I continue to receive emails regarding the Old Family Dining Room at the White House and its new look, so here is some more information on this historic room and its recent renovation. In 1825, John Quincy Adams wanted the First Family to have a place to take their meals. Located just off the State Dining Room, the room is smaller in scale (about 28 feet by 25 feet) than the State Dining Room and gives a more intimate option for the First Family. It has had many uses over the years from a simple dining room for the First Family, small formal dinners, working lunches, to entertaining foreign heads of state. It has even been used for staging and overflow for large-scale events. It was often referred to as the “Breakfast Room” until 1961 when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy moved the family’s dining room into the family’s private quarters upstairs.
Mrs. Obama, with funding from the White House Historical Association, just gave the room a new, more “modern” look. The room today now features a gray wall color, new gilded medal and glass wall sconces, and new red draperies influenced by the less-formal ones that Mrs. Kennedy installed in 1963. Mrs. Obama also installed four works of American abstract art (favorites of the Obama Family). The works include Resurrection by Alma Thomas (1891-1978); Early Bloomer [Anagram (a Pun)] by Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008); Study for Homage to the Square: Asking by Josef Albers (1888-1976); and Homage to the Square by Josef Albers (1888-1976). A pictorial weaving — Black, White, and Gray by Anni Albers — has been adapted for a wool rug for the room. The Philadelphia bookcase on the south wall of the room has been filled with 20th-century American tableware. And the tea service from the 1939 World’s Fair has been placed on the sideboard.
The First Lady with the design help of Michael S. Smith of Los Angeles had already created a more modern feel to match the Obama’s taste in both the Oval Office and the private residence of the White House. Now however with the new finished design of the Old Family Dining Room (the first room she has refurbished on the State Floor) Mrs. Obama completed the first major project that will leave her mark on the People’s House for many years to come. “It is my pleasure to help pull back the curtain on this special part of the White House,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, now that this room has been added to the public tours of the White House. “Today and moving forward, the Old Family Dining room will reflect the history of our former First Families and represent the legacy and impact of modern American artists.”
The Room as it appeared in 1952 during the Truman Administration.
The room re-decorated by the Kennedy Administration in 1963, initiating a yellow color scheme for which the room has since become known.
A working meal in 2006 during the Bush administration. Clockwise from left, President Karzai of Afganistan, Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Musharraf of Pakistan.
First Lady Laura Bush unveiling to the press new White House china as well as the new rug seen here in the Old Family Dining Room, January 2009.
The Old Family Dining Room prior to Mrs. Obama’s renovations.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
A simple plate of cheese, crackers and carrots is set for the table setting of the meeting of closed, off-the-record lunch with President Barack Obama and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in the President’s Private Dining Room, March 10, 2009.