A Decorating History: The White House

This week following the Presidents Day holiday we've looked at chandeliers and artwork that is decorating the White House.  In this post we'll take a look back through some decorating trends that had their moment in the White House. To think of the White House as a living "decorating history book" is kind of fun!

Some of the public rooms are more limited in what can change (such as the blue room, red room, green room), so we focused more on the residence part that showed strong evolution through the years. As the rooms evolved the unused furniture and decor was stored away for possible reuse again for another redesign. It's fascinating to take a look though how the rooms changed over the years, especially in the function. Some converted from living room to bedroom. This post just skims the surface, so you can click here, here, and here for more information.

West Sitting Hall

Many residents of the White House used this area as their living room. The main focal point of this room is the large beautiful half moon window.  Therefore the biggest impact on the room was usually a result of the draperies chosen, and the furniture and color theme were secondary. There were so many pictures to choose from so here are just a few dramatically different looks. Click here for more on the West Sitting Hall.

Sheer drapery with tie backs let the Tiffany window detail stand out. Wish I could find this in color! circa 1888.


Sheer window treatments fit inside the arch emphasize the arch while keeping a clean look. circa 1948


Heavy draperies with bold pattern keep the focal point, but cover up the beautiful window (even when pulled back)

 Sheer layers pulled back along the arch soften the look but still highlight the window architecture. circa 1963


Neutral colors with tapered valence ends emphasizes the center arch and blends the rest into the wall. circa 1981.


This straight panel look is contemporary and open, while letting the entire arch peek through the center.  Panels in wall color don't compete with the window. circa 2001


Family Residence Dining Room

The dining room was a fun set of pictures to see how different the rooms looked even when using some of the same elements! A small study in "Using What You Have".

1963 - The newly redone dining room, it started off as a bedroom then a family room before it became the dining room. The wall to wall carpet was removed and an area rug re-introduced (as it had been in the bedrooms). New chairs and table, wallpaper, eagle mirror.

1970. Updated rug and lighting fixture.

1977. Wallpaper covered up, new area rug, re-upholstered dining chairs, new artwork & drapes. Added chairs in front of fireplace.

1986. Wallpaper uncovered! Same area rug, chairs and table, drapes.

1990's. The first time we see new chairs, it seems like the same table and carpet. New wallpaper, drapes, decorations, and perhaps the original chandelier. Lots of floral decor.

2008. Can't find more pictures, but we see the square carpet from the 1970's back again, possibly the gold mirror as well, reupholstered chairs from 1990. New wallpaper and the first time we see a new round table.


The Family Theatre

Originally a cloakroom this theatre is where presidents might rehearse their speeches or just enjoy a family movie night. More pictures here.

1948 Theatre during Truman era. Basic formal chairs in a row.

1958 Eisenhower, movies were a black tie affair! And then grandkids on the right.

Theatre during 1992- 2004

Theatre 2005- Present - much more familiar to a standard movie theatre. Apparently with a 3D option!


We could spend all day researching and posting each room, so instead here are some links to other rooms:

- I am in disbelief that this is the White House kitchen! It has to have been updated since 1998... right???

- The Central Hall for entertaining - scroll down to circa 1910 - it's so green and lush it looks like a conservatory!

- East Sitting Hall, maintains similar decor to it's opposite the West Sitting Hall (above.)

- The Casual Living Room: or President's den, study, spare bedroom. Flexible to suit different needs over time.

- The Master Bedroom, after it was the living room.

And last but certainly not least... The Oval Office. Amazing transformations... with emphasis put on the rug design and draperies.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.

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Reader Comments (2)

Thank you for researching and posting this. I came upon your journal entry when researching the wallpaper in the dining room. I love the 1888 photo of the West Sitting Hall! It is interesting to see what styles and trends have held up through time.
January 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Thanks for reading Michelle! It's fascinating to see trends evolve over the years in such an iconic building, especially the window treatments.
January 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterAndrea Valle

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