In celebration of its centennial year, the university of Arkansas’ chapter of Tri Delta enlisted an alumna to give its historic house a fresh new look
When the women of Delta Delta Delta at the University of Arkansas were ready to give their chapter house—an expansive 1931 Tudor-style structure—a new look, they called on Rogers-based designer Melissa Haynes to attend a House Corporation meeting. As a chapter alumna and owner of MH Design, Haynes was eager to see what the committee, which is charged with making regular updates to the décor of the house based on the chapter’s needs, would be discussing. The house had not undergone a full-scale redecoration in several decades, and because of the chapter’s rapid growth, the common spaces were in need of both a new look and a fuctionality update.
“After the initial meeting, I turned to my husband and said, ‘could you imagine me decorating by committee!?’ He reminded me that I had said over and over again that one day I would redecorate the Tri Delta house. I just never imagined that it would happen this soon,” recalls Haynes. She was soon offered the opportunity to infuse the house with her signature sophisticated look, with the stipulation that it be completed in time for the start of fall recruitment in just ten weeks.
“It’s always a challenge to put something together on a tight timeline,” says Haynes. “The amount of help and support we received over those weeks from so many Tri Delta women was truly amazing and appreciated. Pledge classes, alumnae, and House Corp members all pitched in many different ways.”
Aside from the condensed timeline, Haynes’ second challenge came in designing a high-use space that would remain beautiful and functional for years to come. With the chapter now totaling more than 400 active members, the common areas of the house are in constant use. “The redecoration was made possible by a gift to the chapter, and we wanted to do everything we could to make the best use of that investment,” adds Haynes.
The brick exterior of the house is painted celadon green, and Melissa used that color as a starting point for her design. In the foyer, she selected an archival Brunschwig & Fils floral recently reintroduced in shades of blues, greens and golds. The fabric, which she paired with grosgrain ribbon on a skirted tablecloth, brings a vibrant palette to the formerly-dark spaces. “My approach was to give the house a fresh and youthful traditional style while still preserving and celebrating what is—in my mind—a true Southern sorority house,” she says. The palette also seemed to be a natural extension of the sorority’s colors, blue and yellow.
Because the entry of the house is the space first viewed by potential new members during recruitment, Haynes chose a statement-making antelope carpet by Stark for the floor and stair-runner. “Animal print is very on-trend, but the antelope is a classic version, and it’s also ideal for high-traffic areas,” she says. A pair of bergère chairs got a modern update thanks to a coat of white paint on the frames. They were also reupholstered in a coordinating deep blue performance-grade velvet and piped with a contrasting shade of sky blue to create a contemporary outline.
From the entry, the house opens into the formal living and dining spaces. Because the living room is visible from the front door, Haynes wanted to maintain a feeling of upbeat formality. A cheerful blue hue from Benjamin Moore’s line of historic colors covers the walls and a set of reproduction soft-toned Oushak rugs contributes to the traditional feel. A pair of tufted sofas feel modern and are paired with a mirrored coffee table with gilded cabriole legs. Two Louis-XVI-style armchairs are covered in soft green vinyl, which has the appearance of leather. An antique French mirror, new brass-and-glass hurricane lanterns and a set of framed intaglios round out the updated traditional styling of the room’s fireplace.
In a separate sitting area, a slipper sofa by Hickory Chair is flanked by wood-and-mirror end tables and a pair of armchairs. Haynes had the seats and armrests covered in a durable vinyl with more delicate silk stripe on the chair backs. The palette, as well as the combination of wood, mirrored and painted pieces, carries over from room to room creating an air of continuity throughout the receiving area.
In the more casual living space, Haynes envisioned the women gathering to study, hold small group meetings or simply hang out. She added a flat-screen television for marathon reality-TV watching sessions and configured several seating areas to make the room usable for multiple purposes at once. Blue velvet roll-arm sofas feature feminine kick-pleat skirts and grosgrain ribbon trim. The striped ottomans have a Nano-Tex™ finish to protect against stains. Soft beige walls help to create a light, airy feel even though the ceilings of the room are low. A pair of sleek armchairs are covered in a linen-look fabric and trimmed with green ribbon and nailheads. Haynes moved one of the house’s ornate mirrors from the dining room and surrounded it with a collection of small convex mirrors. An existing wood study table, which has been a part of the house for years, was paired with new lattice-back chairs that are painted white.
“The house was already filled with beautiful pieces of furniture, artwork, chandeliers and accessories. With this gift we were able to incorporate those meaningful pieces into a fresh new decor scheme and dramatically change the look and feel of the house,” says Haynes. The redecoration was kept a secret from the active members, who were in for quite the treat on move-in day. “The girls were so excited! There were some shrieks and squeals, and some tears. It was a very heart-felt moment.”
Interior design Melissa Haynes, MH Design, Rogers, (479) 286-2244, melissahaynesdesign.com
Accessories, fabrics, furniture, lighting and rug material—casual living area MH Design, Rogers, (479) 286-2244, melissahaynesdesign.com
Art—hydrangea painting Arden Boyce, Ellen Golden Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 664-7746
Custom framing The Frame Shoppe, Rogers, (479) 636-7781, nwapictureframes.com
Painting Rocky’s Painting, Springdale, (479) 871-0693
Rug construction—casual living area Wentz Custom Rug Co., Springdale, (479) 756-5404, wentzcustomrugco.com
Rugs and runner—entry Tom January Floors, Fayetteville, (479) 521-2422, tomjanuaryfloors.com
Window coverings Nancy Osborn, North Little Rock, (870) 680-2730