President Obama returned home from his family vacation on Martha's Vineyard to a newly redecorated Oval Office, the White House announced today. Like other presidents before him, Mr. Obama has put his own personal stamp on the seat of power, and it's now very taupe. One important element is unchanged: The big wooden bowl of apples, since January of 2009 an iconic presence in the Oval Office, remains in its central position. (Above: The newly chic Oval Office)
But the presidential apple bowl now sits on a new coffee table between two new couches, surrounded by new paint, wallpaper, carpeting and light fixtures. The redesign was overseen by California-based decorator Michael Smith, who also oversaw the redecoration of the Residence. Interestingly, Smith is well known for his design of restaurant interiors in California, but even better known for his high-profile clients, which include celebs, financiers, and business moguls.
Above, the most recent--and last--photo posted to the White House Flickr of the Oval Office's old design scheme shows President Obama on a call, while National Economic Council Director Larry Summers listens in on an extension. Of course, the apple bowl is present. It has appeared in thousands of photos since President Obama's inauguration, a steadfast visual cue that healthy food is a critical issue for the administration.
It's a pretty big statement that a bowl of apples, rather than a floral arrangement, is a central decorative element.
>Apples get pride of place in the White House pastry kitchen, too: The recipe for White House Apple Pie is here.
President Obama's historic Resolute desk remains the same: It's made of timbers from the British frigate the HMS Resolute, and was gifted to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. It's been used during many administrations. The desk chair, however, is new, with caramel leather. It was created in New York state.
The Oval rug...
The biggest change in design is the new oval-shaped rug, which features the Presidential seal and a border that has historic quotes selected by President Obama, from Presidents Kennedy, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Above, a detail of the rug's quote border, in a photo taken on Wednesday, as President Obama welcomed Middle East leaders to the White House for bilateral meetings and a closed-press dinner in advance of peace negotiations for the region. Those are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's white pumps in the photo.
The new wheat, cream and blue rug is made of 25 percent recycled wool, and was produced and donated by the Scott Group, an American carpet manufacturer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan (at left, a detail of the Presidential seal). The border quotes:
“The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
“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 Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Scott Group previously made the Oval Office rug designed for President Bill Clinton as well as rugs for the White House State Dining Room.
The cost, and other details...
A White House statement about the re-design didn't detail the cost of the update, but noted that both President Clinton and President George W. Bush engaged in "a comparable level of redesign’’ with funds from their Presidential Inaugural Committees donated to the White House Historical Association, and added that President Obama's redecoration is "in line with the amount spent" by those Presidents. The bill was paid by cthe same kind of funding source--private donations.
While the couches are new, other furniture has been reupholstered. The two chairs in front of the fireplace that were blue and white striped damask are now caramel-covered leather. The coffee table that bears the apple bowl is made of American walnut and mica, and was created by Roman Thomas, a New York furniture maker. (Above: Family photos sit on a console behind President Obama's desk)
The couches were custom-made in New York, and the fabric, a custom-made light brown cotton with red, white and blue threads running through it, was woven in Pennsylvania.
Two new table lamps that sit on end tables by the couches have blue ceramic bases, and were produced in New York; they were designed by Christopher Spitzmiller. The Oval Office walls were covered with hand-made striped wallpaper produced in Amagansett, N.Y. The trim around the Office was re-painted with American-made Benjamin Moore paint custom-mixed by Donald Kaufman Color. (Above: The new view towards the fireplace, from the President's desk. The ivy atop the mantle is a tradition dating to the Kennedy administration, and the current plants are cultivated from the originals)
The existing furniture that was taken out of the Oval Office will remain the property of the White House and will be placed in a storage facility, according to a White House spokesman.
Related: More White House apple recipes: Healthy Baked Apples is here. Orange Yogurt Cake with Baked Apples is here. All recipes created by Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses.
*Photos from Getty/Reuters pool. Summers photo is by Pete Souza/White House.