WASHINGTON - People taking public tours of the White House now will have to leave a little more room in their schedules.
The White House announced Tuesday that a new room, the nearly 200-year-old Old Family Dining Room, has been added to the route.
And in what's become a tradition, Michelle Obama went downstairs Tuesday to surprise some of the first members of the public to lay eyes on the room, which had never been open for public viewing. It was recently renovated and will be a showcase for 20th century art and design, the White House said.
"At least once a year I try to surprise a tour," Mrs. Obama told one tourist during an approximately half-hour appearance shown on the White House website. She was accompanied by "Today" show correspondent Jenna Bush, the daughter of President George W. Bush, who was scheduled to interview the first lady.
The Old Family Dining Room is a smaller dining room off the State Dining Room on the first floor. It was created by President John Quincy Adams in 1825 as a place for the first family to eat meals, White House curator William Allman wrote on the White House blog.
After the family's dining room was moved upstairs to the private residence, presidents used the Old Family Dining Room for small official meals, including working luncheons with foreign heads of state, Allman said. Obama also has used the room for an annual Passover seder.
Before the renovation, the Old Family Dining Room had sunny yellow walls and drapery and a light-toned rug edged in blue underneath the dining table.
The room now features grey walls and red draperies, along with a wool rug in a pictorial weaving of black, white and grey.
As part of the renovation, four works of American abstract art, a favourite of the Obama family, have been donated to the permanent White House collection to be displayed in the dining room.
The works of art include: "Resurrection," by Alma Thomas, "Early Bloomer," by Robert Rauschenberg and two by Josef Albers, "Study for Homage to the Square" and "Homage to the Square."
A silver tea service from the 1939 World's Fair sits on a sideboard.
The renovation was a joint effort by Mrs. Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. It was paid for by a donation from the White House Historical Association.
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White House curator's blog post: http://1.usa.gov/1uApLJF