The Washington Post
, Washington, DC - September 16, 2004

West Wing Update

By Jura Koncius

A rare opportunity to check out White House decor last week revealed a newly refurbished Cabinet Room in the West Wing, with a makeover that is stately without being stuffy.

For the first time in 22 years, the formal room overlooking the Rose Garden, where presidents traditionally meet with Cabinet members to discuss the pressing business of the nation, was treated to less elaborate caramel-colored window treatments and updated lighting fixtures. An old sea foam green rug, which was installed 35 years ago in the Nixon administration, has been replaced with a red wool design spangled with gold stars and a border of olive branches.

White House curator William Allman led a small group of reporters into the room, still smelling of fresh paint, and pointed out some highlights of the redecoration, which was done under the direction of First Lady Laura Bush and her long-time Fort Worth designer, Ken Blasingame.

"The changes incorporate bits of history as well as a few contemporary influences of the Bushes' taste," says Allman. "Of course, any time you do something over, the space looks fresher and newer."


The red and gold carpet, woven by Edward Fields Inc., of New York, was paid for by funds provided by the White House Historical Association to honor the 100th anniversary of the construction of the West Wing in 2002. The draperies were also paid for by donated funds. The other expenses were met by government funding, according to Allman.

A rich sandstone color (Deauville No. 2607 from Pittsburgh Paints) chosen to replace the light beige set the stage for a bolder look to the room. The creamy brown wool damask from Scalamandre used for the curtains replaces beige draperies that had been set within the four arched windows in the room. Now the curtains are hung in a simpler manner on rings from gray metal rods with gilt finials at either side of the windows.

Two large, traditional-style brass chandeliers over the table were replaced by three hanging bronze lights with tassel finials by Gibson & Gibson Antique Lighting; they are reproductions of fixtures used in the room from 1934 to 1970. Six gold eagle-form sconces originally created for the room in 1934 were brought back in this refurbishment.

The oval Cabinet table with a leather inset top, made by Kittinger in 1970 for Richard Nixon, as well as the leather chairs, whose design is based on Queen Anne-style armchairs in the Council Chamber at Colonial Williamsburg, were unchanged.