American royalty, the White House is arguably the most iconic home in the US.
1.5 million visitors tour the White House each year, but they see only a handful of the 140+ ground and mansion areas. It is broken down into three sections, the East Wing where the Emergency Operations Center resides, the West Wing, where the Situation room is, and the Residence, a four-story living space.
In total, the White House has 132 rooms, including 16 family-guest rooms, 1 main kitchen, 1 diet kitchen, 1 family kitchen, and 35 bathrooms totaling approximately 55,000 sq.ft. It also features 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplace mantels, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.
During the War of 1812, the White House was completely demolished by fire with most of the valuables being ransacked by British troops, leaving only the exterior walls standing. President Madison hired architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Hoban to lead the charge on the rebuilding project. When Teddy Roosevelt came to office in 1902, he decided the White House needed to be expanded and modernized due to overcrowding and an outdated appearance. He selected McKim, Mead & White to remove the Tiffany screen and all Victorian additions and replace everything with a neoclassical style that wasn’t popular with most subsequent Presidents.
Out of respect for the historical value of the house, no substantive architectural changes have been made since, but many have taken turns redecorating and refurbishing to make the residence more in tune with their personal style. Jackie Kennedy, who decorated all the rooms by theme and periods of world history, made some of the most significant changes.
We’re here to give you a quick tour of some of the most interesting interior design features of America’s first family.
The center of the State Floor, the Blue Room is known for its breathtaking view over the South Lawn and oval shape, the perfect area to receive guests. The elliptical saloon was decorated in the French Empire style by President Monroe with its most striking element an early 19th century gilded-wood and glass chandelier encircled with acanthus leaves. Blue satin geometric draperies are hung with a border of gold rosettes that match an equally extravagant carpet. Furnishings are heavily corniced and the ceiling is painted in fresco, adding to the richness of the space.
The President’s formal workspace, the Oval Office has hosted a number of important diplomats, dignitaries and heads of state through the years. Each President has decorated the room to suit his tastes, but the most consistent features that remain include a white marble mantel that’s been there since 1909, two flags, and the famous Presidential seal on the ceiling.
Also known as the “Gold Room,” the Vermeil room serves as a display room and, for formal occasions, a ladies sitting room. More subtle and feminine than most of the other rooms, soft yellow paneled walls accent a collection of vermeil, gold-plated silver, a gift from Margaret Thompson Biddle. The carpet is a Turkish Hereke from around 1860, chosen for its pale green background and gold silk hues. Other prominent accents include early 19th century mahogany pieces like a circular table and a pier table, plus an impressive ten-armed cut-glass chandelier and scroll sofa.
Originally envisioned to be the “Common Dining Room,” the Green Room has served many purposes over the years from lodging to entertaining. Still featuring green water silk-lined fabric chosen by the Kennedys in 1971, draperies of striped beige, green and coral satin adorn the walls of the Presidential Parlor. All the accessories are gilded and ornate including a pair of hand-carved American eagles, a favorite decorative motif of the Federal period.
In a room Lincoln never actually slept in, the Lincoln Bedroom is part of a suite of rooms that hosts overnight guests and political supporters. It has been furnished in Victorian style since the Truman renovation and is rumored to be haunted. Famous furniture includes a commanding 8 by 6’ rosewood bed with canopy, slipper chairs, sofa, and cabinet chairs. Featured prominently on the desk is one of only five holographic copies of the Gettysburg Address. The room was updated in 2004 with an opulent white marble mantel, canopy carved in the shape of a crown, and deep emerald green, yellow and purple draperies.