House of Music

Patricia Z.
Patricia Z.

New on the blog! Streaming music! It's the House of Tune's Top 40 42 45!
And all of the songs reference HOUSES!

Little Boxes ... Pete Seeger
Our House ... Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Wouldn't It Be Loverly? ... My Fair Lady
Once in a Lifetime ... The Talking Heads
Soul Kitchen ... X (with Ray Manzarek)
Soul Kitchen ... The Doors
Soul Kichen ... Patti Smith
Frank's Wild Years ... Tom Waits
Home at Last ... Steely Dan
Take the Long Way Home ... Supertramp
Gimme Shelter ... Rolling Stones
Lay, Lady, Lay ... Bob Dylan
Subterranean Homesick Blues ... Bob Dylan
Can't Find My Way Home ... Blind Faith
Houses of the Holy ... Led Zeppelin
House of the Rising Sun ... The Animals
New Orleans is Sinking ... The Tragically Hip
Home ... Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Home ... Marc Broussard
Home ... Three Days Grace
First Train Home ... Imogen Heap
Home ... Stephanie Mills
Who Says You Can't Go Home ... Bon Jovi
There's a Stranger in My House ... Ronnie Milsap
Home By The Sea ... Genesis
Home for a Rest ... Spirit of the West
Safe European Home ... Clash
Our House ... Madness
Palm of Your Hand ... Cake
Brick House ... The Commodores
In My House ... The Mary Jane Girls
When I Get Home ... The Beatles
Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey ... Della Reese
A House is Not a Home ... Luther Vandross
A House is Not a Home ... Tamyra Gray
Rat in mi Kitchen ... UB40
Mirror in the Bathroom ... The English Beat
She Came in through the Bathroom Window ... The Beatles
Get out of My House ... Kate Bush
Sunny Came Home ... Shawn Colvin
Burning Down the House ... The Talking Heads
House Burning Down ... Jimi Hendrix
Three Pistols ... The Tragically Hip
Back Door Man ... Howlin' Wolf
Home on the Range ... Roy Rogers & Gene Autry

If you can think of another good house song you'd like to hear on here, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you ever so.

Oh dear, now we really know I've been goofing off. Hey, whistle whilst you work and all that jazz. Yeah.


castles in the air


This house just isn't good enough and I need to redo the whole thing!

True, I spent a fortune in time and money decorating it five years ago and it looks pretty all right, or at least everyone tells me things like "You have a fine Virginia Home" (even though I live in California) or "But it doesn't look like a trailer" (and the problem is?) or "OMG Can I buy those chairs from you?" (when I just bought them myself?) Okay, so I did okay on it. But it's just not good enough, okay? Okay. I should be satisfied with what I've got and go out and do volunteer work. But dammit it's Just. Not. Good. Enough.

Or maybe Mark Morford can sum this thing up, this urgent insatiable attitude thing, better than I . . .

Why are you so terribly disappointing?

Written by Mark Morford
January 29, 2010

What the hell is wrong with you? Are you really going to wear that? Why aren't you right now cooking me a nice meal and wearing those hot boy shorts you know I love and saying those words you know I want to hear at exactly the moment I like to hear them, to make me feel better about everything, even though I probably won't?

What happened to my bonus? What happened to my job? What happened to my country? Why can't it all go the way it's supposed to go? You mean having a kid won't solve my marriage problems? Why don't these drugs make me feel better? Where's that goddamn waiter with my salad? Have you seen the stupid weather today? Is this really all there is?

These are, from what I can glean, the most important questions of the day, of the month, of modern life itself. Hell, what with the economy and job situation, the housing market and the overall feel and texture of the nation right now, it's no wonder Americans are, by and large, a goddamn miserable bunch. We don't like anything right now. No politician, no decision, no situation, no inhale, no exhale. We are sick to death of all of it, including ourselves.

Can you blame us? Have you seen how many things there are to be disappointed about these days? Love. Sex. Marriage. Stock market. God. Gas mileage. Death. Air travel. 5/9ths of the Supreme Court. It's all just a big goddamn letdown. The list is endless. And getting endlesser.

