McKim creates the Social Room for Theodore Roosevelt
The Vermeil Room was originally a staff work room used for storage and later for the tasks of polishing silver. Theodore Roosevelt's 1902 renovation of the White House by architect Charles Follen McKim reconfigured the use of the house, finishing much of the ground floor for public use. When first furnished for public use the room was termed the Social Room, because it served as a lounge adjacent to a women's rest room. McKim provided the room with late Georgian style cove moldings and panelled wainscot. On the west wall McKim installed a Colonial Revival mantel with paired Tuscan Doric columns and bas-relief medallions with American eagles similar to the one found in the Seal of the President of the United States, the mantel was flanked by a pair of built-in arched cupboards.
The Truman reconstruction of the White House in 1952 replaced the 1815 pine beams installed during the reconstruction of the house after its burning by the British in 1814. President Truman had the ancient beams sawn and installed as paneling in the Vermeil Room, China Room, and Library. The style of wall paneling and bracketed molding installed during the Truman reconstruction were based on a Georgian period model, contemporary with the design of the White House exterior. They were originally left unpainted, showing their grain and knots, a look popular in the 1950's.
Margaret Thompson Biddle's bequest
Margaret Thompson Biddle's collection was significant and ranges from Renaissance to 19th-century French and English pieces. The collection includes work by English Regency silversmith Paul Storr (1771–1844) and French Empire silversmiths Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1843), and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot (1763–1850). First Lady Mamie Eisenhower had the collection displayed in the room's glass enclosed vitrines.
Biddle was the daughter of William Boyce Thompson and the wife of A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr..
Kennedy use and redecorationAt first only displayed in the Vermeil Room in a museum like setting, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on recommendation of her friend Rachel Lambert Mellon began using the collection for the display of flowers and fruit in the rooms on the state floor. During the Kennedy White House restoration, interior designer Stéphane Boudin proposed painting the room in a style used in 17th and 18th century England and Normandy. Boudin had used a similar treatment in the Blue Bedroom at Leeds Castle in Kent, England. Rather than attempting to putty and polish the rough sawn timbers he chose to highlight the porous texture of the paneling. The walls were first rubbed down with wire brushes to bring up the grain and create an "aged" surface. Next a solid coat of off-white paint was applied, and that was followed by a "dragged" coating of blue paint. This was sealed using a bar of wax dabbed in pure dry blue pigment, and finally the surface was lightly distressed to tiny specks of white in the underlying base coat.
The interior of the shelves displaying the vermeil were covered in white velvet. One of two neoclassical caryatid mantels was installed (still in place). White damask drapes were made with blue and off-white fringe trim. A finely patterned blue and white carpet was installed, and a large center table was created with a custom dyed blue velvet cloth not delivered until the Johnson years. A gilded chandelier, making reference to the vermeil collection was installed. The result was a gallery room, not a sitting room. The 1964 White House guide, the White House, shows an architectural cross-section with Boudin's blue Vermeil Room.