White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History

By: Sarah Beaumont

November 8, 2016

Image via Architectural Digest (The Old Family Dining Room during the Obama Administration)


With its vast, white facade and grand, ionic columns, the White House is one of the most notable architectural landmarks in the world. Daily tours make their way around its historic halls, and visitors come from far and wide to take pictures outside its gates. But beyond the public areas of the White House, the presidential family has their own private world, expertly designed to fit their tastes.

As we near the end of the Obama Administration and see the start of a new presidential term, we can expect that the private quarters of the White House will be redesigned again. So in anticipation, we’re taking a look back through presidencies past at the rooms they don’t show you on the official tour. From Jackie Kennedy’s silken bedroom to the Obama’s art-filled dining room, these powerful spaces have undergone nearly as many changes as the United States itself.


 The West Sitting Hall

The Kennedys: Renowned designer Sister Parish gave the West Sitting Hall—one of the first family’s living areas—a casual yet refined makeover using subtle patterns and a cascading window treatment.

The Reagans: The Reagan’s redesign of the family living room was mostly made up of furniture brought over from their home in California.

The Obama’s: A different angle of the West Sitting Hall shows off the Obama’s transitional living area and love for contemporary art.

The Treaty Room

The Hoovers/Roosevelts: Originally called the Cabinet Room, President Herbert Hoover and his wife christened this space the Monroe Room in dedication to President James Monroe. It kept its blue velvet charm during the Roosevelt Administration.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

via Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The Kennedys: Renamed the Treaty Room, The Kennedys had Stéphane Boudin decorate the space in a rich, colorful High Victorian style. A number of treaties were signed at that very table.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Peter Vitale/White House Historical Association

via Peter Vitale/White House Historical Association

The Bushs: Designed by Kenneth Blasingame, George W. Bush used the Treaty Room as his private office.

The Obamas: Filled with personal memorabilia and historic White House furnishings, President Obama uses the Treaty Room as his late-night work escape.

The Solarium
White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Abbie Rowe/White House Collection

via Abbie Rowe/White House Collection

The Trumans: A casual rooftop hangout, the once wood-floored Solarium was covered with checkerboard linoleum during Harry Truman’s presidency.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Getty Images/David Hume Kennerly

via Getty Images/David Hume Kennerly

The Reagans: Plush, geranium-patterned lounge furniture made the Solarium one of the Reagan’s favorite places to relax.

The Obamas: Natural, earthy tones take over in the Obama’s redesign of the Solarium.

The Family Dining Room
White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via White House Historical Society

via White House Historical Association

The Kennedys: With Federal style chairs and walls depicting scenes from the American Revolution, the Kennedy’s dining room was full of American history and tradition.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via White House Historical Association

via White House Historical Association

The Clintons: When Bill Clinton was president, Hillary was big on decorating with yellow. Chartreuse floral chairs and silk wallpaper covered the family dining room in the 90’s. We wonder if she’ll take this space in a similar direction should the White House become Clinton territory again.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via White House Historical Association

via White House Historical Association

The Bushs: George and Laura Bush’s neutral, French-inspired dining room design feels a little more modern thanks to a Georgia O’Keeffe painting hanging above the pier table.

The Obamas: Striped, blue fabric covers the walls of the Obama’s family dining room for a slightly more traditional look than some of their other spaces.

The Master Bedroom
White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

via Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The Kennedys: Jackie’s light and airy bedroom by Sister Parish featured a silk-screened, daisy-print fabric that covered the headboard and curtains.

White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Michael Evans/White House/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

via Michael Evans/White House/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

The Reagans: Lively birds flutter along the walls of the Reagan’s master bedroom, hand-painted onto a chinoiserie wallpaper.

The Obamas: A subtle green color palette carries through in the Obama’s traditional master bedroom.

The Yellow Oval Room
White House Design: The Most Powerful Rooms in History, Laurel & Wolf, via Tom Leonard

via Tom Leonard

The Kennedys: Jackie went with a French-style salon look in the Yellow Oval Room during her time in the White House.

The Bushs: The Yellow Oval Room remained pretty similar to the Kennedy’s design, even as far forward as the Bush Administration.

The Obamas: The Obama’s designer Michael Smith mellowed the yellow with smoky browns, greens, and golds.

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Thanks, PSFK!