The Changing Oval Office
Presidents have traditionally decorated the West Wing to suit their individual needs and reflect their personal tastes. Because of this, the West Wing tends to echo the personality and governing style of the incumbent chief executive. This is seen most dramatically in the president’s formal office at the heart of the West Wing—known today as the Oval Office. The architectural design of this space has mirrored the three major phases of reconstruction, which occurred in 1902, 1909, and 1934.
The physical environment of the West Wing interior today differs from that constructed in 1934. Once there was a large and airy lobby and vestibule that held the press, visitors, and White House staffers waiting for appointments. Generally, the offices were also more spacious. The lobby and vestibule and larger office spaces have been cut up over the years to create a honeycomb of work areas optimized to accommodate the ever growing staff. However, the West Wing comprises more than the formal rooms of the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, and the Roosevelt Room, and a warren of staff spaces. Adjacent to the structure is the Rose Garden, first planted in 1913 and redesigned in 1961, that has been the setting of so many historic events and moments of ceremony.