Washington designed his office to be a comfortable, practical space and gave little attention to decoration. Other than an ornate French desk, he filled the room with simple furniture. There is no record he selected special art for the walls, drapes for the windows, or rugs for the floor. Washington only requested fresh, simple paint for the walls when he moved into the residence. Jefferson’s space, on the other hand, overflowed with plants, books, maps, and specimens from the west. Jefferson’s pet mockingbird also resided in a cage in the corner of the room. This paper will explore in greater detail the contents of each room and will provide images of the reconstructed spaces. This paper also compares how these spaces reflect Washington and Jefferson’s leadership styles and how they used their private offices to shape cabinet deliberations. By analyzing the role of the physical space, this paper brings together a material culture approach with traditional political history and leadership studies.
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