Nancy Reagan's Lasting Impact on the White House

The former First Lady made the presidential estate what it truly is today.

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With , the country is remembering her work to fund Alzheimer's research and battle drug abuse — as well as her 50-year support of her husband, Ronald Reagan. Along with social and health causes, the First Lady also made an important impact on the country's most famous home: the White House.

Two decades after Jacqueline Kennedy's renovations, the Reagans moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and discovered a state of disrepair. The plumbing and wiring were old-fashioned, the , and the draperies were "falling apart," .

Thanks to the First Lady's careful attention to detail and decidedly good taste, the White House underwent a 1981 renovation that helped restore the residence to its former glory. While the the costly redecoration, she actually secured most the $1 million budget from private donations instead of government funds.

"This house belongs to all Americans," she once told . "And I want it to be something of which they can be proud.''

See some of Nancy Reagan's lasting legacy below.

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Her ultimate goal was to create a real home.
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While the former actress was known for Hollywood glamor, Reagan strove to make the White House a cozier for her husband and two children, Ron and Patti.

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But she still maintained a signature style.
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Working with , Reagan refurnished the First Family Bedroom with , a golden mirror, and marble mantle.

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She included lots of personal pieces.
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The president's study, for example, was filled with family furniture — the couple even dined in there off of tray tables.

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And restored historical artifacts.
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Reagan retrieved warehoused White House antiques, which were refinished and used in other rooms.

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The work focused on the residential areas.
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The First Lady turned her attention to the , like the solarium (pictured), Queens' Bedroom, and Yellow Room.

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Her signature color was a dramatic scarlet.
First Lady Nancy Reagan posing in red room of the White House.  (Photo by Time Life Pictures/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Besides wearing red (it was a definite favorite of hers), Reagan decorated state rooms with the intense shade. Here, she's fittingly photographed in the .

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She even ordered 4,370 pieces of crimson china.
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Ronald Reagan

In the decade since the Johnson service came into use, state dinners had grown so large that presidential china would be mixed to accommodate all of the guests. Reagan chose her signature color for the new set, and while critics condemned the whopping , the entire .

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The Press Room got its current backdrop.
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The most visible change definitely came in the . The Reagans added its quintessential blue curtains and White House seal — proof that their movie set experience paid off. The same decorations remain today, several presidencies later.

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