True Blue

updated 03/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

WHEN THE CLINTONS CAME TO Washington two years ago, they promised change. Now Hillary has delivered. Last week the First Lady unveiled a newly refurbished Blue Room, the first-floor White House room used for formal state functions that has been one shade of blue or another—from violet to robin's egg—since 1837, in the Administration of Martin Van Buren.

What Hillary has done in the Blue Room is simply to turn up the contrast—a political strategy both parties figure to use in their next run for the Oval Office. She has changed the wallpaper from cream to gold, and the drapes, trim and valances from a pale federal blue to a deep sapphire. "My one hope was that we could create a more blue feeling in the room but not make it so blue that it would be dark and shrink the room, especially at night," explains the First Lady, who popped into the room at different hours to see how the blue looked. "At night in this room, with its view looking out at the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial across the fountain, there is a sense of magic and beauty unmatched."

The refurbishing job was overseen by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, the quasi-public agency that has been in charge of the upkeep of the executive mansion since 1964. The need for the $358,000 makeover, paid for with private donations, was never in dispute. The room, which 1.2 million visitors traipse through each year, had last been redecorated during the Nixon Administration and was beginning to look a bit ragged. "The wear and tear on the rug and the drapes and the fading of the paper was getting more and more obvious," says Hillary.

Some White House reporters wondered if the Blue Room changeover was in reality a political makeover for Mrs. Clinton. Was she trying to present a different image? "The stories come and go," she shrugs, "and I stay the same." Of course, for a woman who moved into the White House intent on overhauling the national health-care system, remodeling a room might seem small potatoes. But the First Lady insists the project was "a lot of fun." And of course, she notes with a laugh, "it came to a better conclusion. "

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