Fact Check

Did Melania Trump Refuse To Move into White House Until Obama Toilet Was Replaced?

When they first surfaced, the claims sparked controversy and ignited discussions about potential racist undertones behind Melania's actions.

Published March 22, 2024

 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images
Then-first lady Melania Trump refused to move into the White House until the bathroom facilities used by the Obamas were renovated.

In August 2020, allegations surfaced suggesting Melania Trump, then-U.S. first lady, delayed her move into the White House until renovations were completed, specifically to replace the bathroom facilities used by the previous occupants, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama.

The renovations were said to include replacing the shower and toilet used by the former first lady in the Executive Residence — the residence traditionally is where the sitting president and the first family live — before Melania Trump and her son, Barron, would move in alongside her husband, then-President Donald Trump. 

She ended up staying put in her quarters in the Trump Tower penthouse in New York while the bathroom was redone and other improvements were made to Michelle Obama's old living space. Barron remained with her and she ended up extending her stay in New York to July 2017, when his school term ended there. 

These claims, detailed in the "tell-all" book "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady," written by her former friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and released Sept. 1, 2020, sparked controversy and ignited discussions about potential racist undertones behind Melania Trump's actions.

Amid this online discourse, chatter on platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram highlighted the controversy, with users expressing varying opinions on the matter as recently as November 2023. Some criticized what they presumed to be Melania Trump's reluctance to use the same facilities the Obamas used, while others defended her right to personalize the accommodations.

For example, the X account @ImSpeaking13 posted the following message: "Friendly reminder that Melania Trump refused to move to the White House until the toilet and shower the Obamas used had been ripped out and replaced," while on Instagram, katung_aduwak wrote, "Melania Trump's Former Best Friend Being Sued Over Explosive Tell-All; Claims Melania Renovated White House To Avoid Using The Same Bathroom As Michelle Obama⁠."


Indeed, Wolkoff was once a friend of Melania Trump, while also serving as as an unpaid adviser to the then-first lady during the Trump administration. According to Wolkoff's 2020 book, the two women had been friends for close to two decades, having first met when the former first lady was dating Donald Trump in 2003. In 2018, the White House cut ties with Wolkoff.

According to the U.S. tabloid The Sun, a "book insider" told the outlet that Melania Trump "wanted everything redecorated, repainted, new furniture and decor — everything was old and shabby and she wanted it brand new":

"Melania just flat out refused to move to Washington DC until it had been completely redesigned and revamped.

"Stephanie talks about how she took one look at her bedroom and bathroom and demanded a new shower and toilet.

"She was not prepared to use the same bathroom as the Obamas or anyone else for that matter — it wouldn't matter if it was the Queen of England. 

"She wanted everything redecorated, repainted, new furniture and decor — everything was old and shabby and she wanted it to be brand new.

"Melania is the wife of the president and doesn't expect she should have to make do with second hand or previously used facilities.

"In fact she seemed to be much more concerned about the decor than she did about allegations of her husband's alleged infidelity, according to Stephanie."

While Melania Trump's reported insistence on bathroom renovations drew attention and criticism, it must also be noted that new presidents typically redecorate and make adjustments to suit their personal tastes and preferences when they move into the White House personal suite, and The Washington Post reported that she renovated or restored other parts of the private residence as well.

According to the White House Historical Association:

Congress has always been tasked with appropriating funds for the care, repair, refurnishing and maintenance of the White House and its grounds. Each incoming president has found furnishings that were worn out and in need of replacement due to everyday wear and tear. Congress approved funds enabling a new president to carry out structural improvements and purchase new furnishings from auctions, private sales and other sources, as well as occasionally authorizing the sale of furnishings that were out of repair or unfit for use.

The amount of allowances for redecorating of the residence has risen over time ... to $100,000 in 1999 during Bill Clinton's second term. This allowance covers both the private residence and the oval office.

Occasionally presidents and their wives spent so much on new furnishings that they exceeded the moneys Congress had originally appropriated. In some cases they were able to make up the difference out of their own pockets, but not every president had the financial resources to do so.

This practice allowed each administration to put its stamp on the historic residence while also refreshing and updating its interiors.

For instance, the Obamas undertook significant renovations during their tenure, spending approximately $1.5 million on furniture and renovations for the White House and its offices, which they reportedly paid for out of pocket. Their renovations included updates to various rooms, such as the Oval Office, the family's private quarters, and the public areas used for official functions, detailed in the book "Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House."

Similarly, the Bidens also embarked on a renovation project upon moving into the White House, with reports citing federal-procurement documents indicating that around $1.2 million was allocated for renovations to the East Wing, which traditionally houses the office space for the first lady and her staff. These renovations encompassed extensive updates to the bathrooms.

According to government records obtained by NBC News, Trump's administration spent $1.75 million on furniture for the White House and offices tied to it, slightly more than the roughly $1.5 million spent by Obama over a similar period of time in his administration.

While there is no proof that Melania' Trump's renovation requirements were of a personal, let alone racially motivated nature, the controversy surrounding her delayed move to the White House until bathroom renovations were completed underscored the complexities of transitioning administrations and the personal preferences of first families.


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Nikki Dobrin is based in Los Angeles and has previously worked at The Walt Disney Company, as well as written and edited for People, USA Today and The Hill.