Cabinet Room

The room in 2008, looking northeast (Architectural Digest)

The President's Conference Room


Recreation of the Bush 2 rug
(Peter Sharkey)

From routine meetings to serious deliberations, the modern Cabinet Room's oval table and leather chairs have provided a stately yet comfortable environment for the president to communicate his priorities and to listen to his Cabinet's opinions and advice.

An oval mahogany conference table, a gift from Richard Nixon in 1970, seats 20. When the Cabinet meets around the table, each Cabinet member is assigned a chair positioned at the table according to the date the department was established. The president occupies the taller chair at the center of the east side of the table and has a call button available to summon a White House steward.

The vice-president sits opposite the president. The Secretary of State, ranking first among the department heads, sits on the president's right. The Secretary of the Treasury, ranking second, sits to the vice-president's right. The Secretary of Defense (third) sits to the president's left, and the Attorney General (fourth) sits to the vice-president's left. The chairs bear brass plates indicating their cabinet position or positions and dates of service. When Cabinet members conclude their terms of service, their cabinet chair is traditionally purchased by the rest of the staff and presented as a gift.

Overlooking the Rose Garden, the Cabinet Room contains likenesses of former presidents and statesmen, the choice reflecting the preferences of the current president. George W Bush has selected marble busts of Washington and Franklin and portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Jefferson, Eisenhower, and Washington as well as a painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

If the walls of the Cabinet Room could speak they would tell of discussions and lively debate over national budgets, the state of the military, domestic and social issues and matters of national security. George W Bush convened a meeting on September 12, 2001 with his national security team in the Cabinet Room, where he declared that freedom and democracy were under attack. Nearly 40 years earlier, John Kennedy held intense discussions in the Cabinet Room during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Cabinet Room is a little over 23 feet wide and 39 feet long, with 18-foot ceilings. There are no second floor rooms above the Cabinet room or Oval Office.


Eagle sconce original to the modern Cabinet Room, re-added in 2006

The Old Cabinet Room

Among his first acts, first President of the United States George Washington persuaded Congress to recognize the Departments of Foreign Affairs (renamed State and given additional powers a few months after its creation), Treasury, and War. The heads of these executive departments would be given the title of "secretary." These became the president's first Cabinet.

For its first hundred years, the Cabinet met in a second floor room of the Residence, usually what is today the Treaty Room. Until 1869, the space occupied by the current Cabinet Room was the White House stables and later part of the conservatories. Included in the 1902 "temporary Executive Office Building" addition was a Cabinet Room directly off Theodore Roosevelt's rectangular Executive Office. It was changed when the West Wing was expanded and made permanant during the Taft administration. It was changed again and moved in the 1934 reconstruction of the West Wing as a meeting room only for the use of the president.


The thing that has changed most over the life of the modern Cabinet Room is the lighting. When he rebuilt the West Wing in 1934, Franklin Roosevelt had simple modern fixtures installed. John Kennedy had the ceiling covered with a bank of modern flourescent lights. Richard Nixon changed that to 19th-century empire style chandeliers inpired by Colonial Williamsburg.

In 2006, George W Bush returned the lighting to the style of the original Roosevelt ceiling fixtures (which were not saved), as well as the original art deco eagle sconces.

More Images

Bush Cabinet in 2007, looking southeast (White House - Eric Draper)

George W Bush meeting with his Cabinet secretaries in 2006, looking north (White House)

George W Bush in 2006, looking east; note the new sconces (White House - Eric Draper)

George W Bush meeting with his Cabinet secretaries in 2006, looking north (White House)

Fireplace detail in the replica Cabinet Room in the Clinton Library (Cordelia Yuan)

Bush 1 era, circa 1990, looking northeast (Bush Library)

Bush 1 era, 1992, looking southeast (NARA)

Reagan era, circa 1985 (removal of bookcases), looking north (Veterans Administration)

Reagan era, circa 1984, looking northeast (niches have been opened and fitted with busts) (NARA - Reagan Library)

Carter era in 1977, looking south (NARA - Carter Library)

Carter era in 1977, looking north (NARA - Carter Library)

Betty Ford, a trained dancer, poses after dancing atop the Cabinet Room table
in the final days of her husband's administration in 1977 (Ford Library - mistakenly flopped)

Ford era in 1975 (chandeliers, sconces, and Nixon table), looking northeast (NARA - Ford Library)

Ford era, 1975, looking northwest (NARA - Ford Library)

Nixon era, looking north, in 1971 after conversion to federal style—
doors close off bookcases, chandelier replaces flourescent light (NARA)

Nixon era in 1969 before conversion, looking north (White House Historical Association)

Vice-President Humbert Humphrey talking with LBJ in 1968, looking west (Johnson Library)

LBJ listening to a tape from son-in-law Charles Robb, stationed in Vietnam in 1968 (NARA - Johnson Library)

LBJ receiving the report of the Warren Commission (including future president Ford) in 1964, looking east

Johnson era, 1966 (note the installation of transom mirrors), looking northwest (NARA)

The final Kennedy Cabinet Room in 1963, by Stephane Boudin (White House Historical Association)

Kennedy Cabinet in 1962, the day after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, looking northwest (Kennedy Library)

Kennedy Cabinet Room in 1962, looking east (NARA)

Cabinet Room in 1960, looking north (Life)

The Eisenhower Cabinet in the room in 1957 (note the installation of flourescent lights, removal of sconces,
and doors closing off the niches, as well as new draperies) (Eisenhower Library)

The Eisenhower Cabinet Room in 1954, looking southeast (Library of Congress)

The Eisenhower Cabinet around 1954, with the mantel painting changed to TR, looking northeast (Eisenhower Library)

The modern Cabinet Room in the Truman era, circa 1950, much as it was when built in 1935, looking north (Truman Library)

The modern Cabinet Room in 1949, looking south, before the Kennedy installation of the half-round transom over the door (NARA)

First meeting of the "War Cabinet" in the modern Cabinet Room in 1941, looking northeast (Library of Congress)

The Roosevelt Cabinet before the extensive renovation of 1934.(Life "Headquarters of Roosevelt & Co." 1937)

The old Cabinet Room around 1926, looking southeast

Calvin Coolidge and Cabinet in the old Cabinet Room in 1925;
note future president Herbert Hoover at far right (Library of Congress)

Warren Harding and Cabinet in the old Cabinet Room in 1921;
note future presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover opposite each other at far right (Library of Congress)

The old Cabinet Room in the expanded West Wing, circa 1920 (Library of Congress)

Old Cabinet Room in the Wilson era, circa 1914 (Library of Congress)

The new Taft Cabinet Room, circa 1911 (Library of Congress)

The Taft Cabinet in the old Cabinet Room, circa 1909

The old Cabinet Room, circa 1906, looking southwest (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

Theodore Roosevelt's Cabinet Room, looking east, circa 1903 (Library of Congress)

Theodore Roosevelt's original Cabinet Room, directly adjoining his non-oval office, circa 1902 (Library of Congress)