The Obama Oval Office: Makeover and Décor in the White House

Updated on December 19, 2017
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Bill has advanced degrees in education and political science. He has been a political science teacher for over 25 years.

President Obama's Oval Office Makeover was unveiled on August 31, 2010.
President Obama's Oval Office Makeover was unveiled on August 31, 2010.

On August 31, 2010, the White House revealed that the Presidential Oval Office got a "not-so-extreme makeover" while the President was vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard. The financing for the renovations was provided by the White House Historical Association which received a generous contribution from the president’s Inaugural Committee (and apparently free of taxpayer dollars). The White House did not reveal how much the touchups cost but only said that costs were in line with what other presidents have spent. The redecoration has been characterized as muted with neutral colors as opposed to the yellows and blues that were favored by President Bush. You can read about the Oval Office décor of George W. Bush here.

President Obama had earlier added some of his own dust collectors to the Oval Office, replacing china with mechanical gadgets and Native American pottery. But Tuesday’s unveiling reflected more of the Obama's taste in décor. Gone are the brocade sofas, and the rug with the radiant lines. Rembrandt Peale's portrait of George Washington is still above the fireplace and the Resolute Desk is still in its familiar spot to serve as a prop for the bully pulpit. If those two mahogany chairs in front of the fireplace look familiar, they are. They are the same ones that George W. Bush used that were the focus of many photo ops with famous world leaders. But the Obamas had the chairs upholstered with a caramel-color leather.

Video of Obama's Oval Office Makeover

New York Magazine referred to the Obama Oval Office rug (right) as the "less-optimistic rug" as compared to the rug from George W. Bush's Oval Office (left) with its radiant lines that move out from the presidential seal.
New York Magazine referred to the Obama Oval Office rug (right) as the "less-optimistic rug" as compared to the rug from George W. Bush's Oval Office (left) with its radiant lines that move out from the presidential seal.
Among the changes in décor to the Obama Oval Office, one of them was not the Resolute Desk, which has been used off-and-on by presidents since John Kennedy
Among the changes in décor to the Obama Oval Office, one of them was not the Resolute Desk, which has been used off-and-on by presidents since John Kennedy
Some of the paintings that President Obama has added to the Oval Office include Frederick Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain" (above) and Norman Rockwell's "Statue of Liberty" (below)
Some of the paintings that President Obama has added to the Oval Office include Frederick Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain" (above) and Norman Rockwell's "Statue of Liberty" (below)

Features of the New Décor

The White House was quick to point out that the new decorations for the makeover are American-made: the rug is from Michigan, the wallpaper, desk chair, couches, and lamps were made in New York, the light-brown fabric for the couches was woven in Pennsylvania. The specifics include

Wallpaper—wallpaper on the upper part of the walls. The federal-style vertical stripes are gold and beige

The rug—the rug is made of 25% recycled wool and was designed by Mary Van Haaften, a designer for the Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Michigan who previously made the Oval Office rug for President Clinton and rugs in the State Dining Room at the White House. It was first thought that President Obama liked the Oval Office rug from George W. Bush’s Oval Office and would not swap it out. The new beige rug has the presidential seal in the middle and at the outer edge of the rug has blue trim with quotes in dark blue letters circling around the rug and separated by stars. These quotes are some of the favorites of the president:

  • "No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings." - John F. Kennedy
  • "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us." - Teddy Roosevelt
  • "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." - Martin Luther King
  • "Government of the people by the people for the people." - Abraham Lincoln
  • "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Bush’s $62,000 rug, which was designed by Laura Bush will probably end up at Bush’s Presidential Library in Texas.

The Resolute Desk—the presidential desk, sometimes called the “Resolute Desk” is the desk that has been used by presidents, off and on, in the Oval Office since John Kennedy. The desk was made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute and given to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880. Lyndon Johnson had it removed from the Oval Office; Jimmy Carter brought it back in. Reagan used it, but George H.W. Bush used it in another part of the White House. President Clinton returned the Resolute to the Oval Office where it has been ever since.

Sofas—Gone are the two yellow brocade sofas. They have been replaced by two brown sofas made of cotton and have a velvet appearance.They have red, white, and blue threads woven throughout.

Coffee Table--A new sturdy-looking, rectangular coffee table made of mica and walnut, with a bowl of apples as a centerpiece.

Lamps--Two new blue ceramic lamps, one on each of the two tables at the end of the couches. One of the couches has a matching blue pillow as an accent.

What do people think of it? Some like it; some hate it. It has the appearance of being more comfortable and relaxing (more comfortable looking couches, big pillows). Many say it reflects the President's character of putting people at ease.

This Seymour Tall Case Clock has been a fixture of the Oval Office since 1975.
This Seymour Tall Case Clock has been a fixture of the Oval Office since 1975.

© 2010 William R Bowen Jr

Comments

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    • htodd profile image

      htodd 

      7 years ago from United States

      Looks Awesome

    • OpinionDuck profile image

      OpinionDuck 

      8 years ago

      The décor seems to match the move in the administration from power to docile. It is like dressing a lion like a mouse.

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      As much as I disagree with the Obama administration, it is still an office of high honor in this country, and I think the changes are fine.

    • jiberish profile image

      jiberish 

      8 years ago from florida

      The Oval office looks like a hotel lobby! Of course if Michelle had anything to do with it, it expains the lack of good taste.

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