Obama’s Oval Office Makeover

By Cullen Dirner

Aug 31, 2010 11:07am

From Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller:

Faced with a deteriorating economic horizon and while President Obama was vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard the Oval Office received a makeover, complete with a new carpet, new wallpaper and new furniture.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs – when asked by ABC’s Ann Compton in an interview this morning – downplayed the changes, saying that it was not “a whole lot different” than it looked a few days ago, and stressed that taxpayers did not foot the bill for the makeover.

“Some very modest changes not paid for at taxpayer expense,” Gibbs said, “As many presidents want to put their own little stamp on the office they spend so much time in, the president has done that in his own very modest way.”

The White House says the cost of the redesign was “in line with the amount spent by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush on the redesigns of their Oval Office.”

The focal point of the room – the expensive sunburst carpet designed by then-First Lady Laura Bush has been replaced. The new beige carpet installed by President Obama features a traditional presidential seal in the center, with multiple quotes from former presidents, and one by Martin Luther King are around the border. 

The quotes — described as being “of meaning” to and selected by President Obama — are:

“The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Government of the People, By the People, For the People” – President Abraham Lincoln

“No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings” – President John F. Kennedy

“The Welfare of Each of Us is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” – President Theodore Roosevelt

The rug was produced by Scott Group, an American carpet manufacturer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan and paid for by the non-profit White House Historical Association through a contribution from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.   The Scott Group had previously made Oval Office rugs for former President Bill Clinton as well as rugs for the White House State Dining Room.  

The wallpaper is now striped with two tones of beige and gold tones, replacing the formerly plain eggshell walls. The handmade wallpaper was produced  in Amagansett, N.Y and the trim around the re-painted with American-made Benjamin Moore paint custom-mixed by Donald Kaufman Color. 

Modern furniture now adorns the office – an updated coffee table, made out of American walnut and mica and lamps with blue ceramic bases and cream lamp shapes.

The two sofas – formerly beige and tan — have been replaced by fluffier light brown ones, with small striped throw pillows.  The couches were custom-made in New York, the White House says. The fabric, with red, white and blue threads running through it, was woven in Pennsylvania.

The president now has a new brown leather desk chair, which the White House says was produced in New York.

The two-arm chairs previously used by President George W. Bush were reupholstered, changed from the more formal blue and cream striped, to now brown leather.

The Resolute Desk – the iconic piece of furniture of the Oval Office – has stayed in place.

The furniture removed from the Oval Office will remain the property of the White House and will be placed in a storage facility. 

Presidents usually update the Oval Office to their liking when they take office, but when he first arrived last year, the president declared he liked the carpet and decor and saw no need for immediate redecorating.

Shortly before taking office in January of 2009 White House advisor Valerie Jarrett told ABC News Obama "loves" the sunburst carpet that President Bush and Mrs. Bush designed for the office, and that it was too early to redecorate the office.

Instead the president added small touches to his workspace, rather than a major facelift.

Last March President Obama added  a bronze bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr to his office.  And on MLK day this January the president hung a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, on loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, on a wall in his office where it would hang for six months before being moved to the Lincoln Bedroom.

The nation will get their first glimpse of the president in his newly decorated office this evening when he addresses the nation on the end of the combat mission in Iraq. Under traditional White House protocol, the network television camera will be allowed to focus only on the President at his desk, without wider angle views of the new spruced-up furniture.

The Oval Office was designed by architect Nathan C. Wyeth at the order of President William Howard Taft in 1909. It was damaged by fire in 1929 and rebuilt by President Herbert C. Hoover, and later enlarged to the Oval office known today by Eric Gulfer at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

- Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller

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