I loved my time at the University of Oklahoma. A big part of that was being involved in the Alpha Chi chapter there.
The house has undergone not only an exterior renovation since I was there, but an interior one as well. In my defense, that’s not so much a statement about how long ago I was there as much as it as about how old it was when I was there!
I’m sure I have a picture of the old exterior somewhere, but just to give you an idea, it was nicknamed “The Ski Lodge,” because it was a 50’s looking blond flat stone with a flat roof. Not exactly the traditional sorority house one pictures.
Several years ago, the housing corporation of the chapter started a fund raiser to redo the downstairs living room. And it needed it!
To spare you from serious eyeball burn, I’ll limit the ‘before’ pics. The girls were begging for it all to be updated, as you might guess. So I was thrilled to be able to help put a new look together for them. This is the one are of the house where male guests are allowed, & where other students, alums, & parents first get an impression of the house. I wanted it to be a reflection of the spirit & style of its occupants.
I spent some time thinking about how to make the big room, which includes the focal seating area with fireplace right inside the front door, fresh & youthful without being too trendy so that it would not look dated in a 3 or 4 years. Initially I sent these idea boards for housing corp & the girls to see.
Because there was a budget, obviously, I made the initial decision to invest in the upholstered sofas & chairs, which is why I used Lee Industries. Not only are their pieces innovative, stylish, & all made in the US, you can forever order slipcovers for their frames even if the style is no longer in the line. That extends the life of these pieces for many many years. Where I could, I saved money using more price conscious tables & lamps & rugs, with the thought being that when those need replacing, it won’t take a major fund-raising effort.
AX’s national colors are red & green, so I know from experience how sometimes painful it can be to have so much holiday colored clothing that has nothing to do with Christmas. My first thought, & the first request from the girls, was to stay away from those colors in the decorating scheme. It was prevalent in the pieces that had been there for the previous 10 years, as shown in this picture of the fireplace area.
But somewhere in my files I found this picture from a magazine – which one I have no idea. And someone from the housing corp board suggested a little red & green might go a long way in getting donations for the project from sentimental alums. (I don’t know a lot who are sentimental about the red & green, but I can see that there might be some die-hard loyals!)
And that led to the seed for how the entire space would flow. But first, they painted the walls. Can you believe how much fresher & updated it is just going from that yellow/gold paint to this dove white?
I was able to use the red & green more as splashes of color, instead of the primary color scheme of this area. We painted the inside back of the bookshelves gray, to add some depth. And I love how painting the brick made such a big difference in terms of modernizing the space.
I chose the tufted sofas & butterfly wing chairs from Lee to add an air of formality to this space. As I said, it is what you see entering the front doors, so I wanted it to be welcoming yet still be somewhat traditional with a touch of youth. Then the challenge became how to make the rest of the room flow in terms of color & layout but with practicality of use, too!
Immediately to the right of the fireplace area, I used a tulip table with 4 parsons chairs as well as a loveseat. This allows the girls to have a place to study with friends or sorority sisters, but in a structured area. The slipcovers on the chairs, called Pepi Melon, pull in the green from the area next to it, anchored by the green on the loveseat. The Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rug in light brown & white keeps the colors from being too bright & cartoonish.
Continuing in the room is the area that I knew would probably get the most use – the tv sitting area. To balance the floral in the Pepi chairs, I used a graphic on the swivel chairs that is almost an animal print, but fresh in a fabric called Barney Saffron. The sectional is in a peacock velvet blend fabric – durable & forgiving! The pillows & poufs are in a Missoni look print that I had been looking for a place to use called Zola. Again I used a Dash & Albert rug called Cat’s Paw – one of our favorites here at the store. Our Normandy buffet under the tv & La Colina 60″ round wood coffee table with a stain keep the strain of traditional pieces connecting the areas together.
I also added a desk behind one side of the sectional. Being the driven student that I was, I spent a lot of time studying with one eye on the tv, so I wanted to make a space for those kinds of ‘study animals,’ too!
This image, from Atlanta Homes, featuring the gorgeous Arteriors bookshelves, kept enticing me. I love everything about it, especially how inspiring it is as a workspace.
This is my incarnation with a more utilitarian – & affordable! – execution. The budget didn’t allow for the Arteriors bookshelves, so I found this pair. They were originally pretty ugly, frankly, so we painted them gold & added mirror & glass shelves. The fern prints were from a scratch & dent sale, & we re-worked the damaged frames & then repainted them. The blue in the rug transitions from the peacock blue in the sectional, & the white chinoiserie style chairs keep the dark table from feeling too heavy. And in case the girls have a group at this table, they can pull over the stools for more seating.
Here is the before pic of that space. See what I mean about the red & green??
To the right of my Atlanta Homes hack, I created a comfy study area, for reading or a discussion group. On my initial visit to look over the space with a ‘designer’s eye,’ a member was reading alone in a chair, so I took my inspiration from her to create this area. I love the big plaid on these chairs! This fabric, called Seagrass Hay, pulls the green tones back in without being too green. And the shaggy rug I found keeps the youthful feel.
On the path moving right, before you circle around back to the front door, is the piano with the chapter picture of all the active members. I can’t remember what we used to have to gather around this piano to sing – I think we had chapter songs? And it didn’t include any current music of the time, I know!
This view looks back toward the front door. To the right are the doors to the chapter room, & beyond the sliding doors is the fireplace area. I am really happy with the mix of color & pattern, & how it all pulled together. I think the girls are, too!
If you happened to notice that the panels on the windows did not reach the floor, yes, I wrote the wrong numbers on my orders even though I listed the measurements correctly & they came in too short! But that was remedied, & in the scheme of things, if that was the worst thing I did on a project of this scope, then I can live with that! And obviously these are my photographs, not professional ones, so excuse the sometimes poor lighting!
We recovered this built-in bench in the entry, outside the house mom’s room. I was so happy to find a green print that had a little red in it that was actually cute! The chapter crest does actually always make me a little sentimental.
This cute chair sits outside the downstairs restroom coming off the private side door for members.
Directly across from that, to the right of the dining room entry, I used a mirrored console beneath the lily pad plates that have been such a big hit at the store. They can hang in so many configurations, & are a great alternative to a mirror or framed art for the wall. Next to the grandfather clock are pictures of members from the 50’s.
On the other side of the dining room doors, at the foot of the staircase, hangs the ‘house phone.’ Back in the day – the pre-cellphone day – as pledges living in the dorms, we had to do a certain number of hours on ‘phone duty.’ Each room, shared by 2 girls, had its own phone, but if someone didn’t have that number or didn’t answer, they would call the house phone & if you were on duty, it was your responsibility to find that person or take a message & leave it in their mailbox. Woe to you if the message didn’t find it’s way to it’s intended recipient!
It was certainly a labor of love, & such a fun project with a special place in my heart! Thanks to all of my sorority sisters, all the alums (& parents of actives!) who contributed to the fund-raising to make it all possible!
I saw in a recent newsletter that they are ready to take on the dining room redo. Hallelujah!