Newsmakers: Remodelling

Sprucing up the house can be as simple as a new coat of paint or rearranging the furniture. Now and then, though, there are complications.

RemodellingThe change begins
The promise of “change” propelled Barack Obama into the White House, and if nothing else, the new U.S. President has managed to change one thing: the location of the couch. On Feb. 2, just before an Oval Office meeting about the economic recovery plan, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas helped Obama slide a sofa to another part of the room. A fresh perspective never hurts.

Royal mess
Maybe Obama has good reason not to trust the hired help. At Buckingham Palace, a hapless footman ruined an expensive new carpet when he accidentally spilled a trolley of tea and coffee. The clumsy servant was on duty in the Picture Gallery, a 50-m-long room that—to the chagrin of the royals—had been re-carpeted just two days earlier.

Hitting the roof
A British teenager with way too much time on his hands (and a can of white paint) drew a 20-m penis on the roof of his parents’ house. Rory McInnes was inspired after watching a television program about Google Earth, the website that uses overhead satellite imagery to zoom in on people’s homes. The rooftop phallus was there for more than a year before being spotted by a helicopter pilot.

A bit to the left
Size certainly matters in Vancouver. A family living in one of the city’s most historic neighbourhoods was ordered to move their entire cottage 20 cm to the west (yes, 20 cm) because they violated a zoning bylaw during renovations. The slight shift cost the family $6,000—or $300 per centimetre.

Mayoral digs
Nobody can accuse Michael Bloomberg of thinking small. The mayor of New York City has forked over millions of dollars to buy out his next-door neighbours and expand his East Side townhouse to more than 12,500 sq. feet. Interior photos have never been released, but previous reports have described the decor as being “like Louis XIV on hallucinogens.”

That’s not mine
Call it a case of remodelling the books. Richard Fuld—the man in charge of Lehman Bros. when the investment bank collapsed—sold his seaside Florida mansion to his wife—for a hundred bucks. The deal will likely prevent the US$13-million home from being seized should the courts rule against Fuld in a series of high-profile lawsuits. Too bad he wasn’t so creative at work.

Crying fowl
Peter Viggers certainly wasn’t the only British lawmaker to spruce up his home on the taxpayer dime (one fellow MP was reimbursed for moat cleaning). But his expense-claim exploits were especially fowl. The former cabinet minister tried to charge the public purse $3,125 for a “duck house” on his private lake.

Coyotes in motion
In his quest to bring NHL hockey to Hamilton, Ont., BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie is promising major renovations to old Copps Coliseum. The $150-million facelift would include an atrium-style lobby, swank luxury boxes, and new eateries. Unlike in Phoenix, the revamped arena would also have occupied seats.