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First Lady signals new family feel at the White House

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Amid the feverish excitement sweeping Washington, there's one group who won't have time to savour the atmosphere. Between 11am when President Bush moves out of the White House and

Barack Obama

and wife Michelle's arrival around 5pm, the staff, a team of around 93, will have totally re-arranged the 15-bedroom mansion to ensure it's the kind of home the new occupants want.

The physical details of the handover mirror the change in style expected once the new chatelaine is in place. Michelle, a lifelong native of Chicago's South Side, is said to be planning a family-friendly approach at her new address.

To realise her vision of a White House accessible to ordinary people and their kids through events such as picnics, she's hired LA-based designer Michael Smith.

Known for his airy and modern approach Michael, who's worked in the past with Michelle Pfeiffer, Dustin Hoffman and Cindy Crawford, will focus on refurbishing the rooms of First Daughters Malia and Sasha.

Mindful of sensibilities during the current financial crisis, the new First Lady has stipulated the use of "affordable brands and products", with the emphasis on local American goods.

Economics coupled with an emphasis on healthy eating means the mother of two also plans to grow vegetables in the grounds of the house. And with family life a priority for the self-styled mom-in-chief, Michelle has reportedly agreed with her husband that he'll cook one meal a week for her and the girls.

Photo: Getty Images
The incoming chatelaine of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is determined to put her own informal stamp on the Obamas' new residence, making it accessible to ordinary people and a proper home for her daughters
Photo: Getty Images
At times, though, getting to grips with her family's privileged new lifestyle has been mind-boggling for Michelle. "We're novices at this. I am just trying to find out how many bathrooms are in there," is how her brother Craig Robinson described the change

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