WHITE HOUSE

What is Joe Biden changing in the Oval Office makeover?

When President Biden entered the White House on Inauguration Day his team had already changed the decor to better represent the new administration.

What is Joe Biden changing in the Oval Office makeover?
TOM BRENNER REUTERS

When a new President is sworn in there is a whole host of formalities and traditions that are repeated for each new administration. The incomer is sworn in on the steps of the Capitol Building, there is symbolic gift exchange during the congressional luncheon and the predecessor leaves a letter for the new President.

Another important part of the transition process is the redecorating of the Oval Office, the main room where presidential business is conducted and the symbolic centre of power in the White House. While it is rare for there to be any wholesale change the incoming leader can personalise the office as he sees fit, and President Joe Biden’s choices are emblematic of the administration he hopes to lead.

The Washington Post got inside access to the Oval Office and shared some fascinating insight into the seat of power in the United States.

Biden’s office to represent multicultural America

In his Inauguration Day speech Biden pledged to be a President “for all Americans, not just those who voted for me”. He is tasked with the job of reuniting a fractured country and wanted his office to reflect all parts of America.

Ashley Williams, the deputy director of Oval Office operations, said of the design: “It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he is going to be as president.”

Notable changes from the Trump Oval Office are the introduction of busts of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, which now sit either side of the fireplace. Behind the Resolute Desk are busts of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt who were also key figures in the civil rights movement.

Busts of civil rights leader Rosa Parks and President Abraham Lincoln decorate the Oval Office

Two new paintings have also been added with portraits of former president Thomas Jefferson and former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton now sitting side-by-side. The two men famously argued while in office but Biden’s team wanted to illustrate to importance of hearing both sides in a democracy.

New carpet but the curtains remain

While in office Trump opted to retrieve the gold curtains that were used during the Clinton administration from storage and had them hung in the Oval Office. Biden has decided to keep the curtains rather than return to the rich red that he would have seen while serving as Vice President to the Obama administration.

He has however decided to change the iconic oval-shaped rug that fills most of the floor space in the 816-square-foot room. During Trump’s time in office he had a fairly pale rug that was a similar colour to the cream-coloured sofas in the middle of the room. Biden has replaced it with a dark blue carpet which was also used during the Clinton administration.

New rug in the Oval Office was also used during the Clinton administration

Furniture and other interior furnishing are kept in a White House collection when not in use so most of the décor seen in the new-look Oval Office will probably have been used before at some point.

Biden brings his own personal touches to the Oval Office

Although he only moved in last week President Biden has already added a number of personal items to make the highest office in the land feel a bit more homely. On the table in the window, behind Biden’s desk, are a number of photographs of the President’s family.

A bust of Mexican American labor leader Cesar Chavez alongside Biden family photographs

Visible on the ornate table are framed pictures of the President’s late son, Beau Biden, and his mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan. There are also pictures of the First Lady Dr Jill Biden and their three children, alongside other family members, many of whom were present for his inauguration.

Also on that prominent table is a picture of Biden, who is a regular church-goer, during a meeting with Pope Francis. In another nod to Biden’s influences there is also a bust of Cesar Chavez, the prominent labour leader and civil rights activist. Chavez is best-known for his efforts to improve working conditions for low-paid farm labourers.