The Evolution of the Oval Office Decor, From 1909 to 2021

published Mar 7, 2021
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What differentiates the Oval Offices of past, current, and future presidents? The decor and design choices, of course. Designed by architect Nathan C. Wyeth in 1909 for William Howard Taft, the then 27th president of the United States, the Oval Office serves as the formal office space for the head of state; the room is also where presidents meet with international dignitaries and record important messages addressed to the nation. Given its prestige, it’s customary for presidents to redecorate the Oval Office to better suit their personalities — changing up wallpaper, furniture, and more.

As such, home warranty company American Home Shield looked back at the design evolution of the Oval Office to determine how the last 20 U.S. presidents decorated the room. The company compiled interior images from The White House Museum, The White House Historical Association, and more government sources to create 3D images of the offices — from Taft to President Joe Biden — to determine the most accurate design findings.

The company also created an interactive tool (below, click on the drop down arrows to navigate) to compare the designs side by side.

The team began with Taft’s Oval Office (1909-1913), filled with an emerald green color scheme throughout the walls and oval rug atop the mahogany wood floor. A wooden desk, leather chair, and a few couches make up the fairly minimalist office. The room remains relatively the same with Taft’s successors Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), Warren Harding (1921-1923), and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945). By Harry S. Truman’s term (1945-1953), however, the office transitioned to a blue-green color scheme. Additionally, Truman was the first president to have a rug with the Seal of the President.

Vibrant colors entered the room by John F. Kennedy’s term (1961-1963) with a rich red rug, white sofas and curtains to match, and a green desk chair. Other notable design evolutions include Gerald Ford’s (1974-1977) office, a much more mellow color scheme of yellow, blush blue, and terracotta, and Obama’s (2009-2017) office, the first to feature patterned walls with light-beige striped wallpaper; Obama also opted for softer espresso brown and cream tones. 

Finally, in the current Oval Office of Biden (2021-), the 46th president of the U.S. borrows major design cues from Bill Clinton’s office (1993-2001) with the vibrant royal blue rug and golden yellow drapes. Biden also continued the theme of printed wallpaper and upholstered printed couches to match.

Compare all 20 Oval Offices with the interactive tool above.