House Rules – how to do Dictator Chic

Trump can get tips from the world’s despots when he does up the White House

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles: Go for gold . . . or a can of gold spray from Photograph: Getty Images

For those wanting to stay bang on trend, have you considered the latest look? True, it’s got a dash of retro, but let’s call that a lineage – and it’s an illustrious one at that. Coming soon to a White House not-quite-near-you, it’s Dictator Chic.

Every incoming president gets to do over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and if Trump Tower is anything to go by, the restrained post-colonial look could soon be disturbed with a hell of a lot of gold leaf.

Don and Melania’s New York pile is perched on the top three floors of Trump Tower. Those who espouse Dictator Chic as a lifestyle choice prefer to call it Louis XIV. On the other hand, Louis was the self-styled Sun King, who even turned getting up out of bed into a public event, which should give us a clue about where he sat on the narcissism spectrum.

Sistine Chapel

If you want to embrace the style with vigour, you’ll need to consider ceiling murals which, while nodding to the Sistine Chapel, also feature your face and those of close family members in their design. The Medici pioneered this look, so you’re in good company. Add white carpets, enormous white sofas, a few Grecian urns, heavy glass-topped tables, plenty of marble, plus gilding everywhere and you’re on the way. Can’t afford gilding? Don’t worry, a can of gold spray is going to set you back just under a tenner at Lenehan’s (


For those wanting to channel different despots, look at Peter York's fabulous book Dictators' Homes. Some of the photos are a little blurry (access isn't always easy to this kind of gaff) but it'll either inspire you to a whole new idea of greatness, or blow your mind entirely. As PJ O'Rourke wrote, "Saddam's chandelier was the size of a two-car garage. If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted, felony interior decorating would have done."

Baseball cap

If you’re not quite ready to go the whole hog with your three-bed semi, start small with Trump’s just-released Christmas ornament: a brass replica of the President-elect’s red Make America Great Again baseball cap, it’s available on Amazon from around €200. It’s worth a look – simply for the reviews.