Exploring Window Treatments in the White House
There are 132 rooms and 147 windows in the White House, and, as you can probably imagine, a wide range of window treatments.
Theodore Roosevelt. William McKinley. William Howard Taft. Window treatments. What do these all have in common? Each was a pretty big deal in the early 1900s. McKinley was President of the United States from 1897 to 1901, Teddy Roosevelt from 1901 to 1909, and Taft from 1909 to 1913. Each helped shape this great nation of ours in his own way, and each did so by rolling up his sleeves and putting his nose to the grindstone. Perhaps no man embodied this mentality better than Roosevelt.
"It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things."
It was an age when necessity dictated functionality – when quality of work was more important than public image. However, public image will always play an important role in politics – something Henry Adams noted in his History of the United States. He wrote that Thomas Jefferson had used “incidents of dress, dining protocol, and decoration to give expression to his democratic ideas.” You see, politics is equal parts outward appearance and behind-the-scenes dealings. It turns out, White House windows treatments are just like politics.
White House Draperies
During the early 1900s, draperies ruled home decor. Homes during this time period were often lavishly decorated with hardwoods, intricate wallpaper, ornate chandeliers, and, of course, draperies. And the White House was no different. In fact, politicians even developed a saying – “measuring the drapes.” It refers to a Presidential candidate that is so confident that he has already begun to redesign the White House decor. Yes, draperies were all the rage. They look great and certainly make a statement. But they aren’t overly functional. For the most part, they do little more than enhance outward appearance. Blinds and shades, meanwhile, are needed to handle all of the behind-the-scenes work. In Henry Kissinger’s White House Years, he writes “Almost invariably the blinds were drawn. [President Richard] Nixon liked his working office to convey the atmosphere of a cocoon.” In Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, Robert Stinnett writes “Outside on Pennsylvania Avenue a small crowd had gathered. The White House was ablaze with light. No one inside the mansion thought to pull the window shades…”
Sometimes, blinds and shades even handle the not-so-behind-the-scenes work.
Blinds, Shades and Shutters in the White House
There are 132 rooms and 147 windows in the White House, and, as you can probably imagine, a wide range of window treatments. And these window treatments are constantly changing as each Presidential family looks to put their mark on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and make the White House their home.
- Beautiful Wood Blinds line the downstairs corridor in the White House.
- Today, the First Lady’s office is adorned with Shutters rather than curtains or blinds.
- In Dream House: The White House as an American Home, authors Sam Watters and Ulysses G. Dietz write “The Sky Parlor, which became the Coolidge family sun room, was furnished with bamboo rolling blinds.” The “Sky Parlor,” solarium, or sun room, was added to the White House in the early 20th century by the aforementioned William Howard Taft.