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White House: East Room


Probably the most famous room in the White House (at least in my understanding) is the East Room, home to some of the most memorable events in the building's history. The largest room in the house, it was originally refered to as the Public Audience Hall but the name was thought to sound too reminicent of a throne room and so has since been referred to as the more democratic sounding East Room. The room has changed notably from the 19th century. During Grants administration, the room was highly ridiculed as being 'steamboat Gothic', as seen below in 1873. Thanks heavens curators haven't decided to go back to this version of the room!The room's transformation was done most notably by the architectural firm McKim, Meade and White, seen here below in 1904. McKim based the Louis XVI design on the famous Salon de famille at the Chateau de Compiegne, seen below. The details were perhaps slightly less refined due to the limited headroom, but notice the same heirarchy of pilasters and paneled chair rail: a notable inspiration.Later, from 1949-1952, when the room was dismanteled during the remodeling of the white house, the original paneling was damaged and had to be recreated. The picture below shows a detail of the paneling today (ignore the switchplate cover which I thought was a bit hilarious -thats the best they can do?!). The paneling was done in a simpler fashion but is perhaps more elegant to my eye. Certainly, at the least the ceiling is preferable if not the paneling. During the Kennedy administration, Jacqueline Kennedy made her famous bid to save the quality and history of the White House. She hired notable interior designer Stephane Boudin who oversaw a lot of the elegant transformation of the interiors including painting the red marble fireplaces a clean white, seen above (which I wish would be brought back into the room; the Clinton's had the white paint removed). The curtains are of similar fabric to what Boudin chose although with a more complicated valance, done by Mrs. Bush. The gilded valances are original to the McKim renovation of the room.The Aubusson styled carpets were installed by the Clintons to help preserve the wood floors.During the holidays, the central window curtains are opened to display a Creche. In most images I've ever seen, these curtains have been closed for whatever reason -is it the view?In this image from 1920 below, you can see a different window configuration from the McKim renovation which I prefer. I suppose during the Truman administration, when the room was changed and simplified, only the central window made the cut?The beautiful mahogany doors and doorframes, seen below, are original to the room from 1815 when the room was first finished after the burning of the White House. Prior to that it was partitioned into spaces as needed, including Abigail Adams hanging her laundry here! The theme in this years decoration is the peacock, which I think is a lovely color combination with the gold.
Join me tomorrow to see the State Dining Room.


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