WASHINGTON - The chairs still feel a bit stiff, and the press table wobbles. Even so, folks seem pretty pleased with the $1 million renovation of the Federal Reserve's historic boardroom.
Fed governors are cooing over the sparkling furnishings and fixtures. "It is more than just a renovation," said Janet Yellen, the newest board member. "It is a beautiful face-lift."
And regular visitors, who got their first look during an open board meeting Aug. 23, are delighted. For one thing, the Fed spent $190,000 upgrading the sound system in the cavernous two-story room, which was renowned for its dreadful acoustics.
"Anything that clarifies Fedspeak is a welcome improvement," quipped Richard Whiting, general counsel of Bankers Roundtable.
"The old system wasn't that hot," Fed spokesman Bob Moore conceded. "Now you can hear clear as a bell."
The Fed's seven governors and various staff members meet several times a week in the boardroom, which is in the Fed's Marriner C. Eccles Building. In use since the building went up in 1934, the room hadn't been renovated in 20 years.
The changes are many. For instance, the lighting system was rejiggered so the spotlights no longer shine in the governors' eyes. "It was really very distracting before," Ms. Yellen said.
The Fed also recarpeted, installed a video system that can project slides or computer images onto two screens, restored a U.S. map that dominates the east wall, and put up a display of early versions of U.S. coins.
A major change was the installation of a new board table, which at 11 by 27 feet is finally big enough to accommodate all 19 members of the Federal Open Market Committee, which meets there eight times a year.
The tabletop, made of Honduran mahogany and black granite, weighs two tons. It is supported by three pedestals, two of which were saved from the old table.
And what became of the old tabletop? The Fed, ever mindful of the value of a buck, swapped it for a credit on its new sound system.