The evidence is everywhere. I calculate it took about seven minutes, give or take, after Steve Jobs finished introducing the shinypretty iPad before the whiny attacks on the wondergizmo began flooding in, how it didn't have this or that expected feature, how it can't do live video chat, doesn't have Flash, the bezel is too big and it won't double as a meat thermometer, how it doesn't really revolutionize much of anything despite how it's, you know, this gorgeous 1.5-pound slab of aluminum and glass that works flawlessly and can perform roughly one thousand tasks in a more fluid and astonishing way than any device of its kind in history.

Big f--ing deal. We just do not care. It's all a big disappointment. Hey, I was expecting to be blown away. I was expecting miracles and transformations and multiple twitching orgasms on sight. Do not come at me with tantalizing promises only to reveal that you can fulfill most of them to a fairly good degree, and not far exceed all of them in every imaginable way. We're Americans, goddammit. Ye shall know us by the tang of our bitter and untenable jadedness.

Also, global warming? Total effing letdown. Americans are no longer believing in it. Do you know why? Not because the mountains of scientific proof aren't there. Not because it's not happening. But because it's not yet happening to us like they said it would in the movies and those worst-case scenario books. Where are the zombies? The ice forests? Where's the tidal wave crashing over the Himalayas? I want my goddamn apocalypse, and I want it now.

Hey, you annoying gay people? Ditto, to you. All this uproar about rights and gender, all this talk about how gay marriage is now legal in a handful of states, and still the very fabric of whinysad 50-percent divorce rate Christian society has yet to unravel and cause riots and induce all white Midwestern children to spontaneously combust. I mean, WTF? So disappointing.

My God, did you hear that pathetic State of the Union? That guy, that President Obama? Disappointing times a thousand, am I right? What the hell happened to him? Why is he so weak and ineffectual? Why the hell can't he step up and fix the entire planet in under 400 days like he promised he would, in my dreams and fantasies and impossible liberal grass-fed organic tofu greengasms? Doesn't he know I put a goddamn bumper sticker on my Subaru for him? I've never done that for anyone. Bastard.

He's only accomplished what, about 100 of the things I expected him to accomplish by now? Big deal. I have, like, 5,000 more. Health care reform has failed. Guantanamo is still open. Wars are still warring. Jobs are still sucking. Gays are still unhappy because the entire human understanding of love and gender in this nation has not completely transformed within a year. Infuriating!

But the biggest disappointment of all? Turns out one calm n' brilliant Barack Obama isn't enough to solve the problem of 535 vile n' slothful congressional jackals who aren't Barack Obama. Go figure.

Shall we recall just how violently disappointed those fundamentalists were when Bush bumbled off the stage, the single greatest disaster as president we will ever know? They were, of course, mostly disappointed Bush wasn't able to do far more repellant damage than he did. They wanted nothing less than full-scale war on Islam, death to all abortion doctors, creationism in schools, homosexuality banned outright, all you scary women to please stop it with your needy n' terrifying vaginas. You know, the usual.

And now it's the hardcore Dems' turn, in reverse. Obama cannot do enough good, fast enough. He is failing as our personal SuperJesus. Not because he's not accomplishing volumes and making all sorts of history, but because we were expecting total mindblowing revolution. Hey, it's his own fault, right? He's the one that set out one of the most ambitious agendas in presidential history to go along with the million-mile hole he has to dig us out of first. Can you blame us for whining?

But we don't stop there. Not only are we disappointed, we need to express it. Vent it. Hiss it and spit it and hurl it like fistfuls of mental manure at the great wall of hey, screw you.

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama's speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother's cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can't help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.

Maybe this, then, is the ultimate upshot of our endless, self-wrought swirl of sour disappointment, of never having our impossible needs fully met, of constantly being thwarted in our desire to have the world revolve around our exact set of specifications and desires.

Our disappointment begins to curdle, to turn back on itself, poison the heart, turn us nasty and low. It shifts from merely being a national mood or general temperament, into a way of being. A wiring, deep and harmful and permanent. It's all very disappointing, really.

