The New York Times today publishes its third piece on the recent “subtle redo” of the Oval Office. There was, yesterday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s A-12 news story about the Now More Neutral room, and Maureen Dowd’s column bashing the makeover (which, apparently, nearly makes Dowd miss “the the Technicolor Belle Watling swagging and swathing style of the Clintons’ Little Rock decorator, Kaki Hockersmith” — see Alex Pareene’s solid critique of Dowd’s column at Salon.) Today, the Times advances the Oval Office Gets New Rug, Chairs story in the Home section (where the room’s new sofas, described by Stolberg as “brown cotton that looks like velvet” become, per Penelope Green, “fawn-colored cotton-rayon.”)

Also in today’s piece (on the heels of the Times’s official re-commitment to cutting back on non-essential anonymous sourcing and, when used, to explaining why), this (emphasis mine):

Though known for being tight-lipped and protective of his clientele, [interior designer Michael] Smith was an interesting choice for the Obamas, being neither too establishment, nor too local — too Chicago. (Someone close to him said that the connection was through a Chicago client who was a big supporter of the president.)

The Times also reports that the “response” to the makeover, from “television audiences and the blogosphere” has been ” a collective yawn: too brown, too dowdy, too ho hum.” But was this… by design?

The Washington Post, in its Oval Office Makeover story yesterday, quoted a “New York and Palm Beach interior designer” as follows:

I wonder if the treacherous political climate has caused the Obamas to become more aesthetically conservative. It seems cable commentators and bloggers will grasp at the most innocuous ‘symbol’ to score points, so maybe the president’s staff and Michael Smith decided it is best not to give anyone any material to misinterpret.

(Mistaking cotton-rayon for cotton?)

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.