President Joe Biden is now in the White House, and already busy in his new home office—aka the Oval Office. And, as tradition dictates, he’s already refreshed the decor. On Day One, in fact.
As the newest incoming president, Biden has his pick of all kinds of furnishings for the White House as well as artwork and artifacts that can be loaned from various museums and galleries across the nation, or taken out of the White House archives. And if the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that a well-designed work-from-home setup can help keep people focused and inspired—which Biden will no doubt need during the long hours he’ll toil in the Oval Office.
And while former President Donald Trump imparted his own particular tastes on the White House during his four years (think: glittery gold drapes), Biden’s style is a lot more subdued. Here’s a look at how he’s refreshed the Oval Office, and the way his aesthetic might influence other parts of the White House once he’s settled in.
Kept: The Resolute desk
Biden’s very first decision is one of the most important: which desk to use for signing legislation and meeting with various world leaders.
While we editors at realtor.com debated the six choices that every U.S. president ponders and then placed our bets on the C&O desk to win (it was built by a railway company after all, and Biden is a well-known Amtrak aficionado), Biden ultimately selected the old standby, the Resolute desk.
The Resolute is, of course, a worthy choice, also selected by Trump as well as Barack Obama.
But not all is as before. For one, the chair behind the desk is different—Biden opted for a tufted, dark-brown leather seat instead of the reddish-brown CEO style favored by Trump.
Another noteworthy removal? Atop the Resolute once sat a wooden box with a red button, which Trump used to press to summon his caffeine fix, which consisted of Diet Cokes. At least, that’s according to the Associated Press’ 2017 profile of Trump: “With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president.”
Added: A subtler shade of gold
The window dressing behind Biden’s desk has also undergone a makeover. According to the Washington Post, Biden has swapped out the shiny golden drapes on display during Trump’s time for a more muted, darker set that used to hang during the Clinton administration.
Biden’s very traditional decor approach is clearly evident here, though some details may come off to some as a bit fusty and old-fashioned, according to Amy Bly of Great Impressions Home Staging and Interiors.
“I do like the gold drapes with navy trim, just not those sweeping swags,” she says, referring to the swaths of fabric slung over the top of the window for decorative flair. They “may be presidential, [but] instead I’d do a boxed valance,” she adds.
Added: Deep-blue carpeting
Biden also looked to the Clinton days for a carpet, selecting the same royal blue rug with a bright red and yellow tassel design to lay underfoot rather than the sunburst floor covering used by Trump, which was actually designed by former first lady Laura Bush.
“Navy blue and gold are classic colors that convey a regal feeling reflective of the weight of the job at hand,” says Bly. And while this works for the Oval Office, she says it’s a bit too extreme to carry through to their private quarters.
“If this color scheme continues to the private residence, I’d lighten it up a bit with simpler curtains, solid-colored upholstery, and less formal wallpaper,” says Bly.
Added: Many family photos
Biden is clearly a sentimental type, as he has filled the sideboard near his desk with framed photos of his extended family. The fact that these mementos are well within his sights while he toils away on behalf of the nation suggests he’s eager for all the inspiration he can get.
“The idea is to surround yourself with what makes you want to be a better person, whether it’s pictures or memories, to create a space where you feel happy and productive,” says Gina Colucci, marketing director at the Seattle Design Center.
This sideboard also welcomes a bust of Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chavez—a piece shipped specially to the White House to put on display from the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California.
Other busts of significant historical figures have also found a home in Biden’s workspace, including the all-American lineup of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Robert F. Kennedy, and a sculpture of a horse and Apache rider that once belonged to the late senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye.
On the way back to the storage closet? A bust Trump cherished of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Added: Patriotic paintings
To the right of the Resolute desk hangs a flag-themed treasure painting by Childe Hassam in 1917, which was also featured in the Obama and Clinton offices, too.
As for other artwork swaps, a portrait of Andrew Jackson that Trump displayed is out, while paintings of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are in.
Added: Benjamin Franklin—and a moon rock
Biden has expressed a serious interest in science, elevating key people in the field to Cabinet-level positions. Plus, some of his decor choices reflect this theme, such as a portrait of the inventor and scientist Benjamin Franklin right next to his desk.
Another science-themed artifact Biden embraced in his workspace? A moon rock, brought back during America’s last manned mission to the moon in 1972.
According to NASA, astronauts of the Apollo 17 mission had “chipped this sample from a large boulder,” and since then it’s been sitting at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston under the inconspicuous name “Lunar Sample 76015,143.”
At the request of the Biden administration, this rock was loaned to the Oval Office, within a protective case, “in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach,” according to NASA’s website.
Who knows? Maybe moon rocks are the next hot decor trend, not just within the White House but beyond.