As the new school year progresses, you may find yourself looking around your chapter house wondering “where did this stuff come from?” If your chapter house is outdated, or just needs a little sprucing up, now may be the best time for a decoration overhaul. Just as the exterior of your house should highlight your letters, invite potential members in, and impress just about everyone, so should the interior of your house represent your fraternity or sorority, your individual chapter, and all of your members. Finding a balance of all these aspects can be difficult and challenging. Throw in trying to keep your house modern and trendy, and you might feel like your drowning in fabric swatches and wall hangings. Fortunately, we’ve provided a few essential tips and tricks of the trade to ensure that your house will be one of the best on the row.
Decorate with Members’ Stuff
Rather than spending thousands of dollars on wall art, frames, and wall hangings, ask your members to lend their own Greek belongings to the house. Some of the best house decorations we’ve seen are intricate family trees, blinged-out sorority paddles, and crazy pictures from fraternity retreats and trips. Since your house should reflect the people who lives there, don’t overlook your best decoration resource: your members. Encourage your members to contribute their paddles, pictures, or letters to the house, or even make picture collages or chapter paddles specifically for house decoration. Of course, these decorations are temporary as your members will take their stuff with them when they graduate, but that’s also one of the perks. Since you’ll have new members living in the house each year, the decoration will constantly change with the residents, making this a great way to ensure your house decorations remain fresh and new.
Use Your Fraternity or Sorority for Inspiration
As your chapter house also represents your respective fraternity or sorority, consider using your organization as inspiration. Plant your sorority flower outside your house, hang a picture of your fraternity founders above your fireplace, or even select furniture in your sorority’s colors. Furthermore, if you’re not sure how to incorporate your fraternity or sorority into your house decorations, ask your chapter adviser or regional adviser. You can even speak with someone from your organization’s national headquarters. Finally, don’t forget to draw inspiration from other chapter houses of your organization. If you visited another house and saw something you liked, use it! And if you’re not sure how to recreate what you saw, ask the other chapter. More times than not, they’ll be more than eager to help in whatever way they can.
Hire an Interior Decorator with Caution
Some chapters choose to hire an interior decorator to decorate the chapter house. This can either work out very well, or very horribly, for the chapter. The downside to interior decorators is that they are expensive, they have specific design ideas, and they normally don’t decorate houses for 50 sorority girls. The upside is that they are professionals, and thus, can give you advice, suggestions, and direction if you don’t know what to do. In any case, if your chapter chooses to hire an interior decorator, we recommend doing so with caution. First, find a decorator that you not only get along with, but someone who’s designs you like. Decorators, just like any other artist, will have examples of the previous work they’ve done. Look at their work before you decide to hire them. Second, be very specific about what you want. Your chapter will have different ideas about trends and color palettes than your interior decorator. Thus, explain in detail what it is you want, and don’t be afraid to say “no” or “we don’t like that” to your decorator. Remember that you are the client, and the client gets what they want. Finally, make sure your decorator is within your budget. This not only means being able to afford your decorator, but also being able to afford what they buy for your house (as the chapter will foot the bill). Be open and honest about your budget with your interior decorator, and, again, don’t be afraid to use your veto power if something is too expensive.
Choose Furniture That Will Last
When we say “furniture that will last”, we’re talking about both the durability of the furniture and the trendiness of the furniture. First, your furniture will be used a lot! There’s not doubt about that, so make sure you buy furniture that can hold up to wear and tear, spills, and the occasional drop when moving. This means furniture with a strong frame and durable fabric such as cotton, linen, or microfiber. Second, provided that your furniture lasts a long time, the design and style of the furniture will also need to withstand the times. This, buy furniture that is classic, contemporary, or somewhat trendy (but not a trend that is quick to disappear). Furniture with clean lines and neutral patterns and colors will remain fashionable much longer than trendy, “in-the-now” furniture. Plus, the members who come after you will be grateful that they don’t have to buy new furniture.
If your chapter really wants to show their trendiness throughout the house, do so in temporary ways. This basically means any house decorations that can be taken down just as quickly as they were put up. For example, if your sorority sisters are really into the hippie, bohemian trend, encourage them to buy wall hangings of “peace and love”, rather than painting peace and love symbols on the walls. Additionally, while your fraternity brothers may love their emo/hardcore rock music, putting up posters of Panic at the Disco is probably better than buying black furniture to match their mood. This way, as the trend fades or those members graduate, your chapter house won’t be stuck in the past.
Don’t Neglect The Outside
Finally, don’t forget about the outside of your chapter house. While the house’s paint may not be up to you, you can always refresh the look of your house by paying attention to the detail. Make sure the plants in front of your house are, well, alive, healthy, and welcoming. If you’re not sure, ask an alum or find an active member with a green thumb and let them go to work. Additionally, make sure the plants in front of your house are kept (trimmed back, pruned in the spring, etc.) and the grass is mowed (you may need to speak with your campus gardening services about the grass). Also, make sure your house letters are clean, not falling off the house, and not hidden by overgrown foliage. Finally, make sure your walkways are clean, clear of any debris or trash, and not dangerous in any way. Although your limber, 19 year old body may be able to dodge the huge crack in the stairs, you don’t want your alumni tripping up the stairs and breaking a hip or cracking a tooth.