Well, if nothing else, there's always this to be pleased as punch about. Ooo am I gloating? Perhaps a tad. But you have to admit, I did just work all that social and political stuff into a blog on interior decorating.


what makes it modern?

I was admiring this beautiful bath today, analyzing what makes it look modern and how I can acquire the taste. Is it the neutral color scheme? No. Is it the industrial elements? Not necessarily. Is it the uncluttered editing? Partly. *FLASH* All the lines and shapes are rectilinear! Looking around my house I realize that everything I have is in some way curved, chamfered, beveled, softened. What happens to things when they wear down with age? The edges become rounded. Rounded = old? Usually when you see a circle in modern design, it's crisp and clean-edged, un-worn. Is it as simple as that? Really? Who says you can't teach an old, worn down, curvilinear dog new tricks? Bau wow!

Rose Uniacke / Andreas von Einsiedel / Remodelista
Rose Uniacke / Andreas von Einsiedel / Remodelista


something's cooking in the kitchen

Melanie Renn

My redesign has to start in the kitchen because the kitchen is the heart of every home and, in mine, it's also the center of the house, from which all the other rooms radiate. Up until a month ago, we were really seeing red. It looked good but I need a change, so I'm going with the colors I've set in this blog and also in my flickr group - black, white, gray, beige and leafy greens.

By changing the small appliances and decorations first, I can see what it will look like and whether that's where I want to go with it. So far so good. Replacing the little stuff has been bliss and the husband has no complaints because he got a new coffee maker and blender out of it. I asked him today if we could get a new refrigerator and he said NO, rather vociferously. You see, it's good to ask for really expensive things along the way because it conditions them. Later I said, "How about a new hood for the cooktop?" and right away he said, "That I can afford." See? He'll be even happier when I actually get the paint brushes out.

I'm debating colors still. What I have now is dark white trim with warm creamy-beige walls. They're beautiful but if I go a crisper cleaner newer white, I can pull the house into the 21st century and do that new traditional thing with my old traditional (read: expensive) furniture. We'll see. We'll see. Maybe the lower cabinets black? The island is now vivid red with a thick butcher block top. I've got these great steampunk stools that are black iron. The stools will disappear if I paint the island black, so maybe it should go gray. hmmmm

It all starts here.

Melanie Renn

Bryce Stools / Pottery Barn

Extreme Kitchen & Bath, Inc.

 Patric Johansson

Mick De Giulio


Plain English / Remodelista / Doorsixteen


See more:

Nautical Nantucket Kitchen


coming h ♥ m e

I wanted you to know you might not hear from me the next three or four weeks. You see, I've got a house to decorate. For the past five months I've flickred and blogged about interior decorating, all with the intention of getting myself fired up to start on my own house. Now it's time. I have arranged to take a month off from my job to accomplish this. It's not going to be easy because I love being with you here online and I could easily allow myself to remain here. But I feel like I've got a soul to save. My own. I will try to blog what I am doing as I go. I can't promise anything. If blogging gets in the way of my work, the blogging will stop. If it comes to that, then I will see you all toward the end of February. Wish me luck. I have rooms full of furniture to move. Walls, woodwork, cabinets and doors to paint. Windows and upholstery to recover. Colors to change. Rugs to replace. Everything is going into my trusty transmogrifier. This is partly because it's in my blood and I love it. I've been a frustrated decorator since the age of eight. But it's also to purge my spirit of twenty years of unrest. No more! I will make myself a studio to be creative again. I will once more give my house the soul of an artist. I will say to myself what I most want to hear: "I love you just the way you are, please come home."
And she's off-- -

Calvin and Hobbes / Bill Waterson

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Michael S. Smith

Michael S. Smith Selected as White House Decorator

By Lynn Sweet
The Chicago Sun-Times
January 13, 2009

Release from Obama transition office...

The Presidential Transition Office announced details today regarding the selection of a White House decorator- a tradition and customary decision for new First Families.

