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Red Room Art and Furnishings

Furnished in the Empire style of 1810-30, the Red Room contains several pieces of furniture from the New York workshop of the French-born cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier. Benjamin Latrobe's 1803 drawing of the State Floor indicates that the Red Room served as "the President's Antichamber" for the Cabinet Room or President's Library next door. During the Madison Administration the antechamber became the "Yellow Drawing Room" and the scene of Dolley Madison's fashionable Wednesday night receptions. In "that centre of attraction" said a lady who knew her well, one saw "all these whom fashion, fame, beauty, wealth or talents, have render'd celebrated." Descriptions in contemporary accounts and bills of sale indicate that Monroe purchased furnishings for the Red Room, as well as for the present day Blue Room, in the prevailing Empire style. This style suited Monroe's desire to furnish the house in a manner that he considered appropriate to the dignity of the nation. The room has usually served as a parlor or sitting room; recent Presidents have had small dinner parties here.

In 2000 the Red Room was refurbished, preserving the American Empire style chosen in 1962 during the Kennedy Administration. The elegance of the Red Room furniture derives from a combination of richly carved and finished woods in characteristic designs such as dolphins, acanthus leaves, lion's heads, and sphinxes. The furniture displays many motifs similar to those of the French pieces now in the Blue Room. Egyptian motifs were extensively used in French Empire furnishings following Napoleon's 1798-99 campaign in Egypt, and many of these same designs were adopted by cabinetmakers working in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

All the fabrics now in the Red Room were woven in the United States from French Empire designs. The walls are covered by a red twill satin fabric with a gold scroll design in the borders. The furniture, like the American Empire sofa, is upholstered in a silk of the same shade of red. An early 19th-century design inspired the draperies. The carpet--of beige, red and gold--is a reproduction of an early 19th-century French Savonnerie carpet in the White House collection; it was made for the room in 1997. The 36-light French Empire chandelier was fashioned from carved and gilded wood in 1805.

Some of the paintings in the Red Room today are available for viewing.

Blue Room | China Room | Entrance and Cross Halls | Diplomatic Reception Room
East Room | Green Room | Library | Map Room | Red Room
State Dining Room | Vermeil Room

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