Sorority House Design by J. Banks
When designing interior spaces to inspire bright young minds, the approach we take is fresh and sophisticated. When our founder Joni Vanderslice undertook the sorority house design for the interiors of this stately mansion on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, she channeled the brilliant and beautiful energy of the young women she knew would inhabit its spaces.
For the 25,000-square-foot newly constructed educational residence sited on a prominent corner of Sorority Row, she channeled the exuberance she recognized in the members of Delta Gamma. The journey to do so began as the existing two-story house at 800 W. Panhellenic Drive was being demolished to make way for the larger three-story building that would envelope the interiors she designed. Appointed with front and side terraces, the new Delta Gamma House includes thirty-six large sleeping rooms, a central Gathering Room, and a larger Dining/Chapter Room with seating for 200.
Joni and the team at J. Banks set out to achieve a cohesive branded environment with function and flexibility in mind, as the interiors now serve as a backdrop for the young women still earning their education and for the active Alumnae Group, without whom this project would not have been possible. Extensive fundraising efforts and an involved Interior Design Committee with whom we worked ensured that the house became a home-away-from-home for pledges and graduates. In addition to all interior design selections, furniture layouts, and hard surfaces, J. Banks designed many custom elements that make each space adaptable areas to gather and study.
References to this chapter’s “Gator” identity are interwoven throughout to remind visitors they are in a Delta Gamma environment. As you can see in the photos of the interiors we created, which illustrate this post, there are many nods to the organization’s history—in symbols that are monogrammed on chairs, brightly printed on wallcoverings, emblazoned on rugs underfoot, and shining resolutely from artwork. As was the case with this project, each time we begin our planning for any sorority house design, we take into consideration the history of the organization.
Delta Gamma’s birth was on Christmas Day in 1873 when snow-blocked roads made it impossible for three young women at the Lewis School for Girls in Oxford, Mississippi, to return home. On that crystalline day, Anna Boyd Ellington, Mary Comfort Leonard, and Eva Webb Dodd endeavored to create a club of “mutual helpfulness,” the strongest motto underpinning the Delta Gamma point of view. The founders chose the Greek letters Delta and Gamma because these represented their desire to “Do Good.” It remains Delta Gamma’s catchphrase to this day and is a driving force in every action that its members take.
The founders wanted a sisterhood built on a commitment to making the world better through service and a deep appreciation for every individual. With this top of mind, they laid the foundation for a rich legacy built on the sound and tested principals of personal integrity, personal responsibility, and intellectual honesty. Now an international Fraternity with 151 collegiate chapters, over 250,000 members, and more than 220 alumnae groups, Delta Gamma’s sisterhood continues to inspire women through these timeless values. It was the knowledge of their heartfelt commitments that we channeled as we brought a paradoxical mix of soft and vibrant beauty to their sorority house design.
The University of Florida chapter dates back to 1949 when it was installed as one of the first ten sororities at UF. In 1952, Gamma Theta broke ground on the official DG home and became the first permanent sorority house on the university’s Sorority Row. This new house would become a home away from home for generations of Delta Gamma sisters as the chapter continued to grow stronger with each new member class, which is why we strove to create sophisticated interiors to frame all of their activities.
As the sorority’s dictum states, being a Delta Gamma is more than just a collegiate experience; it is the beginning of a relationship that fosters each individual’s growth and always endeavors to represent college women at their best. Within this sisterhood there are incredibly talented, diverse, and accomplished young women, each of whom bring something special to this chapter. Living out their motto “Do Good,” Gamma Theta sisters are eagerly involved in philanthropy, academics, campus leadership, and friendship.
There is a legacy aspect to Delta Gamma that we truly admire: sisterhood lives beyond the memories of each young woman’s college years. It offers experiences that shape their lives and help lead them into a lifetime of fulfilling membership as an alumna. Upon graduation, Delta Gamma sisterhood offers a network of support that enables each alumna to pursue her dreams and goals, while allowing her to give back. Today’s leaders maintain the Delta Gamma Foundation, the first independently established sorority-led philanthropic foundation in the United States. “Service for Sight” has been dedicated to sight conservation since 1936 when a member who was blind—Ruth Billow, Eta-Akron—asked the Fraternity to consider aiding the visually impaired. Since that time, the Foundation has raised millions of dollars to benefit organizations that fit their mission, and members have served thousands of hours helping those living with blindness or other visual impairments.
Before we close this post about this rewarding sorority house design project, we’d like to mention how wonderful it was to work with the architects, TreanorHL, and the contractor Scorpio, who complimented us on the quality we brought to each space. “The interior design, performed by J. Banks Interiors, is a tailored masterpiece from floor to ceiling,” the firm notes. “Custom furniture pieces adorned with the DG logo are tastefully positioned throughout, as well as ornate area rugs reflecting this chapter’s Gator identity. Specialized wallpaper and unique anchor-themed touches throughout the house never let a visitor forget they are in a Delta Gamma Sorority House.” We can’t thank this dynamic firm enough for giving us such a beautiful envelope within which we were able to bring our vision to life!