A Place to Call Home

After nearly 20 years, the Phi Delta Theta house renovates its interiors

Story by Olivia Dear
Photos by Mary Kathryn Wheatly

Through its 141 years at The University of Mississippi, the Mississippi Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta has seen many changes. The chapter’s latest updates, renovations that occurred over the summer, may be some of the best changes yet.

After the original Phi Delta Theta house burned down in 1996, the current house was rebuilt in 1999. No major renovations had occurred since then. When the chapter decided to enable alcohol-free housing, investing in housing renovations seemed necessary. “We wanted a facelift that would show our brothers, potential new members and alumni that Mississippi Alpha is stronger than ever,” said William Kneip, Chapter Advisor. “These incredible updates by Barbara Michael have done that and much more.”

Interior Designer Barbara Michael led the interior design work for the renovations. Through the close assistance of Phi Delta Theta House Mother, Angela Van Cleave and contractors Hassel Wilkinson and Joel Little, as well as the Chapter Advisory Board and chapter officers, updates were made to the great room floor, the dining room floor and the house mother suite. “All the members are so appreciative, seeing them use this space and having a home away from home really makes what I did for them so rewarding,” said Michael. “They are a wonderful group of men and it’s been a pleasure overseeing this project.”

Michael incorporated many design elements into the renovations and left no detail untouched. The great room’s cathedral ceilings were custom stained. Trophy cases feature new glass-fronted shelves to showcase memorabilia. Wood flooring was added to the living and dining rooms to add a more cohesive look, and can lights made a huge impact with increased lighting. Updated picture frames showcase the chapter’s historic photos. The fraternity crest hangs above the fireplace and incorporates several different materials. Even the official Phi Delta Theta color, Azure Argent, is present throughout Michael’s design.

The enhanced space gives chapter members more room to spend time in. Phi Delta Theta members can be found studying, resting, holding meetings and enjoying each other’s company in the updated rooms, especially in the great room. “The additional seating and beautiful new tables, along with a warm fire, enhance the space and create a cozy, comfortable, at-home feel: a home away from home,” said Van Cleave.

Chapter President Hays Rogers notices how positively the renovations have affected members. Most importantly, Rogers sees the increased use of the facilities by chapter members. These renovations are not just impacting chapter members, either. “Phi Delt has had the opportunity to host university events, such as the Greek Recovery night, thanks to our updated facilities,” he said.

David Bridgers, Chapter Advisor, had a goal for the renovations to be beautiful, but also masculine. “We wanted it to be a comfortable house where they could study and relax, but nice enough that perhaps even our juniors or seniors would want to live there in the future,” said Bridgers. “This was the charge I gave Barbara, and she delivered. As a result, it certainly rivals any fraternity house in the state of Mississippi, and perhaps in the entire SEC.” 


The house’s foyer features updated lighting and wall colors. “It’s a much more open, clean and inviting space for everyone involved in the chapter,” said Kneip.


Chapter members find it easy to focus on schoolwork in the great room, with its seating options and tables. “These tables, matched with the tall ceiling that muffles chatter, make the room an excellent study space,” said Rogers.


Sparky Reardon, a Mississippi Alpha alumnus, had the vision for this crest above the fireplace, and Michael made it happen. “I had Duncan Signs from Tupelo help create this. It was very labor intensive and they used several materials to create this image,” said Michael.


Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was a member of Phi Delta Theta. Armstrong wore his Phi Delt pin as he walked on the moon, and members of the Alpha chapter commemorated this significant event through the creation of a wall mural. In initial discussions of the house’s interior renovations, the Armstrong wall was an element the members expressed they hoped would remain the same. Michael made sure the mural was incorporated into the update of the members’ game room.


Behind the Scenes
Contractors: Hassel Wilkinson and Joel Little
Interior Designer: Barbara Michael
Furniture and Decor: Jones At Home, Duncan Signs, Frame Up, Stouts Carpet and Lavern Galloway
Hardware and Appliances: Elliott Lumber


Olivia Dear is an Ole Miss Alumnus and Mississippi native. Nowadays, you’ll find her in Nashville, Tennessee, but she’ll always call Oxford home. Olivia can be reached at oliviahdear@gmail.com.