• Mary Evans Seeley

President and Mrs. Kennedy's Red Room Gift Print

Updated: Oct 2, 2018

President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy were the first to showcase the newly decorated Red Room on their gift print, which I later incorporated into a collectible ornament.

Jacqueline Kennedy made extensive renovations to the White House in 1961 and 1962. Mrs. Kennedy was an ardent admirer of French interior design. The Red Room was the first room that she had refurbished.

French designer, Stéphane Boudin purposed cerise silk upholstery wall coverings from the prestigious fabric house, Scalamandré. Sofas once belonging to Dolley Madison, and then Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Nelly Curtis, were donated and placed in the Red Room. Three French Empire armchairs with gilt–bronze frames and a French Empire desk were purchased for the room. A carpet woven in Aubusson, France was donated. To add light to the room, a gilded wood French chandelier, three French Bouillotte table lamps, and a pair of French torchères were purchased. For window treatments, Boudin suggested straight panels of cerise(pinkish-red) silk, suspended from gilded wood rod and rings.

On Valentine's Day, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy invited millions of people into the State Rooms of the White House via CBS television. Weeks in advance of the one-hour special, photographs of the rooms were sent to the press. Barbara Barnes, Home Furnishings Editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin, rejected the photographs and requested that she be able to send Edward H. Lehman, a commercial artist, on assignment to sketch some renderings of the rooms.

On February 9, Lehman's sketches were published in the Philadelphia Bulletin. They immediately caught the attention of Mrs. Kennedy who expressed appreciation of his work and asked to obtain the originals. Explaining that the newspaper sketches were of little value to the First Lady, Lehman returned to the White House and painted watercolors of the Red Room and the Green Room.

The Kennedys were so pleased with the results, they chose the Red Room painting to be reproduced by Hallmark and gift wrapped as the 1962 Christmas gift print for their staff. The 15 x 17 inch keepsakes were mounted in a red folder and bore the facsimile signatures of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

To commemorate the Kennedy's selection of the Red Room for their Christmas gift, I incorporated a likeness of the Kennedy's Red Room on a Christmas ornament in 2018, which you can see in my "Ornaments" section.

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