From NBC's John Yang
The occupant will be changing, but the Oval Office will be staying much the same, for now at least.
Every new president can make changes in the ultimate power office -- new artwork, any of the rugs and desks his predecessor used -- that will be in place for by the time he returns to the White House after being sworn in. But NBC News has learned that Obama has chosen to keep the same desk and rug and much of the same artwork, save the Texas-themed paintings on loan from museums in San Antonio and El Paso.
For current White House officials, the decision to keep the rug -- the presidential seal in the middle of the golden-beige-and-ivory wool rug with sun's rays coming out of it like spokes -- is especially significant because it was designed by Laura Bush with the help of Fort Worth designer Kenneth Blasingame. The edge of the circular rug is adorned with a garland of laurel leaves, a nod to the Mrs. Bush's first name. They see keeping the rug as a goodwill gesture.
The 128-year-old desk is the perhaps one of the most famous of the chief executive's desks, used either in the Oval Office or in the private Residence by every president since Rutherford B. Hayes but three (Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford).
Known as the "Resolute" desk, it's made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a 19th Century British three-masted ship that was abandoned by in the Arctic in 1854 and recovered by an American whaler and returned to Queen Victoria in 1856. When the British Navy retired the ship in 1879, Queen Victoria had a desk make of its timbers and presented it to Hayes.
It's been modified twice since then -- once on the orders of Franklin Roosevelt, who ordered that the kneehole be fitted with a panel with the presidential seal (he did not live to see the work completed) and then, at the request of Ronald Reagan, it was put on a two-inch base to give him more legroom.
The desk was made famous to one generation by the photographs of John Kennedy Jr. peeking out from behind the kneehole panel -- and then to a whole new generation for the role it plays in the plot of the 2007 movie "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets." In the film, the desk has a secret compartment containing clues to the location of a treasure.
President Bush was puzzled by the questions many young Oval Office visitors have had relating to the movie and finally asked aides to explain it to him. It then became part of his spiel when children visited.