Master Bedroom

The Master Bedroom in 1992, looking southeast (HABS)

 

Detail of the Reagan Chinese wallpaper (HABS)

The President's Bedroom

Used as a first lady's suite by Jackie Kennedy and other first ladies (the president often slept next door in what is today the Living Room), this room is traditionally the Master Bedroom of the White House and part of the master suite. A small dressing room and bathroom adjoin to the west.

The room has closets in the rounded north wall on either side of the door to the West Sitting Hall, installed as part of the Truman reconstruction (and duplicated in the Private Dining Room). The closet doors are disguised and papered and paneled like the rest of the wall. Another disguised door on the east wall leads to the Living Room.

This room is the "real" Lincoln bedroom. Abraham Lincoln slept here, though not in the Lincoln bed (that was for guests). In Lincoln's day, the north end of the room was partitioned off. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln slept in the bedroom next door (today's Living Room). The Lincoln bed did serve a president in this room at one time, however. President Wilson and second wife Edith used it in what is today the Living Room.

Letter and card from Betty Ford, responding to a letter of encouragement following her breast cancer surgery (John Anderton collection)

 

During the Kennedy time in the White House, Jackie redecorated this room frequently, but always maintained her bed as two twin beds pushed together (JFK liked a very hard mattress for his back).

During the 1980s, this room was papered with antique Chinese wallpaper, chosen by the Reagan family, which featured birds and butterflies frolicking among bamboo shoots. This was replaced by the Clintons with more traditional decor by Kaki Hockersmith and changed again by the second Bushes, but no photos from either era have been released.

Adapted from America's First Families: Chapter 3, A Home Within a Symbol:

Since the 1902 renovation, the southwest suite has remained fixed as the president's bedroom. The Theodore Roosevelts slept in the Lincoln bed; the Tafts put it in storage and used twin mahogany beds. The twin beds were used by Woodrow and Ellen Wilson, who painted the room blue and white; Ellen Wilson died in this room. Wilson's second wife, Edith, brought the Lincoln bed back here for their use. The Hardings banished it and brought in Nellie Taft's twin beds. Here Florence Harding also had a special closet made for her large collection of shoes.

The Coolidges returned the Lincoln bed for their use—and the Hoovers put it in another room and didn't use it. Eleanor Roosevelt and then Bess Truman used it as a sitting room, the former hanging hundreds of framed pictures, the latter painting the walls lavender and gray. Mamie Eisenhower used it as her bedroom, in multiple shades of pink with an enormous pink bed and pink pin-cushioned headboard. [Ike kept the room next door as his room, but used it primarily for naps and when he was "in the doghouse."]

Jackie Kennedy redecorated it in powder blue and white, placing a pastel portrait of her daughter on the wall, with a favorite terra-cotta bust of a child on the mantelpiece. She had double beds pushed together as one, draped by a powder blue tapestry. Since the Fords the room has been shared by the spouses. The Reagans covered the walls in hand-painted Chinese paper with a design of small birds; the Clintons chose similarly patterned floral paper.

More Images

The Master Bedroom in 1992, looking east (note the disguised closet door at left and the disguised door to the living room at right) (HABS)

The Reagan bedroom in 1981, looking south (Architectural Digest)

The Reagan bedroom in 1981, looking southeast (Architectural Digest - Derry Moore)

The Carter bedroom around 1977, looking south (Time)

Betty Ford checking mementoes the day before the inauguration of Jimmy Carter (Associated Press)

Betty Ford in the northeast corner in 1976, with the closet door ajar (NARA - incorrectly identified as the Master Dressing Room)

The Ford's bedroom, with Mamie Eisenhower's padded headboard, in 1974 (Getty Images)

The Ford's bedroom in 1974, looking southwest (Getty Images)

Lady Bird Johnson and her staff in 1969 (Johnson Library)

Lady Bird Johnson in the northeast corner in 1964 (Life - Stan Wayman)

Lady Bird Johnson in the northeast corner in 1964 (Life - Stan Wayman)

The Master Bedroom in 1962, when it was used as Jackie Kennedy's bedroom, looking southeast (Kennedy Library - Architectural Digest)

The Master Bedroom around 1963, looking west (Kennedy Library)

Jackie Kennedy's bed in 1962 (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The Master Bedroom in 1962, when it was used as Jackie Kennedy's bedroom, looking southwest (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The Master Bedroom in 1958, looking south (White House - Robert Knudsen)

The Master Bedroom in 1953, converted to the "Mamie pink" Eisenhower bedroom, looking south (White House Historical Association [NARA] - Abbie Rowe)

Recreation of the Master Bedroom during the Eisenhower era, looking southwest (Backstairs at the White House)

The Master Bedroom in 1952, looking south (Truman Library)

The Master Bedroom in 1952, when it was used as a living room, looking northeast (Truman Library)

The Master Bedroom in 1952, as construction was being completed, looking east;
the men at left are in the president's walk-in closet (Truman Library)

The Master Bedroom under reconstruction in 1951, looking north (Truman Library)

The Master Bedroom in 1948, when it was used as a living room, looking northeast (Truman Library)

The Master Bedroom in 1948, when it was used as a living room, looking southwest (Truman Library)

Eleanor Roosevelt's sitting room around 1941 (Upstairs at the White House)

The Eleanor Roosevelt with her staff sitting room in 1936

The room as Eleanor Roosevelt's sitting room in 1935, with Marion Dickerman, looking north (NARA)

The Coolidge bedroom, circa 1925

Recreation of the room as Mrs. Harding's bedroom, circa 1922 (Backstairs at the White House)

The room as the Taft bedroom, circa 1911 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The room as the Theodore Roosevelt bedroom, circa 1903

The room around 1903

The Harrisons' bedroom in 1893 (Corbis)

The room around 1888 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

Illustration of President Garfield lying in pain, following his gunshot wound in 1881

The room as the Hayes bedroom, circa 1878 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

The room as the Hayes bedroom, circa 1877 (Library of Congress)