POTUS in the Oval: Who did it best? (the decor, of course)

So, one of the big topics of conversation today is the reveal of the newly decorated Obama Oval office, done by Michael Smith, who also did the Obama’s private living space. If we take a stroll through the history of the Oval, the Obama office is pretty much more of the same. I have to say that I think it’s pretty dull, in general. I like the idea of the quotes around the edge of the rug, but the center is blah. 

#44 President Barack Obama

#43 President George W. Bush

digital rendering of Bush 43’s carpet

#42 President Bill Clinton

digital rendering of Clinton’s carpet
This shows the Clinton rug replica being made for his library. It really shows the size of the carpet.

#41 President George H.W. Bush

#40 President Ronald Regan (#43 borrowed the carpet until his was made). Clearly #43’s carpet was inspired by this one.

#39 President Jimmy Carter used #38 President Gerald Ford’s decor:

 #37 Richard Nixon:

 President Ford using the Nixon decor, before redecorating

#36 Lyndon Johnson

this is the replica office in the Johnson Library

#35 John F. Kennedy

Sadly, this decor was installed while President and Mrs. Kennedy were in Dallas in November 1963. It was dismantled before Mrs. Kennedy returned to the White House.

 #35 President Dwight D. Eisenhower

#33 President Harry Truman

#32 Franklin Roosevelt

Bonus President: Josiah Bartlet (“The West Wing”):

Love the sconces!

 So, who do you think did it best?

Which President did it best?
Obama 44
Bush 43
Clinton 42
Bush 41
Reagan 40
Carter 39 and Ford 38
Nixon 37
Johnson 36
Kennedy 35
Eisenhower 34
Truman 33
Roosevelt 32
Josiah Bartlet
pollcode.com free polls

So, we basically have 60 years of the same old, same old. So, the question is, if you were decorating the Oval, would you do something different? And what about when we finally have a woman President, would we see a little something floral and not just the same old “man cave” as Maureen Dowd calls it?

I thought I’d run a little contest. Create a single panel design board (via Olioboard or Polyvore, or with any other format) of how you’d love to see this, the world’s most influential room, look. Email me your entry by September 30th. I’ll post them all and we’ll run a little poll about who got it right. Don’t forget to tell us if you’re decorating for a male or female president, or, why you don’t think it would matter. I’m not yet sure of the prize, but I have a ton a fabulous new design books, so am thinking a book of your choice would make a nice prize. So, you have 30 days to create your own oval office.

images courtesy of The White House Museum and other sources

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xoxo Linda

13 thoughts on “POTUS in the Oval: Who did it best? (the decor, of course)”

  1. The Oval Office is not only a private work space, but a very public gathering space for diplomats and heads of state. As such, it should reflect the importance of the office it represents.As such, the Oval Office should be grand, elegant and yet inviting, reflecting the spirit of the American people. I think George Bush and Ronald Reagan accomplished much of this along with some modesty of taste. The Obama Oval Office decor mirrors the current economic times, i.e., bland, boring, not uplifting. It certainly should not have been the message Obama would have been trying to achieve, but perhaps the designer subconsciously made it such. I believe those who enter, will be greatly disappointed that Obama's taste did not take him to a higher place.

  2. weird. I wonder if it just doesn't photograph that well. sort of reminds me of a cheap hotel near the airport. The mantel styling is really half-assed.

    what I do like are the window treatments. thank god those garish valances are ix-nayed. I like Harry Truman's valances and I prefer the borrowed Reagan rug over all of them.

    I agree, the quotes are an interesting addition.

  3. Linda,
    I don't like Obama's at all and when I first saw this I thought, really? The 'famed' Michael Smith did THIS? It looks like a bowling alley looking towards the mantel from the desk and the toss pillow, again…really?
    I am not 'famous' and I could certainly do a MUCH better job!

  4. Hi Linda, this is a very interesting post. I like the interior of Pres.Obama best because of the colours. It is wonderfully light and friendly, offers a nice atmosphere instead of being intimidating like others. Only the carpet could have shown a bit more of a decent pattern and the medaillon in the middle is too prominent for my taste.

  5. Thanks for the post. It is really interesting to look at how the oval office has evolved (devolved?) over time? Although I really think Obama's version is bland, I can at least give him props for putting something other than garish paint on the walls.

  6. Obama's decor is just bland… Maybe you could call it catalog chic? Would have loved for him to use innovative, American design. My fave amongst the former presidents were actually Johnson. I think he should ditch the desk, though, it's fugly.

  7. Just for fun, I would love to see how John Saladino would decorate the Oval Office, but oh, the bill for that renovaton would be staggering. Can you imagine his "Shelter" sofas in the OO? Of course, I don't think Saladino will play along…

  8. Bland is exactly what I thought when I first saw it on TV.

    Michelle Obama's personal dress style is fantastic, its too bad she didn't re-decorate the office instead!

  9. I'm intrigued by what the brief was? I remember Merrill Lynch CEO Thain Spent being hugely criticised for spending $1.22 Million on his office renovation. Maybe it was as simple as I don't want people comparing me to John Thain…. make it innocuous. It reads as bland and I think the tonality of the whole scheme creates that along with those sofa's – they are not doing it for me.

    This room should scream power and statesman. However a word to the wise have you seen Dictators' Homes by Peter York…… so maybe innocuous is the way to go.

  10. I can't be easy decorating the oval office. Every single detail needs to be well thought out and I would imagine everything needs to be made in the US and nothing can be to controversial.

    I actually like the office now the best. Pretty predictable but at least a slightly more modern and updated look.

    Next time — they should hire you!

    Love to you, Mon

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