[Unfortunately this space is no longer available- it has been acquired by a certain Donald Trump!]
Imagine being a fly on the wall of the Oval Office. Home to all the presidents of America since its construction under President Taft in 1909, it’s been the venue of many a political event and controversy.
The new President of the United States is due to move out of his Towers and into his new workspace at the Oval Office next month. Rumour has it he may even have to wait a little longer until he’s allowed to start renovating, due to security upgrades.
Although physically inaccessible to most people, modern media has opened up the doors of the Oval Office and let us in on its happenings, from Regan negotiating nuclear disarmament to the young Kennedy children playing on its floor- not to mention the revelations gleaned from Nixon’s hidden tape recorders.
Its clever design (courtesy of architect Nathan C. Wyeth), allows the President to reach their residence within the White House privately. And with its own jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater and 5 full-time chefs, this is an office with serious perks!
#1 The Desk
Symbols of bureaucracy, stations of negotiation and holders of state secrets: 6 desks have been used in the Oval office so far.
Theodore Roosevelt desk
Made in 1903, this eponymous Colonial Revival- style desk showed resilience during a major fire in 1929 and escaped unscathed.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="442"] Source[/caption]
The Theodore Roosevelt Desk in the White House Executive Office, 1904. Teddy Roosevelt commissioned this mahogany desk during his presidency.
In the winter of 1929, a raging fire spread through the West Wing of the White House, destroying almost everything except the Roosevelt desk. After the fire however, Hoover felt it was time for a change and in 1930 Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturer’s Association donated a brand new desk to the Oval Office.
The most popular Oval Office desk was was built from the timbers of the British Arctic exploration vessel Resolute and was gifted to President Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="335"] Eric Draper: Source[/caption]
George W. Bush signs S. 418, The Military Personnel Financial Services Protection Act, seated at the Resolute.
After the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, Johnson installed his own desk. It was built by the Senate Cabinet Shop for government usage in the early 20th century.
Nixon chose this desk when he was elected president as it was believed to have been used by former president Woodrow Wilson. He hid secret recording devices in the desk in 1971, which would later be used as evidence in the Watergate Scandal.
The shortest-lived of Oval Office desks, this utilitarian workspace served under H.W Bush (he swapped the Resolute for it in 1989). Built from walnut and Georgian in design, it’s understated, but no less stately.
#2 The Artwork
The Oval office is redecorated every time a president is elected to reflect their artistic preferences. It was during the 20th century that presidents began putting their own stamp on the Oval Office by choosing their own paintings and carpet (see #3).
Presidents can choose paintings from the White House’s own permanent collection or borrow works from museums & galleries.
John F. Kennedy’s Oval Office walls were decorated with seascapes and naval paintings. Clinton chose busts of his favorite presidents (Franklin Roosevelt & Abraham Lincoln) to sit on the table behind his desk, aptly overlooking political proceedings.
More recently, Obama adorned the office with paintings by Childe Hassam and Edward Hopper.
Edward Hopper’s painting of a Cape Cod farm (1939) hung on the wall during Obama’s 8 years in office.
The American flag also hung from the wall in the form of Frederick Childe Hassam’s impressionist painting The Avenue in the Rain (1917).
#3 The Floor
Today’s oak and walnut cross parquet floor was originally installed by President Reagan in 1982 and is based on a 1933 sketch by Eric Gugler.
While the floor remains untouched, the carpets are interchangeable. Take a look at Nixon and Obama’s strikingly different choices:
Pat Nixon initially created the design for her husband’s new office and picked a striking mix of royal blue and yellow.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="363"] Atkins, Oliver F.: Source[/caption]
Obama’s more subtle wheat, cream and blue number was installed as part of the Oval’s makeover in the summer of 2010. The quote "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" is woven in, and was mistakenly attributed to Dr King.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="624"] Pete Souza: Source[/caption]
#4 The Finishing Touch
We all know that it’s the personal touches that make an office a nice place to work in. Whether it’s a family photo or a simple plant, we like our workspace to reflect our identity.
Here are a few things Obama added to make the office his own:
Pottery by Native American sculptors
Busts of Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr
A framed program from the March on Washington, 1963
What will the Oval Office look like under Trump’s occupancy?
A blank canvas!
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