WASHINGTON - While the president was away on vacation, the Oval Office got a makeover.
Although President Barack Obama made some basic changes when he was sworn in — swapping out china plates for mechanical gadgets and Native American pottery on the bookshelves, and changing some of the art on the walls — the office was largely unaltered from its appearance during the Bush administration.
This morning, ahead of the his address to the nation from the Oval Office, the White House unveiled some more major changes.
One of the most notable is the new rug. President George W. Bush often spoke about how the rug designed by Laura Bush and installed in 2000 was a symbol of his optimistic style of leadership.
At the beginning of the Obama administration, aides said the new president liked the $62,000 rug and had no plans to change it.
Obama's new rug features the White House seal in the center. The main field is a variegated beige. Around the edges, the circular rug features quotes from historical leaders in navy blue, separated from each other by stars. Notably, not all the quotes are by former presidents:
- "No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings." - John F. Kennedy
- "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us." - Teddy Roosevelt
- "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." - Martin Luther King
- "By the people for the people." - Abraham Lincoln
- "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
On either side of the seal on the rug are two new couches. Gone are the formal brocade sofas. They were replaced by more casual — and more comfortable looking — light brown pieces with textured upholstery, skirted bottoms, plump cushions and colorful accent pillows.
And two brown leather arm chairs replaced the striped upholstered wing chairs that are usually the background pieces in bilateral photo ops with world leaders.
There is a new modern coffee table with a tiled stone surface, adorned by a bowl of apples rather than cut flowers. New lamps were placed on the side tables — rectangular turquoise bases with cream shades
There is also new wallpaper — federal style two-toned vertical stripes in shades of beige and gold, replacing the cream colored paint of the Bush years.
But, not everything has changed. The "Resolute Desk," which was made from timbers of the British ship HMS Resolute, is still front and center. It was first used by President John F. Kennedy.
And the works of art that Obama selected when he took office — including Norman Rockwell's "Statue of Liberty" above the Remington bronco buster bronze, Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain (Flag Day)," and a Rembrandt Peale painting of George Washington which hangs over fireplace — have been hung back on the newly covered walls.
Family photos remain scattered on an occasional table behind the desk.
The desk is still flanked by cane-backed arm chairs with red and gold patterned upholstery — but they take on a new look in this Oval Office.
And, in a nod to practicality, there is still a sheet of clear plastic behind the desk for the president's high-backed leather chair to slide on.
In an interview with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie on "The Daily Rundown," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the changes.
Gibbs called it, "a very modest redecoration of the Oval Office," noting that, "each President puts his stamp on the office."
And he was quick to point out, "none of the modest changes done in the Oval Office was done at any taxpayer expense, much as other presidents have done."
New presidents are allotted $100,000 to overhaul the White House residence and the Oval Office, but Obama turned down the budget when he took office. The First Couple used their personal money to overhaul the private living quarters when they moved in.