10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Oval Office

Hanna Mansson
Hanna Mansson|

To the new President of the United States,

Welcome to your new office.

The Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House has undoubtedly become a symbol of the United States. It’s the setting of some of America’s most iconic photographs, from the image of John F. Kennedy Jr. peeking out from under his father’s desk, or Richard Nixon on the phone with Apollo 11’s astronauts during their first moonwalk, to President Obama playing with a happy baby on the carpet. Now, the 45th president will soon get to join in history and re-decorate the room for their four year term. We take a peek inside and explore the most famous office in the world.

The Architecture

The first president to inhabit the Oval Office was President Taft in 1909. Designed by the architect Nathan C. Wyeth it was modeled upon the Blue Room, one of three oval shaped in rooms in the original design for the White House (the other two being the Yellow Room and the Diplomatic Reception Room). Its oval shape is the most stand-out feature of this now legendary office and has remained intact in its 100-year-old history through fires and renovations alike.


To get a feel for the space you need to first imagine its size, 816 square feet or 76 square meters, which is the exact size of the average UK home. The room itself has three large window’s behind the president’s desk and another window to the left of the center. It has a fireplace at the front of the room and no less than four doors. The doors lead to the secretary room, the main corridor, a private study and dining room and the Rose Garden. Pretty neat.

The Art

Presidents can make their office their own by picking the artwork for their walls. These are normally chosen from the White House’s own collection or borrowed from museums for the length of the presidency. Some famous preferences include John F. Kennedy’s naval motifs and seascape paintings, Clinton’s portraits of Roosevelt and Lincoln and George W. Bush’s paintings of Texas landscape, his home state.


Obama’s Art Preference: Edward Hopper

Obama’s art choices included Childe Hassams’s ‘The Avenue in the Rain’ as well as Edward Hopper paintings of the Cape Cod farm. We’re reluctant to speculate what Trump may choose, but one feature that always remains is the presidential seal carved into the middle of the ceiling.

The Furniture

Since Kennedy’s years in the early 1960’s, the majority of presidents have chosen to use the Resolute desk to sign their papers and type their emails on. The Resolute desk is made out of the timber from a British ship found abandoned by the US naval force and returned to United Kingdom as a goodwill gesture. In total, there are four desks made from this timber, the remaining three in various locations and museums across the UK.

Obama at the Resolution Desk

A feature that no President to date has moved are the two flags next to the President’s seat. The presidential flag stands to the left and the United States flag to the right, as a constant reminder of the responsibilities the job entails.

When it comes to colours of the wall, curtains and other furniture it’s each President to their own. The current office is decorated in neutral tones and more casual furnishings as per President Obama’s request. This is also mirrored in the huge, famous rug that each president can re-design and have custom-made in the beginning of the term. It must however always feature the presidential seal in the middle.

The Floor

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Oval Office is the floor, although you rarely get to see it because of above-mentioned rug.


The floor was initially ordered by President Reagan in 1982 and features an oak and walnut cross parquet based on a 1933 sketch by Eric Gugler that was never installed. Whilst George W. Bush replaced the floor, he did thankfully keep the pattern so the next President can enjoy the gorgeous design.

What’s next?

Now that Mr. Trump has been named the President-elect, should we expect over-the-top luxury, gold finishings and crystal lanterns like those seen in Trump Tower? Perhaps he’ll install a pool too. As a businessman-turned-president, it will be fascinating to see how Trump’s Oval Office will compare to the leaders of the past.

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