Transitioning from Truman
When President Truman left the White House in 1961, furnishings and fabrics were modern style or reproductions of period furniture. As funding decreased in the early 1950s, these pieces were purchased on limited budgets.
When John and Jackie Kennedy arrived in 1961, Jackie, who was brought up to appreciate authentic period furniture and fine art, sought to restore the White House to match its grander and historical heritage, even on a limited budget. To begin, the First Lady redecorated many of the bedrooms with the help of Dorothy Mae “Sister” Parish. She also did more major redesign, including creating a private dining room and family kitchen where the Prince of Wales suite once stood.
Under the Kennedy Administration, the White House became a museum, and the White House Historical Association was created to help accept antique period furniture and to preserve the quality of the home. In addition to furniture, The Kennedys also installed antique wallpapers, including one in the private dining room depicting American Revolutionary War scenes.
Outside, the Rose Garden was redesigned for press conferences, and Joseph P. Kennedy (President Kennedy’s father) commissioned a mural on the swimming pool wall (what is now today’s press conference room).
The White House Today
Most presidents since Kennedy have maintained the historical aspects and furnishings of the home, preferring to keep the home as a “living museum.” There have been refurbishing efforts to help maintain the home as well as some efforts to green the home. In addition, some minor changes have been made:
- The solarium was redecorated under Johnson
- Nixon converted the swimming pool to a press conference room and added a one-lane bowling alley
- An outdoor swimming pool was added under Ford
- The West Bedroom was converted to an exercise room under Reagan
- The Clintons redecorated family rooms and created a music room
- The Bush family redecorated family rooms and renovated the theater
For more information, head to www.whitehousemuseum.org/residence.