Presidential Designs: The Decor and Furniture in the Oval Office

Posted In Design - 08/07/2016

Decorating the Oval Office is not that different from decorating an office in your own home. While the shape of the room and nature of the business conducted there make it more complicated and high-profile than your own home office, your home workspace can follow some of the same design principals and approaches.

Recent Presidential Redecorating Approaches

Beginning with the John F. Kennedy administration, it’s been a tradition for the president to redecorate the Oval Office to match his taste. It lets the incoming president show some personality while giving him a workspace he’s comfortable in.

Like many people who might be considering a new look for their homes but may be pressed for time and money, President Barack Obama began with small changes during his first year. He replaced the George W. Bush administration’s plates with pottery made by contemporary Native American artists on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian and decorated with mechanical devices on loan from the National Museum of American History’s patent collection. In the same way, your office decorations should reflect your personality and interests. Obama’s interest in American history, technology and innovation made the décor a perfect match.



The larger overhaul of the Oval Office took place in August 2010. The Obamas replaced Bush’s decorations with new rugs and furniture. When decorating your office, it’s important to pay attention to detail. Décor, as well as placement, can really affect the mood and flow of the room. Compared to other administrations, the Obamas made the Oval Office more casual, giving it a more inviting feeling.

The Oval Office didn’t always have a relaxed look; every president has put his own spin on it. Yet it’s important to keep a room balanced. For example, if you’re looking for a more easy-going feel, find the décor to fit that without making it too informal.

More serious accents or rugs can help balance an office to make it seem less casual or vice versa.

As a fan of gold and glitz, President Donald Trump opted for a more formal look with gold drapes at one end of the room and traditional gold armchairs at the other end by the fire place.  Atop the cream colored rug a pair of traditional cream brocade roll arm sofas, urn shaped table lamps and a three piece set of dark wood tables complete the seating area, while an executive desk and chair, armchairs and accent tables define the work area.

President Joe Biden opted to bring back in the deep blue oval rug as a foundation of the space while replacing wall art and busts set upon traditional accent tables with those of leaders who have inspired him, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Robert F. Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King Jr.  As with many presidents, the deep mahogany console table sitting behind the Resolute Desk showcases an assortment of framed personal family photos. Together these décor elements bring the President inspiration and personal comfort.

Inspiring Your Home Office Design

When you begin designing your home office, think about what you want to display. The functionality of a deskoffice chairbookcasesstorage and extra seating is only one part of the overall picture.  By choosing the right style and pieces, you can showcase your personality. You can use this to your advantage; if you’re creative, show off that side with fun décor and unique artwork. Create a space that gets you excited to work each day, because who says work can’t be fun?


Executive Desk

Selecting a desk that can float in the room (rather than be pushed up against a wall) will go a long way towards setting the tone in your home office.  It is important to find an executive desk that is finished on all sides; some will have decorative panels, a modesty panel or other embellishments on the outward facing side.

Chairs with Aplomb

A high back leather chair or upholstered white executive chair adds to the authority of an executive desk.  Select a chair that will offer ergonomic comfort if you will remain seated for long stretches of time.

Chances are that your home office isn’t as big as the 800 square foot Oval Office in the White House. However, if you have even a portion of that space you can still create a very functional office by selecting arm chairs to flank the back side of your desk to accommodate visitors, or if space permits add a seating area with armchairs and a settee or small sofa to facilitate meetings and discussions.


A Stately Rug

Look for a medallion motif or traditional pattern like Persian style rug to lend and elegant tone to your space.  Blues and golds are popular Oval Office rug colors but other neutral shades can add a distinguished presence to your home office space as well.


Finishing Touches

Just as it is important in the West Wing, you’ll want to be sure the personal details you’ve selected to inspire your work space are showcased to their best advantage.  Add lamps and sconces to light your space, lighting for wall art will show off your selections.  Pillars or small occasional tables spaced along the walls are ideal for displaying sculptures or other 3 dimensional mementos.


If you are looking to add some Presidential panache to your home office, browse historical White House image collections to inspire your design palette.  By pulling together a few key furniture pieces and adorning the room with a splash of personality you’ll find that you can easily add an air of significance to your workspace whether your goal is simply to add small subdued touches or if you prefer to go with a bolder, broad brush interpretation of the Executive Offices.

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