White House Makeovers: Part 1

by Star Furniture on February 12, 2015

White House Lead In ImageWhen decorating your home, sometimes the best thing to do is take one step at a time. Add some décor here, some artwork there, repaint a few walls, rearrange some furniture, and then one day, your newly redesigned home will be yours to enjoy for years to come.

Now imagine redecorating a home that has: 132 Rooms, 35 Bathrooms, 6 Total Levels, 412 Doors, 147 Windows, 28 Fireplaces, 8 Staircases and 3 Elevators.

That home is called the White House (the official name given to it by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901) and it truly is an impressive structure – a structure steeped in American history and enriched with executive style. A complete home makeover of this size could not possibly happen overnight, nor could only one person be at the helm for such a massive undertaking. So, over time, as new residents moved in, so did their unique decorating styles.

Dolley Madison, (First Lady from 1809-1817) the wife of President James Madison, helped to furnish the newly constructed White House (completed in 1800), although one of her most celebrated accomplishments is saving this classic portrait of George Washington when British Troops set fire to the White House in 1814.The portrait now hangs in the East Room, the largest room, where social events, press conferences and ceremonies are now held.

Abigail Fillmore (First Lady from 1850-1853) Mrs. Fillmore is credited with obtaining funds for a White House Library and spent months selecting materials to fill its shelves. The library was originally in the Yellow Oval Room and was maintained there until 1929 when it was moved to its current location on the ground floor.

“I do not recollect when I had such a mental treat.” – Abigail Fillmore [On selecting the contents of the first presidential library.]

Mary Todd Lincoln (First Lady from 1861-1865) When President Lincoln was elected in 1861, the Executive Mansion did not have one complete set of dishes. At the time, families moved in with their belongings and removed them when they left. Mary Todd Lincoln is believed to be the first First Lady to play an assertive role in choosing china and furnishings that would continue to live in the White House. The rich purple-red color in the this china was invented in France and called “solferino”.

Julia Grant (First Lady from 1869-1877) In an era where elegance ruled, the President and Mrs. Grant entertained guests in an overly decorative fashion. She ordered new rugs and furniture to restore a sense of opulence and grace to the home. The china, with a yellow border and flowers in the center, still remain one of her finest contributions.

Caroline Harrison (First Lady from 1889-1892) Thanks to Mrs. Harrison, the White House has electricity! Okay, it probably would have happened eventually, but she is also responsible for extensive modernizing improvements such as new floors, updated plumbing and additional bathrooms. In 1889, she is credited for raising the first Christmas Tree in the White House, setting the stage for a new and beloved holiday tradition.

Edith Roosevelt – (First Lady from 1901-1909) – Mrs. Roosevelt regarded the White House (by now its official name) as a national treasure and ordered two important displays; one was the hanging of portraits of all the First Ladies on the ground floor, and on display nearby, a large collection of presidential china. (Find cabinets to beautifully display your china collection here.)

Star Furniture China Cabinets

She also redesigned the interior of the mansion by removing a large staircase from the main floor, which allowed for a larger State Dining Room. New china was ordered to serve 120 people, the capacity of the newly designed dining room, and impressive chandeliers along with other furnishings filled the house. (Find Accents and Décor to beautify your home here!)

Star Furniture Accents and Decor

She had all formal rooms redecorated in elegant and classically simple lines and colors, marking a change from the 19th century style of ornate, dark velvets and fringes.

Decorating styles would continue to change as America moved forward into a new era. In honor of the Presidents’ Day Holiday, we’ll continue to celebrate the stylish contributions of our First Ladies in Part II of our series next week!

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