Who knew centerpieces could be the center of so much intrigue?
On Monday, we reported exclusively that Laura Dowling, the White House’s chief floral designer, had left her high-profile position in a bouquet of hearsay.
Was she fired? Had she quit?
Nearly six weeks after her silent departure in February, the White House released a statement touting Dowling’s “lively and colorful” creations, which reflected the “historic rooms which they graced.” An hour later, Dowling herself released a statement through her attorney, emphasizing that she’d “resigned in order to pursue exciting new opportunities and explore my passion for floral artistry and design.”
But when it comes to East Wing drama, there’s always a bit more to the official story.
In this town, matters of taste — much like positions on marriage equality — can “evolve” over time. Just ask Dowling, who left because her “fussy style” was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.
Laura’s work “is just different. I’m not sure if it was right for the White House,” said one top floral designer in the area who has done freelance florist work for splashy big events at 1600 Penn. This designer, like many we talked to, spoke on the condition of anonymity because “the floral community is very small, and nobody wants to put down anybody’s work.”
Another former area designer told us that Dowling had a very specific look, pointedly French, which lent itself to loose garden-style arrangements that were still quite formal. “She wanted to create a look,” said the source, “and that’s the look she’s had for the past six years.”
But recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room, a tour stop previously unavailable to the visiting public.
Mrs. Obama unveiled her “thoroughly modernized” mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later.