How the White House’s decor has changed over the years
- The Oval Office has been expanded, renovated, and redecorated several times throughout US history.
- The Blue Room has had varying designs of blue wallpaper and blue curtains.
- Truman renovated the State Dining Room in the ’50s, and Jacqueline Kennedy restored it in the ’60s.
The White House has 132 rooms, and each new president gets $100,000 to redecorate them.
We traced the histories of three significant White House rooms — the Oval Office, the Blue Room, and the State Dining Room — to see how their designs have changed over the years.
The Oval Office is the president’s formal work space.
The office’s oval shape was inspired by the shape of the Blue Room on the first floor.
It was completed in 1909 under William Taft.
The Oval Office was designed by architect Nathan C. Wyeth.
A fire destroyed much of the West Wing in 1929, so Herbert Hoover restored and expanded it in 1930.
Among Hoover’s upgrades was the Oval Office’s first telephone.
FDR redesigned and moved the Oval Office in 1934.
Roosevelt expanded the West Wing to accommodate more staff. The Oval Office was moved to the southeast corner of the White House, which had initially been a laundry-drying yard.
He also added details like a ceiling medallion of the Presidential Seal.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had the Resolute Desk restored in 1963.
The Resolute desk was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880, and it has been used by seven presidents to this day.
Gerald Ford added his own touch with a burgundy color scheme and striped couches in 1975.
The striped sofas were on trend in the ’70s.
George H.W. Bush’s Oval Office redecoration included a new rug with a gold Presidential Seal, new drapes, a coffee table, and two tall armchairs.
The armchairs on either side of the Resolute Desk, dating back to Hoover’s time in the White House, were reupholstered in blue.
George W. Bush preferred neutral tones for the rug and curtains.
The new gold rug featured a sunbeam design.
Bill Clinton had a new blue rug installed.
The rug was made by The Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Barack Obama added red curtains, striped wallpaper, and a new rug also made by The Scott Group.
The rug featured the Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Donald Trump replaced the striped wallpaper with a subtle white pattern.
He also reinstalled Clinton’s drapes.
Joe Biden removed Trump’s portrait of Andrew Jackson and hung one of FDR, a progressive who guided the country out of troubled times.
In addition to Roosevelt, the wall features portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton hung together to symbolize the benefits of different opinions.
Biden’s Oval Office also includes busts of fellow progressives and activists showcased throughout the room: Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.
The Blue Room is where presidents receive guests.
The oval shape dates back to George Washington’s practice of holding levees, formal greeting receptions inspired by English court.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the Blue Room as his temporary office while the Oval Office was being remodeled in 1934.
By 1940, Roosevelt cleared out and returned to the Oval Office.
In 1963, The Blue Room displayed various antiques and paintings.
It also featured striped wallpaper.
Heavy blue curtains covered the windows in the 1970s.
The striped wallpaper was replaced with dark blue.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a renovated Blue Room in 1995.
The room was remodeled after the Committee for the Preservation of the White House recommended that it be refurbished.
Most notably, the blue wallpaper was replaced with yellow wallpaper.
The Blue Room isn’t just for ceremonial greetings — in 2001, George W. Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair there before addressing the nation in the wake of September 11.
The Blue Room is particularly festive during the holidays.
For the Obamas’ first Christmas in the White House in 2009, the Blue Room was adorned with an 18-foot high Douglas fir illuminated with LED lights.
The Blue Room houses the official White House Christmas tree.
This past Christmas, first lady Dr. Jill Biden decorated the tree with doves carrying a banner with the names of every US state and territory.
The State Dining Room is where the White House hosts state and holiday dinners, as well as the occasional meeting.
The menu is usually chosen by the first lady.
The State Dining Room was green during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in 1904.
Roosevelt expanded the State Dining Room during the 1902 White House renovation and added a moose head to the walls.
The design stayed more or less the same until the entire White House was renovated under Truman in 1952.
The renovation cost $5.7 million then, which would be nearly $53 million today.
Jacqueline Kennedy restored much of the White House, including the State Dining Room, in the early 1960s.
She conducted a tour of the newly restored White House that was watched by more than 80 million Americans on television in 1962.
During the Reagan presidency, the State Dining Room was decorated with yellow drapes and red tablecloths.
Back when Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas, he spoke at the White House in 1987.
The State Dining Room was decorated with pink flowers to welcome Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 2006.
It featured a cream-colored carpet and matching curtains.
A funky purple tablecloth with green chair cushions brightened up the State Dining Room in 2012 when David Cameron visited the White House.
The tables were set were in honor of David Cameron’s visit to the White House.
It can transform into a performance space with mood lighting.
At a post-state dinner reception for the prime minister of Japan in 2015, the State Dining Room was dramatically lit in purple.
Trump was the first president since the 1920s to not host a state dinner during his first year in office.
He did host two state dinners during his presidency: President Emmanual Macron of France in 2018 and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia in 2019.
Biden has not hosted a state dinner yet, but he has used the room for meetings.
The State Dining Room features the same curtains and rug from the Trump administration.