Michael Smith has been chosen by Michelle Obama to help make The White House residence their home. A native of California, Smith studied interior design at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and continued his studies in London. He returned to California to open a home furnishings store and launched his own design firm in l990. Michael Smith serves on the Board of Trustees for the Otis College of Art and Design. He takes particular pride in his family-focused clientele and approach.

"Laura Bush has been a wonderful steward of The White House and created a beautiful residence for her family. I look forward to adding our own touch to the East Wing and creating a living space where our family feels comfortable, happy and settled. Michael shares my vision for creating a family friendly feel to our new home and incorporating some new perspectives from some of America's greatest artists and designers," said Michelle Obama.

"I am delighted to work with the Obamas as they bring their own energy and style to the residence at The White House," said decorator Michael Smith. "The family's casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home."

Michael S. Smith / Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith / Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith / Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith / Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith / Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith, Inc.

Architectural Digest


Washington Spaces

Apartment Therapy


Coco + Kelley

Elements of Style

Vanity Fair

Annie Leibovitz

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, sit for a family portrait in the Green Room of the White House, September 1, 2009. Official White House Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

New York Magazine : Home Decorating With the Obamas

At a time when people are having trouble holding on to their houses, Barack and Michelle Obama have sensibly decided not to use taxpayers’ money to renovate theirs. New presidents are allotted $100,000 to overhaul the White House residence and the Oval Office, and the Obamas hired Hollywood decorator Michael S. Smith (known, per his site, for mixing “Old World classicism with very contemporary settings”). But the First Couple isn’t spending that money. They “are not using public funds or accepting donations of goods for redecorating their private quarters,” says Camille Johnston, director of communications for the First Lady. Nor is the couple, who reported $4.2 million in household income in 2007 tax returns, using money from the White House Historical Association, a privately funded foundation that paid for a $74,000 set of china shortly before Laura Bush left town.

Michelle Obama Gives Nod to West Coast Decorator

By Terri Sapienza
The Washington Post
January 15, 2009

Michael S. Smith, who was announced Tuesday as the new White House decorator, is a native of California whose style is steeped in European tradition.

Smith was one of three finalists in the designer selection process, according to Katie McCormick Lelyveld, spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. The Obamas selected him to redesign the private quarters, she says, "because he had a similar vision of what they were looking for."

His interiors reflect a well-traveled look that includes the use of fine fabrics and rare antiques and a combination of different time periods, cultures and price points. His designs are known for being comfortable yet sophisticated, classic yet modern, filled with priceless pieces yet inviting and livable.

"He takes classic modern and he makes it usable to people today," says Key Hall, chief executive of the fabric house Cowtan & Tout. "His homes are very inviting and very livable."

Based in Santa Monica, Smith, 44, works on residential and commercial properties around the world. He was named one of Architectural Digest's top 100 designers in 2002 and 2004 and was Elle Decor's designer of the year in 2003. His long list of celebrity clients includes Cindy Crawford, Steven Spielberg, Rupert Murdoch, Dustin Hoffman and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In addition to his interior design business, Smith is involved in a number of commercial ventures, including his furniture and fabric lines called Jasper; a fabric and leather collection with Cowtan & Tout; bath collections with Kohler's Kallista brand; a collection of tile at Ann Sacks; and licensing agreements with Visual Comfort Lighting, the Mansour Modern rug company, Samuel and Sons Passementerie and Agraria Home Fragrances.

Speculation about who would be named White House decorator had been rippling through the design world for weeks. For a time, it was rumored that Chicago designer Nate Berkus, who appears frequently on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," would get the nod. District designer Darryl Carter has also been mentioned. Just recently, and seemingly out of nowhere, Smith began getting attention. Although he has no obvious connection to the Obamas, one theory advanced to explain his choice is that someone from the designer's high-profile client list made an introduction.

With so much design talent in Washington and Chicago, the California designer was an unexpected choice to some. "I was a little surprised, I have to say," says L.A. designer Kathryn Ireland. "But Michael is a good choice, because he does beautiful rooms. His rooms are flawlessly produced, and his eye for detail is exceptional."

