Bellangé chairs and sofa

The bergère and a fauteuil (White House Historical Association)

Mr. Monroe's French furniture

Among the oldest and most important pieces of furniture in the White House collection are some the original furniture ordered by President Monroe from Parisian cabinet-maker Pierre-Antoine Bellangé to refurnish the mansion after the fire of 1814.

This suite of 53 pieces consisted of one pier table, two sofas, eighteen fauteuils (open armchairs), two bergères (enclosed arm chairs), eighteen side chairs, four upholstered stools, six footstools, and two screens. The original upholstery was crimson silk with laurel leaves and eagles in two shades of gold. (It wasn't until 1837 that the "elliptical saloon" became the Blue Room).

Much of the furniture was sold off over the years as a way of paying for new furniture. Some of the pieces, including one of the two original bergères, were reacquired during the Kennedys' push to collect original White House furnishings.

During the Kennedy Administration alone, the Bellange chairs (original and copied) were reupholstered three times between 1961 and 1963 (Truman era silk, Scalamandre plain blue, then Tassinari et Chatel eagle medallion silk). The seat furniture was again recovered in 1972 (Nixon), 1985 (Reagan renewal) and then in 1995 for the Clinton refurbishing. But for nearly 28 years the bergère and sofa were upholstered in a way that was non-historical: with a one-piece seat rather than a separate cushion. Around 2001, the bergère was reupholstered in the historical style, with a separate cushion.

White House furnishings overview

More Images

The newly-upholstered bergère, around 2001

The Monroe bergère chair (before reupholstering)

The sofa in the Blue Room in 2006 (Spificwoman13)

The Blue Room, circa 1999 (White House)

The Blue Room in 1995, looking west (White House Historical Association)

The Nixon redesign of the Blue Room in 1975 (White House Historical Association)

The Blue Room, circa 1962 (Kennedy Library)