The incoming Biden administration isn’t just changing policy: it’s redecorating the White House too. It’s part pageantry, part politics, part personal — like everything about being president.
During Wednesday’s inauguration ceremonies, the 90-person White House facilities staff began moving the Bidens in a process that reportedly took just five hours. While the Bidens planned to move in on 20 January, they reportedly won’t dive all the way into personalising the White House or bringing in an interior decorator.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the new first family from adding a few new touches, and they’ll eventually get more than $1 million to rework one of the most famous buildings on Earth. Here’s what they’ve done so far:
A statue of a civil rights icon
One notable addition is a bust of legendary farm workers’ rights organiser Cesar Chavez installed behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolises the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” Chavez’s son Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, told NBC. “That isn’t just because it honours my dad, but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.
Previously, the statue, by sculptor Paul Saurez, was in La Paz, California, at Cesar Chavez National Monument, and was sent to DC at the request of the White House. Chavez died in 1993.
There are also now busts of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt in the Oval Office.
Removing a highly controversial populist—and a portrait of one
If the White House is the symbol of the presidency, the Oval Office is the heart of the White House, which is why president Trump’s decision to install a portrait of former US president Andrew Jackson was so controversial.
Mr Trump was probably trying to borrow some populist shine from Mr Jackson, who was president between 1829 and 1837 and famously held a raucous inauguration party at the White House, but for many the picture was a reminder of the native American genocide Mr Jackson helped carry out.
Mr Jackson, who owned enslaved people, signed the Indian Removal Act, which led to the deaths of thousands of native people when they were forcibly marched off their lands to allow for white settlement.
Joe Biden chose a different course, replacing him with the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, famous for his witticisms and various roles in the creation of the United States.
New campaign photos (featuring masks)
Joe Biden’s campaign was markedly different from Donald Trump’s for its regular mask-wearing during the pandemic, and that’s shown up in the decor, too, with new photos from the campaign trail of the Bidens wearing their protective gear.
While not exactly decor, the addition of the Bidens’ dogs, adopted German shepherds Champ and Major, will change the look of the place, after the Trumps were the first first family in years not to have a White House pooch.
While there’s no word yet on whether this will happen, some online are urging the Bidens to restore the White House Rose Garden after controversial renovations from former first lady Melania Trump that included ripping out plants and adding new paved walkways.
Golf and gold: Trump’s renovations to the White House
There are few things president Trump loved more than golf and gold, and his White House changes reflected that. They included installing a $50,000, room-size golf simulator, upgrading the White House bowling alley, as well as new wallpaper, extra TVs, gold drapes, and bringing in rugs used in pasts Republican administrations.