by Mimi Montgomery
photographs by Keith Isaacs
Raleigh interior designer Carole Hollowell has designed many houses over the years – some for large families, some small. But creating a home for a sisterhood of 60 presented a new kind of challenge.
Her client, the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, had a tall order: To turn a well-worn onetime fraternity house at N.C. State into a fresh, comfortable showplace for its first-ever chapter at the university. KKG wanted to create a house its inaugural pledge class would be excited to move into come spring semester.
With State’s new Greek Village still in the works, the hunt was on for something the Kappa women could start renting this school year. A previous fraternity house off Western Boulevard had an industrial kitchen, large dining and living rooms, and 30-odd double bedrooms. But unsurprisingly, given its previous life, the house was in need of a strong dose of TLC. It got new floors, a fresh coat of paint, and what Hollowell calls “a good scrub-down.”
Then it was time to design the interiors. “There was zero personality,” she says. The house needed to get some, and it needed to work hard, too. It had to be comfortable but supersized; resilient but pretty. And the budget was tight. Hollowell says she was up to the challenge, taking into consideration its high traffic needs while “making it feel a little more residential.”
Hollowell had previous experience designing furniture showrooms that spanned up to 60,000 square feet, so she wasn’t daunted by the scale. After visiting other sororities at State and UNC-Chapel Hill for inspiration, she sent visual design boards and budget breakdowns to Kappa officials for approval, outlining her plan for a young, colorful house with a touch of sophistication.
The result is stylish and of-the-moment, but also practical. Hollowell is the mother of 15- and 17-year-old daughters, so she knows how young women live and what they need in a home. In the living room, dark colors (like navy velvet) and leather wear well and hide stains; the printed dining room banquette seats and backboards are Teflon-treated for easy wipe-downs. Lounge areas are hang-out ready with comfy sofas, while long tables with lots of seating and whiteboards on the walls are designed for studying. Bright colors, accessories, and colorful art abound.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hollowell says of putting the space together. “It was just so different than anything I’ve ever done.” It’s enough to make anyone nostalgic for the college days. “I’m going to invite myself back there,” she says with a laugh. Can we come, too?