But to others, the selection of Smith is not surprising.

"I think there are many qualified people, but he really stands out as being one of the top designers of our time," says Margaret Russell, the editor of Elle Decor magazine. "He's an extremely versatile designer, and he's someone who doesn't inflict his personal style on his clients. He's a good fit. . . . I think he'll help the Obamas make a lovely statement about what change is, while respecting the history of the White House and bringing a fresh look to it."

Warrenton designer Barry Dixon says he has been a big fan of Smith's for years. "He has a really wonderful understanding of the history of aesthetics and decoration and the past, and he designs comfortable, present-day interiors. It's one of his talents among many. . . . He takes serious things, and in his hands they don't appear overly serious, but they are still reverent to our aesthetic history."

Raised in Newport Beach, Smith studied interior design at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and decorative arts at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

He may have won over the Obamas with his experience in family-friendly interiors.

"He works really well with families," Russell says. "I think especially for the Obamas' daughters, it would be a nice thing. I've seen him interact with the children of clients, and he's part of the family."

Smith has already been exploring "a variety of different outlets, kid-friendly everyday retail stores" for the bedrooms of 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, Lelyveld says. "Their primary focus is that when the girls get to their home, that they see their things, and they feel comfortable."

Another plus: Smith shares Michelle Obama's penchant for mixing high and low. She made a practice of wearing designer clothes one evening and a dress from J. Crew or Gap the next. Smith likes mixing rare antiques with custom-made and retail pieces in his interiors. It's a way "of taking the formality and stiffness out of very grand rooms," he says in his latest book, "Houses" (Rizzoli, 2008).

For a home in Santa Barbara that's featured in the book, Smith writes, he bought 200 Indian bedspreads from Urban Outfitters, "chopped them up and put them on the walls and ceiling and used them as curtains and upholstery in the pool house." In the same home, he filled rooms with French, Italian and Indian furnishings.

"One of the secrets of good decorating is not to be afraid to be simple," Smith writes in the book. "Sometimes all you need is a jute rug from Pottery Barn."

Smith and the Obamas might share more than a love of mingling high and low. According to news reports, the first dog will be either a Portuguese water dog or a Labradoodle. Smith has dogs, too. And they just happen to be Labradoodles.

Pete Souza / The White House

March 15, 2009 : The Obama family was introduced to a prospective family dog at a secret greet on a Sunday. After spending about an hour with him, the family decided he was the one. Here, the dog ran alongside the President in an East Wing hallway. The dog returned to his trainer while the Obama’s embarked on their first international trip. I had to keep these photos secret until a few weeks later, when the dog was brought ‘home’ to the White House and introduced to the world as Bo.


Rearrange and Change

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
President Barack Obama's Oval Office at the White House.

Obama's Oval Office gets history makeover

By Johanna Neuman
The Los Angeles Times
January 5, 2010

Given the plight of so many unemployed Americans, President Obama did not want to spend a lot of money on a lavish redecoration of the Oval Office.

But he did want to make it his own. So Obama asked California decorator Michael Smith to work with him to change the look of the Oval Office to better reflect his interests.

Now, the Associated Press has had a tour of the makeover. The changes are striking.

Obama opted to keep the Resolute desk that was a gift in 1880 from Queen Victoria, built from the timbers of the British ship Resolute and used by every president since Rutherford B. Hayes, except Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. And George Washington is still there, at least the likeness painted by Rembrandt Peale, as is the Frederic Remington sculpture "The Bronco Buster."

With history at his back, Obama has a framed program from the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. A bust of King replaced the one of Winston Churchill, returned to the British in what the White House insists, despite some offended sensibilities abroad, was a planned rotation.

Obama apparently has a passion for contemporary Native American art -- four pieces of pottery are now on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian. And it turns out he has a fascination with invention -- three mechanical devices are on the bookshelves, on loan from the National Museum of American History's patent collection: models for Samuel Morse's 1849 telegraph register, John Peer's 1874 gear-cutting machine and Henry Williams' 1877 feathering paddle wheel for steamboats.

