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A flurry of decoration is a rite of passage for every president seeking to put a personal imprimatur on one of the most high-profile spaces at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And this space was not always oval. Though the original White House design had a few oval rooms, the presidential version was not crafted until 1909, at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt.

At 816 square feet, the current version is about the size of a studio apartment, though this one has 18-foot ceilings.

And before any partisan fingerpointing can commence, the White House made a pre-emptive strike against criticism by noting that both President Clinton and President George W. Bush engaged in “a comparable level of redesign” with funds from their Presidential Inaugural Committees and the White House Historical Association.

This time around, Mr. Obama’s design bills were “in line with the amount spent by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush on the redesigns of their Oval Office,” the White House said.