WASHINGTON, DC—After four different color schemes, a Tiki phase, and more than three years spent rearranging furniture, President Bush has the Oval Office set up just the way he wants it, the chief executive said in an informal press conference Monday.
"Took long enough," Bush said, lounging on one of the two overstuffed green leather couches he'd ordered from Jennifer Convertibles. "Just getting these couches was a chore—they almost didn't fit through the door. Then, arranging them so I could see the plasma TV while I stretched out was a real pain. Every time I thought I'd got them in a good place, I'd look and see I'd blocked out the Presidential Seal on the carpet. I didn't want to do that unless I had to."
Since 1909, the year the modern Oval Office was constructed, every president has decorated it to express his personal style, traditionally drawing from the collections of art and furnishings available through the National Gallery, the Smithsonian, and the White House itself. However, Bush is the first president to request decorative items from such sources as the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame, Crutchfield, and a local Successories outlet.
"When we first got here, Laura had the office done in peach sage, and putty or something," Bush said, moving a large Texas-shaped ashtray from the glass coffee table and putting his feet up. "She had all this old-lady furniture all over the place. Don't get me wrong, it was nice, but it looked like an Ethan Allen showroom or a waiting room or something. It wasn't a room that made you want to relax."
"Check out that baseball bat over there, the one on top of the subwoofer," Bush said, gesturing to the alcove that once held a Frederick Remington bronze. "Sammy Sosa used that bat in a game a couple years ago. Went three for four."
In remaking the Oval Office, Bush overcame several unique challenges, among them the room's shape. Not only did Bush find it difficult to hang his collection of framed and signed Jimmy Buffett posters, but the built-in bookcases in the walls were too shallow to hold his tape deck. The room's curved walls also made accurate placement of the president's home-theater speakers nearly impossible.
"We'd be in there 'til 1 in the morning, moving the La-Z-Boy over here and the mini-bar over to where the La-Z-Boy was," White House chief of staff Andrew Card said. "Finally, Karl [Rove] remembered this web site that sells beanbag chairs, nice leather and suede ones. That filled the place out nicely. And one day [Vice-President Dick] Cheney showed up with this bearskin rug. It's from an actual bear!"
White House curator William Allman said Bush decorated the Oval Office with almost no input from Allman or his staff.
"Every president since Taft has made the Oval Office his own, thereby adding to the rich history of the White House and to that of America itself," Allman said. "I'm sure President Bush's halogen lamp, rotating CD rack, and six-foot iguana terrarium will be valuable additions to our permanent collection, even if he did have to throw out the desk to make room for everything."
The historic "Resolute" desk, traditionally used by the president, was made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, an abandoned British ship discovered by an American vessel and returned to England as a token of friendship and goodwill. When the ship was retired in 1880, Queen Victoria had the desk made and presented it to President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is currently housed in the living room of Washington, DC body-shop employee Mike Koharski, who found it on the curb outside the White House.