In keeping with First Lady Michelle Obama's interest in healthy eating, a bowl of fresh apples sits on the coffee table, though the president apparently keeps a stash of M&Ms for visiting kids (of all ages?).

Gone are President Bush's Texas landscapes. In their place: more traditional Oval Office paintings including Frederick Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain," an Impressionist view of New York's flag-bedecked Fifth Avenue, and Norman Rockwell's colorful "Statue of Liberty."

Also gone: the decorative plates in Bush's Oval Office. Obama said plates just weren't his style.

National Museum of American History
Henry William's 1877 feathering paddle-wheel patent model.

National Museum of American History

Obama Introduces Steampunk Decor to the White House

Slideshow: Inside the Oval Office

People : Healthy Is Happy for the First Family

White House Museum : The Office of the President

Shelter Pop : A New Look for Obama's Oval Office

AP : Obama Making Oval Office His Own

ABC News : Obama "Loves" Bush's Decor in Oval Office

YouTube : President George W Bush - Post Oval Office


First Office

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
Dec. 29, 2009 : President Barack Obama's Oval Office at the White House.

Obama Making Oval Office His Own

Written by Nancy Benac
Photos by Susan Walsh
Published by The Associated Press
January 5, 2010

WASHINGTON — The decorative china plates are long gone. Historic metal gadgets and Native American pottery now stand in their stead. Resting on a bookshelf is a framed program from the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech.

President Barack Obama gradually has made the Oval Office his own.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
President Barack Obama's Oval Office at the White House.

To varying degrees, each president puts his own imprint on this celebrated workspace. Even the smallest change — Obama's penholder, for example — is closely watched for symbolism.

While recent presidents have each done a big overhaul upon taking office, Obama decided against major redecorating. It would have struck a sour note in a time of economic distress. But over his first year in the White House, the office has come to reflect his tastes.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
Obama family photos behind the President's desk.

The table behind Obama's desk is full of family photos — a wedding picture, shots of his girls as toddlers, a picture from the day he announced for president and more — photos that he says remind him "why I'm doing what I'm doing." Out the window, the president can watch daughters Sasha and Malia climb on the playscape erected for them last spring.

There's now a bust of King in the Oval Office, in addition to the March on Washington program that previously hung on Obama's "wall of heroes" in his Senate office.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"This office, I think, reminds you of what's at stake, how many hopes and dreams are placed in what goes on here at the White House," Obama said in a recent television interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Perhaps no room in the White House is more closely associated with the presidency.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A program from the MLK March on Washington is framed on a shelf.

It is where Obama signs letters to the families of fallen soldiers. Where he told his war council of his decision to ship thousands more troops to Afghanistan. Where he receives daily briefings on the security threats facing the nation and on the state of the economy.

California decorator Michael Smith worked with Obama on updating the look of the Oval Office.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
The bookcase to the right of President Obama's desk.

In came four pieces of pottery by contemporary Native American artists, all on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian. Also new to the Obama bookshelves are three mechanical devices on loan from the National Museum of American History's patent collection: models for Samuel Morse's 1849 telegraph register, John Peer's 1874 gear-cutting machine and Henry Williams' 1877 feathering paddlewheel for steamboats.

White House curator William Allman said the patent models fit Obama's personality — his "interest in American history, his interest in technology and his interest in the creative spirit."

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
Native American pottery and historic models from the U.S. Patent Office.

The pottery and gadgets arrived in the Oval Office months after a collection of decorative plates from the Bush years made a quick departure — plates just weren't his style, Obama said.

A big bowl of fresh apples on the coffee table, something of an Obama family tradition, has proved hugely popular with visitors, although the president still keeps m&ms handy for kids.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A bowl of apples greet visitors to the Oval Office.

Obama has set a less formal tone for the Oval Office from his first days as president. When the White House released its first picture of him at work there, Obama was in shirt sleeves. George W. Bush, by contrast, made it a point to be in coat and tie whenever he entered the Oval Office.

