Whether you’ve participated in Greek life in the South or just appreciate it from afar, it’s hard not to be charmed by a historic mansion-turned-campus-residence. The University of Georgia’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house was recently updated by interior design firm Metal + Petal to maintain the home’s historical integrity, while embracing a more modern aesthetic – and we got a sneak peek inside. Take a look!
Unofficially referred to as “The Wedding Cake House,” the Thomas-Carithers House was built in 1896 by William Winstead Thomas, a businessman, architect, civil engineer, and Athens’ local government member. “It was bought and sold by a couple of other significant Athens families before being purchased by Alpha Gamma Delta in 1939,” explains Abby Evans of Metal + Petal, who spearheaded the project
Metal + Petal has completed interior design projects at several sorority residences throughout Georgia (including several others at the University of Georgia), so it was no surprise when the Alpha Gamma Delta housing officials approached them to modernize their historic mansion. “They would be celebrating Alpha Gamma Delta’s 100-year-long history on campus and wanted to elevate the house as part of that celebration,” says Abby.
“Our focus was on the historic, public spaces in the house, including the foyer, gentleman’s parlor, library, drawing room, study, and solarium,” she explains. “Prior to beginning our work, the spaces were hardly utilized by the girls, and the overall feel when you walked in the door was stale.” Follow along room by room to get a feel for the new design!
“Our main priority was to embrace and celebrate the history and architectural dimension of the home while also making it relatable to the girls living there,” says Abby. “We wanted any changes to be intentional and impactful and looked for areas to create contrast and brightness.” They started with the foyer.
Dressed in rich, custom woodwork and Tiffany stained glass windows, the foyer is the most well-known space in the residence — the spot where friends and family are greeted and a common throughway to other areas of the home.
“When we began, the plaster walls were dulled by drab wallpaper; ornate, heavy fixtures lit the room,” says Abby. “We painted a crisp white over the wallpaper and replaced the bronze, ornate fixtures with transitional brass lighting,” Abby says. “The central chandelier was exchanged for a bright, welcoming lantern, and pendants were replaced with clean-lined brass fixtures with lovely hints of rich, alabaster stone.”
The Drawing Room
Naming one parlor the “Drawing Room,” the Metal + Petal team embraced curves and a feminine color palette. “We made this space the most formal in the house and centered it around the lovely piano, original to the home, that sits in this room,” says Abby.
“We incorporated two large traditional sofas with high backs in a glorious rose-colored velvet for maximal seating. We also curated a unique coffee table centerpiece with pull-up stools as an interesting focal point,” she explains. “One of our favorite elements in this room is the cloud wallpaper in a pearl finish. The metallic sheen brings added reflection to the space and seamlessly carries the eye to the central fixture — a breathtaking cluster of textured glass globes that plays beautifully off the wallpaper’s cloud effect.”
Featuring a clever mix of old and new, each room was transformed into a more practical, functional space for its residents. “[It was] a more traditional palette expressed in modern patterns,” Abby tells us, “a testament to the modern women living in this storied, traditional home.” She goes on to say that the aesthetic focus was bringing vitality, movement, and joy to the house — something she most certainly accomplished. Additionally, she sought exuberant patterns, colors, and energy-lifting pieces to infuse playfulness.
The Gentleman’s Parlor
A space for young men to await their dates, this “Gentleman’s Parlor” is undoubtedly well-loved by the ladies of Alpha Gamma Delta. One of two spaces in the front of the house that function as parlors, it boasts a beautiful fireplace and intricate trim. With help, the space took on a brighter, more elegant feel with masculine touches sprinkled in. “A couple of my favorite nods to its name are the matching houndstooth rugs the conversational layout sits atop,” Abby says.
The design team divided the space into two distinct parts and created back-to-back conversation areas. “We wanted the Gentleman’s Parlor to function as a space suitable for group work,” explains Abby, “so we created two private conversation spaces back to back where the women could gather and work through projects or make plans for their weekend.”
“The hand-painted mural in the study is original to the house and is said to depict Athens at the time the house was built,” Abby tells us of the room’s wall artistry, setting the room’s tone. To avoid removing such an eye-catching Georgia-centric feature, the team created an aesthetic to support the artwork.
“Its existing function was the girls’ television space,” she explains. “The heavy lounge furniture and restrictive layout distracted from the room’s unique magic. We re-assigned it as the study, with a long central table and comfortable chairs for group study, and freshened the space with soft, contrasting patterns on the home’s beautiful window seat. Our favorite features are the whimsical sconces on each wall that illuminate the mural and draw the eye to its unique scenery.”
Flooding the space with natural light and some lighter furniture pieces, the mural is now surrounded by elements that make it stand out even more. “The gorgeous hand-painted mural, fireplace, and bay window in the study were celebrated with a symmetrical communal table layout, where girls could convene for quiet desk work,” Abby says.
The “Small Room”
As with the rest of the house, this room’s renovation incorporated splashes of the sorority’s color palette. “We used the sorority’s symbolic color palette of red, yellow, and green as much as tastefully possible throughout the house,” says Abby. “We wanted the interior to feel owned by the organization without literally monogramming pillows or hanging their crest.”
Located in the back of the house, the solarium was virtually empty before the renovation, but that’s not to say it didn’t have its perks — oversized windows, tons of natural light, and an overall feeling of tranquility. “The bright, narrow space felt casual and slightly utilitarian, making it a hard transition from the rest of the house,” Abby tells us. “We embraced this disjunction by making this space the most joyful in the home.”
“We drenched the walls in bright, happy green and brought character to the noticeably modern floors by painting them with a checkerboard floor pattern,” Abby says of the modernization. “We rehomed the girls’ television in an existing nook and placed it on a playful console with casters to be available whenever they need.” They also lined the windows with cozy chaise sectionals, adding greenery and playful patterns for even more comfort and texture.
Photography by Kaitie Bryant.
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