Creeping cost of No10 makeovers from the Blairs to the Camerons

Creeping cost of Downing Street makeovers: How Tony and Cherie Blair splashed £127,000 refurbishing No11 flat before David and Samantha Cameron’s £64,000 upgrade… but Theresa May spent nothing (like Thatcher)

  • Margaret Thatcher refused her chancellor’s plan to refurbish his No11 flat 
  • More recent PMs have now moved into the No11 apartment due to its size 
  • Remained product of 1960s – until Tony and Cherie Blair took up residence
  • PMs since Mr Blair have lived at No11 – although Mr Brown spent some time at 10

Expectations have clearly risen since Margaret Thatcher slapped down a proposed refurbishment of the No 11 flat in 1979, saying the public would not be impressed.

She dashed the hopes of her chancellor Geoffrey Howe, who had complained the 1960s-style kitchen was ‘positively antediluvian, with iron gas rings, antique sinks and sombre décor’, records show.

So the flat remained a product of the 1960s – until Tony and Cherie Blair took up residence in 1997.

David and Samantha Cameron in their newly-refurbished flat above Number 11 Downing Street 

The Blairs paid for a refurbishment of Number 11, which is more spacious than Number 10. They are seen in one of the public rooms at No10

‘I won’t sleep in Ken Clarke’s bed,’ Mr Blair declared of the Conservative chancellor, the most recent tenant, when he became PM and opted for the four-bedroom No 11 flat instead of the smaller one at No 10.

In the Blair years, the flat above No 11, frequently littered with toys belonging to baby Leo, born in May 2000, had £127,000 spent on refurbishments between 1999 and 2005, according to official records.

In came £70-a-roll wallpapers, new artwork and a set of custom-made glass-fronted bookcases for Mrs Blair’s office. When Gordon Brown moved in with his wife and two sons, in 2007, he appears to have been perfectly content with it – there are no records that he spent a penny on upgrades.

But in 2010, David and Samantha Cameron went to town on the place, which clearly fell well short of their Notting Hill standards.

Out went a mirrored exercise room where lifestyle guru Carole Caplin had put the Blairs through their paces. Old carpets were ripped out too, and expensive black granite worktops installed in a new kitchen.

Margaret Thatcher lived in Number 10, unlike recent Prime Ministers who live in the larger apartment above Number 11. She is pictured in her No10 kitchen in 1987

Mr Brown lived above Number 11 for some time, before moving to the flat above Number 10 (where he is seen in one of the public rooms downstairs)  

As part of a £64,000 makeover, extensive work was carried out in a bathroom, with everything apart from a towel rail stripped out and a new floor and ceiling installed. Some of the costs were met from the flat’s annual £30,000 maintenance grant, and the rest by the Camerons.

The couple went for an ultra-modern, minimalist design of brushed steel and floating shelves in the second kitchen, leaving the original 1960s-style kitchen in its original state. A £3,400 Britannia range cooker – complete with dirty oven gloves – was the centrepiece.

Theresa May is not reported to have changed anything during her time in Downing Street.

All Prime Ministers since Mr Blair have lived at Number 11 – although Mr Brown also spent some time at Number 10.  

Mrs Cameron with Michelle Obama in the No 11 flat in 2011 after recent refurbishments

… And the White House fund Boris envies

If the new Downing Street charity follows the lead set by America, then Carrie Symonds could play a major role.

Incoming presidents and their families are allowed to spend $100,000 (£72,000) on redecorating the White House.

By tradition, the First Lady takes an active part in the White House Endowment Trust which maintains the fabric of the building.

Funded by private donors, it has reported assets of around $50million (£36million).

Incoming presidents and their families are allowed to spend $100,000 (£72,000) on redecorating the White House. Pictured is Joe Biden 

Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter, is credited with a major shake-up of the White House Endowment Trust in 1978, including raising large sums of cash.

George Bush’s spouse Barbara handed oversight of the trust to the White House Historical Association.

And Hillary Clinton, wife of Bill, increased the trust’s wealth to more than $35million (£25million).

A White House Furnishings Committee established by John F Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline was replaced in 1964 by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, which includes top interior designers who advise on makeovers of the Oval Office study

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