As for artwork, the Texas landscapes that dominated the walls in the Bush years were gone with Obama's inauguration. Swapped back in were traditional Oval Office paintings including Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain," an impressionist view of New York's flag-bedecked Fifth Avenue, and Norman Rockwell's colorful "Statue of Liberty."

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
Norman Rockwell's "Statue of Liberty" hangs above "The Bronco Buster" by Frederic Remington.

Deep meaning can be read into small shifts in Oval Office decor.

Some Britons took offense when Winston Churchill's bust was replaced with King's. But the decision to return the Churchill bust to the British — it had been presented by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to Bush on loan — had been made before Obama even arrived.

"It was already scheduled to go back," Allman said.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A gift from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sits on President Obama's desk.

The White House seemed to be trying to make amends when it made a point of reporting that Obama would keep on his desk a wooden penholder that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave him during a March visit. The penholder is crafted from wood taken from the HMS Gannet, the sister ship to the Resolute, a British naval vessel whose wood was used to make the presidential desk.

Even as presidents come and go, many Oval Office features project continuity.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A bronze bust of President Abraham Lincoln.

The marble mantle over the fireplace arrived when William Howard Taft expanded the president's office and first shaped it into an oval in 1909. Other carry-overs from administrations past include a Rembrandt Peale painting of George Washington, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story and a tabletop Frederic Remington sculpture, "The Bronco Buster."

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
A portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale hangs over President Taft's marble mantle.

The Resolute desk has been a favorite of presidents for more than a century. Queen Victoria presented it to President Rutherford B. Hayes.

When a TV crew accidentally knocked over a glass of water on the desk during a June photo session, Obama deadpanned, "It's the Resolution Desk. It's only like 100 years old."

Susan Walsh / AP Photo
President Barack Obama's Oval Office at the White House.


Obama in Office (his office)

Pete Souza / The White House
Jan. 21, 2009 : President Obama walks into the Oval Office for his first full day in office.

On the first anniversary of President Obama's historic inauguration, I thought it would be appropriate to review what he has accomplished in the past year. Okay, I'm not talking about his performance as leader of the free world. No war, no economy, no health care. Nope. What I wanna see is what he's done to redecorate the Oval Office. Yes! (Aside from airing out the sulfur fumes.)

The White House

Pete Souza

Pete Souza / The White House
Jan. 21, 2009 : Briefing before his first meeting as President of the United States.

Pete Souza / The White House
Jan. 28, 2009 : President Obama in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / The White House
June 29, 2009 : Musing over a portrait of Lincoln while awaiting the President of Colombia.

Pete Souza / The White House
Feb. 2, 2009 : White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, "let’s move the sofas back in place." Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now cringe when they see this because it was their responsibility.

Pete Souza / The White House
June 10, 2009 : Studying a map donated to the White House by the National Geographic Society.

Pete Souza / The White House
Sept. 9, 2009 : Going over his health care speech with speechwriter Jon Favreau.

Pete Souza / The White House
Nov. 26, 2009 : Talking with American service men and women on Thanksgiving Day.

Pete Souza / The White House
Feb. 3, 2009 : Taking a phone call in his private study off the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / The White House
Jan. 15, 2010 : Offering assistance to Haitian President René Préval after the earthquake.

Pete Souza / The White House
Aug. 19, 2009 : Sitting behind the Resolute Desk during a conference call with people of faith.

Pete Souza / The White House
June 10, 2009 : An ever-present bowl of apples sits on a table.

Pete Souza / The White House
June 8, 2009 : Grinning during a meeting with Senior Staff.

Pete Souza / The White House
Mar. 25, 2009 : Resting his foot on a football during a meeting.

Pete Souza / The White House
Aug. 4, 2009 : Following his birthday celebration, President Obama jokingly points out cake crumbs that Vice President Joe Biden had dropped on the floor.

Pete Souza / The White House
May 19, 2009 : Standing in the entrance to the Oval Office.

Chuck Kennedy / The White House
May 29, 2009 : Returning from a hamburger run for West Wing staffers and aides.