The Family Dining Room is located on the State Floor of the White House, the official residence of the President of the United States. The room is used for smaller, more private meals than those served in the State Dining Room. Today the president uses the Family Dining Room less for family and more for working lunches and small dinners. Family dinners are more often served on the Second Floor in the President's Dining Room.
Soon after construction of the White House a need was seen for a separate private dining room. Thomas Jefferson used the present Green Room as his private dining room. New floor plans made for reconstruction of the White House following its burning by the British in 1814 indicate a State Dining Room in the southwest corner, and a private dining room in the northwest of the State Floor. In the latter half of the 19th century a pantry was added in the northwest corner reducing the size of the private dining room, and use of the term "Family Dining Room" began to replace the name "Private Dining Room."
McKim's neoclassical redesignRenovations by architect Charles Follen McKim during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt architecturally transformed the Family Dining Room. Using White House architect James Hoban's groin vaulted ground floor hall ceilings as a model, McKim installed a similar groin vault ceiling. The surface was articulated with a low relief plaster meander (Greek key) and five-pointed star decoration, and an eagle within a laurel wreath on the east wall above the mantel. McKim commissioned the Boston furniture manufacturer A. H. Davenport and Company to build a somewhat overscaled Federal-style sideboard and china cabinet, and dining table. Reproduction Chippendale-style sidechairs replaced the series of Victorian chairs used in the nineteenth century.
The Truman reconstructionA photograph of the ceiling area taken while the room was being dismantled previous to the Truman reconstruction, shows the simple c. 1818 moulding and several pieces of Victorian era wall paper. Plaster decoration and wood trim was removed from the room with the intention of reinstalling it after the reconstruction. Like much of the salvaged wood and plaster from the house, it was pronounced unusable. McKim's groin vaulted ceiling and plaster decoration was copied, along with the Greek key, stars and large eagle ornament. Most of McKim's Colonial Revival furniture was returned to the room.
Kennedy restoration and later administrationsDuring the Kennedy restoration the room was designed largely by Sister Parish who asked preservation architect Robert Raley, a consulting architect to Henry Francis DuPont's Winterthur Museum, to assess the room. Raley considered the room to be very strong and in keeping with the White House's time of construction. He made two proposals which were followed: the removal of moulding that organized the walls into a series of upper and lower panels; and the lowering of the window height by extending a cornice across the north wall of the room. These changes had the dual effect of unifying the room and giving the vaulted ceiling more presence.
Parish had the walls painted a soft yellow, and yellow silk curtains, tied back twice with ornamental cords and tassels, installed within the frame of the windows. French interior designer Stéphane Boudin had recommended a similar treatment by her in the Yellow Oval Room. A series of mantels and chandeliers were tried, finally resulting in permanent installation of a late Louis XVI green marble mantelpiece with a carved eagle and festoons in white marble. this mantel was acquired for the Yellow Oval Room but proved too small for the scale of that room. Baseboard trim was faux painted to match the green marble of the mantel. A Federal period dining and side chairs have been used since.
Today the room appears little changed since the Kennedy restoration. Yellow silk drapery based on an English Regency pattern have been installed and cover the window frames. They were designed in 1981 by Ted Graber, under First Lady Nancy Reagan's supervision. She also approved new upholstery for the chair and a new carpet for the room. A silver mirror plateau, made in New York by John W. Forbes, c. 1820 sits on the table.
The use of Chiavari chairs became common in the Family Dining Room during the Obama administration.