The Oval Office is the formal office of the President of the United States, and many Presidents have used it as a workspace as well. Since the Oval Office is so intimately linked with the President, the term is sometimes used to refer to the Presidential administration; a news broadcast, for example, may refer to a “decision from the Oval Office” when they really mean a decision from the President. Many people are familiar with the Oval Office, since it serves as the backdrop for many Presidential speeches to the nation.
As the name suggests, the Oval Office is, in fact, oval in shape. It is located in the Southeast corner of the West Wing of the White House, the official residence and workplace of the President. Just outside the Oval Office lies the Rose Garden, another popular speech and entertainment sight which dates back to 1913. The Oval Office has actually moved through several locations; the current location was established in 1934.
A large bay window lines one side of the Oval Office, filling the office with light and a view of the elegant Rose Garden. One of the doors of the office leads out into the garden, while three other doors lead to the President's private office, a secretary's office, and the main corridor of the West Wing. The Oval Office also has a large fireplace, and by tradition, incoming Presidents decorate the Oval Office to taste.
Some decorations don't change. The Seal of the President, for example, can be found on the ceiling of the Oval Office. The floor is also rarely changed, with Presidents only replacing it when it shows serious signs of wear. Most Presidents also retain the Resolute Desk, a desk presented to the United States by Queen Victoria in 1880. The desk is made from the timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, a British ship which was abandoned and later returned to the United Kingdom as a gesture of goodwill. When the ship was decommissioned, the Queen ordered a desk from its timbers as a gift to President Hayes.
The President of the United States often entertains visitors in the Oval Office, and it serves as a symbolic seat of power where bills are signed, treaties are negotiated, and other serious discussions are had. Many Presidents, along with their families and pets, have been photographed in the Oval Office, along with foreign dignitaries and important political and social figures.