Monday, April 10, 2017

Tagged Under: , , , ,

From FDR to Trump: How the Oval Office Decor Has Changed

President Obama's office on the left, President Trump's on the right. (Photo: Getty/Facebook)
Donald Trump is breaking pretty much every Presidential precedent, but in one way, at least, he's like (almost) all the others: He's owning the Oval Office, redecorating it within days of moving into the White House. 

But for a man who never does anything modestly, his Oval House makeover is, so far, surprisingly l0w-key: Trump has kept President Obama's striped wallpaper (it's gold, so that may explain why he's allowed it to stay), and simply swapped out the furniture and curtains (he ditched Obama's crimson ones for, wait for it, gold ones). He did choose a flashier rug, with a sunburst-like design around the Presidential seal, but it's not actually new: It was originally used during the Reagan era (and briefly in the Bush Oval Office).

Photo: Getty/Facebook

Perhaps Melania made the choices? 

Historically, the Oval Office decor has been more a reflection of the First Lady's taste than the President's: Typically, shortly after the inauguration, the new woman of the White House swoops in to make the interior her own (and stake her husband's claim on the place). As a study in the Journal of Interior Design explains, "the [First Lady's] role in overseeing the decor is often cast as preserving history. However, the room is often actually redecorated for aesthetic purposes or to communicate a new message and not because the room is worn or out of style." 

This trend started with perhaps the chicest First Lady in U.S. history: Jackie O. In fact, JFK's Oval Office decorating scheme changed twice—the second time over the weekend he was assassinated. Jacqueline Onassis brought in a celebrity decorator, which set the precedent for Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama to do the same. 

That said, the Oval Office has been evolving since the 1930s, starting with FDR, according to the Journal of Interior Design study (from which these photos and facts were culled).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1934-1945)
Designer: Eric Gugler (architect)

FDR was the first president to occupy the present-day Oval Office. In 1929, the West Wing went up in flames, and FDR's predecessor President Hoover opted to rebuild it exactly as it before. But Roosevelt decided to move the Oval Office to a location with more light and easier access to the residential wing of the White House.

But it was his wife who did the decorating. Eleanor Roosevelt made the new office a little larger (two feet longer and two feet wider) and recruited architect Eric Gugler to design the space, which was inspired by FDR's passion for Georgian architecture. Why the dramatic drapes? The U.S. was in the midst of economic uncertainty, so the President's office needed to convey a strong sense of leadership. The solution: eagle emblems! 

Harry Truman (1945-1953) - Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Designer (Truman era): Charles T. Haight (architect)

Truman lightened things up, trading the dark green of FDR's scheme for a paler green palette. First Lady Elizabeth Truman worked with architect Charles Haight to install the new curtains and rug, later used by Eisenhower, Kennedy (early in his term), and Johnson. In fact, Eisenhower was one of the few 20th-century presidents who didn't redecorate at all. He stuck with the look at the Truman's wife had installed. 

Truman didn't stop with drapes and carpeting: He also outfitted the Oval Office with televisions and new furniture, designed to make him look like a modern president.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
Designer: Sister Parish and Stephane Boudin

At the beginning of his presidency, JFK kept FDR's blue-green rug and drapes. But on the weekend he was killed, he had a red rug installed, a choice that disturbed subsequent president Johnson, since it reminded him of the assassination. 

Jackie Kennedy was the first of the first ladies to choose a celebrity decorator: Sister Parish, a socialite and interior designer known for her country house style (and said, at the time, to be the most famous decorator). 

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
Designer: None

At first, Johnson kept Kennedy's red rug, but later reverted to FDR's blue-green carpet, paired with Kennedy's pale curtains. He removed the Resolute Desk, a gift from Queen Victoria during President Hayes' tenure, only because it was too small for his 6-foot-3.5-inch frame. 

Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
Designer: Sarah Doyle Jackson

Would you expect anything other than gold curtains from the first president of the 1970s? 

Gerald Ford (1974-1977) and Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
Designer (Ford era): Clem Conger (curator) and Edward Jones (architect)
Designer (Carter era): Carleton Varney

Ford installed pumpkin-colored drapes, gold curtains, and a pale gold rug with blue florettes, in an effort to create a "warmer" feeling, after the tumult of Nixon, a decor scheme that Jimmy Carter chose to keep. Ford was the only president who abandoned the presidential emblem altogether, and he did way with all of the room's eagles, except the plaster one on the ceiling. 

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
Designer: Ted Graber

During his first term, Ronald Reagan kept the Ford-era decor. But for his second term, he spiced things up with this pale yellow rug with a sunbeam design, made by Stark Carpet Co. at a cost of $49,625. 

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
Designer: Mark Hampton

After years of yellow-and-orange decor, the first Bush president redecorated with cool tones: He installed a light blue rug, at a cost of $28,500, along with light blue drapes. The color scheme was a nod to Bush's alma mater, Yale. 

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
Designer: Mark Hampton

In a throwback to the Ford era, Clinton opted for yellow drapes and a royal blue rug, a prescient choice considering the color of his mistress's famous dress.

George W. Bush (2001-2009)
Designer: Kenneth Blasingame

George W. Bush kept it classy with neutrals and splashes of blue. Although this sunbeam rug, a symbol of optimism, is similar to the one from the Reagan era, it was actually new; in fact, he removed Clinton's rug on his first day of office, a not-so-subtle promise that his presidency would be different from his predecessor's. The cost of his new rug? $61,000. 

Barack Obama (2009-2015)
Designer: Michael Smith

Even President Obama's Oval Office was in keeping with his agenda: He and the First Lady wanted an eco-friendly design, which is why they chose a rug made of recycled wool (with several quotes from powerful historical U.S. figures woven into the border). As a nod to Michelle Obama's anti-obesity platform, the flower arrangement on the coffee table was replaced with a bowl of red apples.

Although the Obamas chose a well-known decorator, Michael Smith, they waited until late 2010 to make some of the changes, since the economy was suffering when Obama took office. As the study authors note, "The Obamas and Smith selected elements carefully; choosing the new decor that intentionally branded America's first African American president as a modern style-conscios leader without significant cost to the public." 

The office isn't without some elaborate elements though: For the first time in history, the walls were adorned with a hand-painted wall covering, rather than simply being painted.


Post a Comment