Updated 24th January 2021
Working from home can be a challenge for many; what with all the disruptions, how easy it is to lay in for an extra half an hour, and how tempting it can be to “just pop a load of washing in”. Now you have that picture, let’s throw in hundreds of staff walking about your home day and night, and not forgetting the billions of people hanging on to your every word, and we have the life of the President of the United States. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
If you had to live like that for the next 4 (possibly 8) years, you’d want to make it as ‘homely’ as possible, right? Well, that’s what the current and past Presidents of the United States have done. Not only do they add their personal touch to the White House, but they also make a few simple décor changes to the Oval Office as well.
We found a few similarities between the Oval Office’s appearance during the service of each president. The wainscoting is never touched, the famous Oval Office desk is largely the same, and it seems the most recent presidents quite like a particular chest of drawers too, as these aren’t changed all that often either.
Aside from the above, the décor is changed each time a new president enters the White House; after all, they’re the ones that have to use that room as their new home office. Let’s take a look at the Oval Office interior design aspects that have been changed over the past 40 years with each of the last 7 presidencies – from current president, Joe Biden to Ronald Reagan. We’ve also included some honourable mentions dating back to John F Kennedy’s time in office…
Joe Biden: 2021 – Present
Whilst the new president is still finding his feet, the interior design of the Oval Office has been somewhat high on his priority list.
He’s introduced a bust of civil rights icon, Cesar Chavez along side other busts of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, with a sculpture by Allan Houser of the “Chiricahua Apache”. He’s also replaced a portrait of controversial former president Andrew Jackson with one of Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. He’s also removed a number of military flags that were installed by Trump.
In terms of colour scheme, interestingly Biden has opted for a palette similar to former president, Donald Trump. He’s also reused the curtains and rug that were selected by Bill Clinton during his tenure as president.
Donald Trump: 2017 – 2021
During Trump’s presidency, he had a complete White House renovation that lasted 17-days and reportedly cost $1.75 million; a little more than what Obama spent on renovations during his presidency.
Donald Trump’s décor choices seemed to be a cross between George W Bush and Bill Clinton; he went for a rich colour palette of gold, navy and platinum. Trump is known for his opulent décor choices, so this colour scheme isn’t really much of a surprise!
Interestingly, the Oval Office’s artwork during Trump’s presidency was a 1947 bust of Winston Churchill and an 1895 statue of The “Bronco Buster”.
Barack Obama: 2009 – 2017
The first black President and arguably one of the most down to earth, Barack Obama managed to keep his presidency for two elections, making him President of the United States for 8-years.
Obama didn’t choose flashy colours for the Oval Office’s décor. During his presidency, he chose a primary colour scheme not too far removed from the American flag with warm red, sky blue, and creams and white.
A man more into paintings than statues, the Oval Office’s key items were two paintings: The Avenue in the Rain, painted in 1917 and Working on the Statue of Liberty, painted in 1946.
George W Bush: 2001 – 2009
Like Obama, George W Bush also kept his presidency for two elections. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States, before that, he served as the Governor of Texas for 5-years.
Taking a more gentlemanly approach to his colour choices, Bush’s décor was minimalistic and muted. The soft colour palette he chose for the Oval Office included platinum, cream and grey-blue. Nothing flashy and over-the-top about this one. Interestingly, a similar colour palette to that chosen by his father, George Bush Snr.
The two items that Bush proudly displayed either side of the famous Oval Office desk were paintings. The first, “A Charge to Keep” which was painted in 1916. The second, “Near San Antonio” which was painted in 1918.
Bill Clinton: 1993 – 2001
Bill Clinton, another president with an 8-year term, took his seat in the Oval Office in 1993. Before his presidency, Clinton was the Governor and Attorney General of Arkansas. First Lady, Hillary Clinton, later became the first female to run for President of the United States candidacy. Though she won the popular vote, sadly she lost the election to Donald Trump.
Bill Clinton’s stint in the White House gave him enough time to decorate the house and the Oval Office as he saw fit. In stark contrast to his predecessor (and his successor), Clinton opted for bright, primary colours of red, yellow and blue – no doubt to signify the power and fierceness he wanted to represent during his presidential run.
Bill Clinton decorated the Oval Office with strong, authoritative statues. On one side he had Rodin’s “The Thinker” statue, sculptured in 1901, and on the other side, he had “Appeal to the Great Spirit”, from 1908.
George H.W. Bush Snr: 1989 – 1993
Before Trump, George Bush Snr was the last president to carried out a single, 4-year term in the White House.
Like his son, George Bush Snr used a similar diluted colour scheme throughout. The main colours found in the Oval Office were steel blue, cream and platinum.
George H.W. Bush Snr is the only president to display a scale model in the Oval Office to date. Bush Snr’s painting was curated in 1848 and was a picture of nature, suggesting a feeling of calm and tranquillity; the painting is titled “Rutland Falls”. For his scale model, Bush Snr went for the empowering HMS Resolute ship. The contrast between the painting and the scale model is quite evident.
Interesting fact… the desk in the Oval Office that has been used by a number of presidents (including George Bush Snr for a short while) since the beginning of the 20th century, was made from the wood of the British Naval ship, HMS Resolute. It’s fondly referred to as the Resolute Desk.
Ronald Reagan: 1981 – 1989
Our final presidential Oval Office design comes from Ronald Reagan’s 8-year term.
He opted for warm, sumptuous colours – warm red, gold and cream – with minimal detailing throughout.
Reagan displayed a painting and sculpture either side of him for his entire presidency. The painting of George Washington was painted in 1846. His chosen sculpture, created in 1905, was titled “Rattlesnake” (by Remington) and depicted a cowboy, riding a horse that was rearing up after being startled by a rattlesnake on the ground.
Fun fact: George H.W. Bush Snr also had the Rattlesnake sculpture displayed during his time in the Oval Office.
Richard Nixon: 1969 – 1974
Richard Nixon chose royal colours of yellow (gold), rich blue and white. His curtains, sofas, chairs, and cushions were all yellow gold. What’s more, his wife designed the rug that was featured in the Oval Office. Her design depicted a background of royal blue, with the presidential seal in gold.
John F Kennedy: 1961 – 1963
One of the most revered Presidents of the United States, John F Kennedy kept his Oval Office minimal. In fact, it was “cold” in appearance, some may say. Kennedy’s core colours for the White House during his short, 2-year stint were silver, grey, platinum and white.
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Posted on: 11 January 2021