Warranty Firm Celebrates Century-Plus of Oval Office History
American Home Shield, the Memphis, Tenn.-based home warranty company, has created multi-dimentional renderings of the changes made to the Oval Office by each president since 1909.
Posted to the company’s website, the renderings of the president’s work space are part of its 50th anniversary celebration this year.
In an explanatory note, the company said it had its research team scour photos and other images at the White House Historical Association and the virtual White House museum, and record the changes made by each administration to created 3D renderings of each of the occupant’s Oval Office.
What they reveal is that the décor of the Oval Office has often been a statement of personal taste and of intent.
It was William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, who first moved the seat of power into what would become the Oval Office in 1909.
Taft made the decision to move the executive office from the Roosevelt Room to the room of the president’s secretary (now known as the chief of staff) during his expansion of the West Wing. The office had previously been rounded at just one end, but Taft had it remodeled to a more democratic oval shape.
As can been seen from the renderings, Taft’s immediate successors made only minor changes to the new Oval Office. President Wilson preferred to work in the Treaty Room (which would later become Obama’s “man-cave”), missing out on Oval Office features such as silk velvet curtains and mahagua wood floor.
After Wyeth and Taft’s Oval Office was ruined by the White House fire of Christmas Eve, 1929, then-President Hoover repaired and expanded the office in a colonial style, with butternut wood-paneled walls.
Despite Hoover’s renovations, Roosevelt soon relocated the Oval Office to the southeast corner of the West Wing, where there was better natural light. He also expanded it by two feet. However, he kept Hoover’s 17-piece suite, with which the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association had refurnished the old Oval Office
Truman was the first to have a rug with the Seal of the President. It was a continuous blue-green color, with the crest implied by cutting the pile to different lengths. The rug would not be replaced until the day that JFK was assassinated. (This was a coincidence; Jacqueline Kennedy planned for the office to be redecorated while they were away in Texas.)
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy invited French interior designer Stéphane Boudin to renovate and restore the White House. Boudin introduced a new red rug, white sofas, and pale curtains, but the Kennedy’s never got to see the finished job.
Nixon chose a bold combination of blue and gold for his Oval Office – perhaps anticipating that guests would include Elvis Presley. Nixon also brought the Wilson desk (currently used by President Biden) into the office, wrongly believing it to have belonged to his idol, Woodrow Wilson.
President Obama was the first to choose patterned walls, opting for golden tan and light-beige striped wallpaper. The room’s cool fawn-colored velvet sofas and neutral tones reflected the fact that Obama genuinely used the office to sit down and work.
Trump’s choice of drapes turned out to be somewhat ironic. The gold curtains he found in storage were originally chosen by First Lady Hillary Clinton for husband Bill’s Oval Office. Trump also replaced Obama’s wallpaper, opting for a motif of sea scrolls, leaves, and floral medallions, intended to evoke the building’s sense of history.
President Biden opted to keep the Clinton drapes in the windows and has brought back Clinton’s navy rug, too. New additions include a 3.9-billion-year-old moon rock.
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