obama meanwhile, already has his heart set on one particular home improvement - he has plans for the bowling alley built by President Nixon. "I've sworn we're taking out the bowling alley and putting in a basketball court," he told Sports Illustrated magazine last month.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The new first family will get a chance to take a closer look at the place they'll call home for the next four years when they're welcomed by the outgoing president and his wife. High on the agenda during the trip will be deciding what they want to changePhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The couple will be shown the Lincoln bedroom, which the Bushes restored to how it would have looked in Lincoln's dayPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Also on the tour will be the Oval Office, which Mr Obama will no doubt want to tailor to his own tastesPhoto: © Getty Images