From the Floor Up

A Tradition of Oval Office Remodeling

Posted by Daltile Team on Sep 15, 2015 8:30:00 PM

Maybe you don’t greet the day wondering who will declare candidacy today. But as the presidential race looms ahead, we thought we’d take a moment to look at one of our favorite presidential traditions—redecorating the Oval Office.

Since the Oval Office came into existence in 1909 under William Howard Taft, each president has added his own flair. Some changed up the furniture. Others gave the room a complete overhaul. Here’s a few of the highlights."FDR Oval Office in 1934 LOC37952v cropped" by Harris & Ewing.[1] - =This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID 37952v.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FDR_Oval_Office_in_1934_LOC37952v_cropped.jpg#/media/File:FDR_Oval_Office_in_1934_LOC37952v_cropped.jpg

1909–1929

President Taft expanded the West Wing and built the Oval Office. It was completed in 1909 and he wanted it to be the center of presidential action. He decorated it in a lively green with rich marble, glass, and leather accents and furnishings. Taft took the desk and furniture from Theodore Roosevelt’s office.

Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge all pretty much left the office décor alone. On December 24th, 1929, the West Wing suffered a fire that damaged the Oval Office and triggered some major changes.

1930–1961

President Hoover gave the Oval Office a considerable update after the fire nearly destroyed it. Air-conditioning was installed and new lighting fixtures updated the look of the office. Upholstered furniture replaced the leather and a new desk was installed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt might be considered the one who started the redecorating tradition. He kept the new desk, a marble mantel, and the lighting from the newly restored office but added his own touch of style. He brought in different furniture and swapped out the art. He also included ship models in his décor."Oval Office 1981". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oval_Office_1981.jpg#/media/File:Oval_Office_1981.jpg

President Truman solidified the new tradition by promptly replacing the drapery, desk, and rug when he came into office. He also changed out the art and replaced the ship models with jet-airplane models. He was the first to bring in a television set.

Jacqueline Kennedy set the stage for the First Lady’s involvement in Oval Office redecoration when she restored the Resolute desk and hired a designer. The drapery, rug, furniture, and art were changed. The redecoration of the office was nearly complete when President Kennedy was assassinated.

1963–2010

From this point on, the redecoration of the Oval Office became standard with each new occupant. The First Lady’s office takes the lead on the project. Presidential4

The carpet is often redesigned by the First Lady, and it always bears the presidential seal. The Curator of the White House aids in selecting furniture and artwork from the White House collections or borrows from museums. There are six historic desks to choose from and a whole library of photography. 

There has been little major change to the space since the fire. Adjustments for modern conveniences have been added and even an occasional security upgrade. Aside from carpets and draperies, the single most changed element in the Oval Office is the flooring.

Sadly, the Oval Office has never been graced with tile. It was originally cork over a soft wood, but that took a beating over years of foot traffic, pets, and impromptu golf. President Johnson replaced the floor in the mid 60s with linoleum in a wood-grain style. Ronald Regan replaced the linoleum with a parquet design in oak and walnut that was part of the original 1933, post-fire design that never came about. In 2005, George W. Bush replaced the floor in the exact pattern of its predecessor and it remains to this day. 

"Obama edits speech before announcing death of Osama bin Laden" by Pete Souza - http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/5680710466/in/set-72157626507626189. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Obama_edits_speech_before_announcing_death_of_Osama_bin_Laden.jpg#/media/File:Obama_edits_speech_before_announcing_death_of_Osama_bin_Laden.jpg

Current Oval Office

 

In 2010, President Obama’s version of the office came on the scene. He sits at the Resolute desk surrounded by red drapery, striped wallpaper, and a taupe rug featuring quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

No matter who steps into the Oval Office next, you can bet the space will be as unique as the person who sits at the Resolute Desk.

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