President Obama’s Oval Office Remodel

The new look of the Oval Office. Jewel Samad / AFP-Getty Images

The Oval Office may well be the most iconic executive office in the world, partly because of its shape, partly because of where it’s located, but mostly because of the seat of power it represents. Every president since William Howard Taft in 1909 has sat behind the desk and looked out the windows facing the Washington Monument. Deals have been reached, scandals have been waged, and crises have been handled, all in the cornerless room.

But every inhabitant has made the room his own. And while President Obama and his family vacationed in Massachusetts last week, design crews feverishly remodeled the room and other parts of the West Wing to fit the president’s taste. New wallpaper, furniture, and paint replaced the old. The rug that covers most of the center of the room was stripped out (a likely tragedy to Bill Clinton, who during a recent visit to his former office, remarked that he “just love[d] that rug”) while a new rug from a Michigan-based company was installed. The new one, according to the White House, has the presidential seal in the center and the following five quotes, all chosen by President Obama.

  • “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 White House won’t disclose the cost of the redesign, but notes that the amount was “in line with the amount spent by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush on the redesigns of their Oval Office.” It also wasn’t taxpayer money; all recent redesigns have been covered by the White House Historical Association and each man’s presidential inaugural committee.