President Donald Trump has already made some changes to the White House decor (hello, gold drapes), but more changes are definitely in the works now that first lady Melania Trump has hired a new White House interior designer: little-known, New York–based Tham Kannalikham.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, the first lady has selected Kannalikham, 40, to put her own signature homey touches on the executive residence, located on the second floor of the White House. Which has all of us wondering: Who is this woman? What’s her decor style and sensibilities?
Currently, much about Kannalikham remains a mystery, but here’s what we know so far.
Fact No. 1: Her work remains top-secret
Though Kannalikham will be decorating the most famous residence on the planet, it’s tough to find out much about her previous projects. Whether or not all this secrecy was in place before her most recent, high-profile assignment, this much is known: Few photos of her work are currently viewable by the public; her website is password-protected; her Instagram is private; and her Pinterest page has been deleted.
In other words, she seems to be very good at preserving her clients’ privacy—likely considered a positive attribute in a White House swamped by leaks.
Fact No. 2: She wasn’t born in the United States
According to Architectural Digest, the Trumps’ decorator was likely “foreign born.” Many sources say she is Laos-American, growing up in Stockton, CA, before moving cross-country to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her current firm, Kannalikham Designs, is located in New York City. Exactly how Melania Trump met Kannalikham is still unknown—maybe through a mutual well-heeled pal in The City That Never Sleeps?
Fact No. 3: She once worked at Ralph Lauren
Kannalikham used to work as a designer at Ralph Lauren Home, the home decor arm of the global fashion brand. Could it just be a coincidence that Trump wore a powder-blue Ralph Lauren dress to her husband’s inauguration last month?
Rex Features via AP Images
Fact No. 4: She’s passionate about classical architecture
Don’t completely bet on the Trumps taking their signature rococo sensibility to the White House. If Kannalikham has anything to say about it (which she does because she was hired!), the People’s House will maintain a more traditional style that pays homage to its history.
Trump’s senior adviser told Women’s Wear Daily that she has “a deep appreciation for the historical aspects of the White House.” Kannalikham is a frequent attendee of events held by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, a nonprofit dedicated to the appreciation of the classical style in architecture and interior design.
Fact No. 5: She likes Mid-Century Modern decor
While all signs points to Kannalikham choosing traditional furniture selected from the White House archive, there’s also a strong possibility we’ll see touches of Mid-Century Modern furnishings in the mix. Kannalikham’s affinity for this iconic style was made evident in one of her former projects, a Greenwich, CT, home. Architectural Digest reported that she selected period pieces from William Haines—the 1920s film star-turned-tastemaker and interior designer—including his tufted sofa and Seniah chair (shown below).
Here’s hoping the executive residence design process is less cryptic than the designer chosen to head it—we can’t wait to see the “after” photos. Stay tuned!