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USC frat house reborn: A modern makeover for Phi Sigma Kappa

Among the biggest changes at Phi Sigma Kappa: A new entry featuring two-story-tall windows, bringing more light into the building. Although fraternity culture often centers on closely guarded secrets, the reborn chapter wanted its house to reflect a new sensibility. Transparency was the key word. “We wanted it to be more welcoming,” junior Elias Bashoura said. “We wanted a new model from what had previously been seen on the Row.” (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Before the remodel: When the design team had its first look at the property, it was in a general state of disrepair. Besides the visible detritus left behind, the team had to contend with mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems that needed to be overhauled and walls that were damaged by water and dry rot. (Mass Architecture)
Another photo taken before the remodel. (Mass Architecture)
Now the fraternity house is clad in redwood slats and gray paint. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Inside, before the remodel ... (Mass Architecture)
... and after. Larger windows let in more natural light. Because durability was a primary concern, the design team replaced worn carpeting with a concrete floor. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
The billiards room, with new paneling. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
In the dining room, another nod to durability: The architecture firm painted signage directly onto the walls to discourage theft. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Simple cedar boards create a nice effect inside the lobby of the remodeled house. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Before the remodel: “Frat like a champ today” in the wood staircase. (Mass Architecture)
The bold crest of Phi Kappa Sigma. (Ricardo DeAratanha)
Mass Architecture equipped bedrooms with built-in metal lofts that can accommodate queen beds. The firm tore off damaged closet doors and installed washable denim curtains instead. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
The design makes the most of the space, promises to be durable and doesn’t block natural light from entering the room. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
If a photo of a bathroom before the remodel makes you crave a big bottle of hand sanitizer, then ... (Mass Architecture)
... perhaps a photo of a new bathroom will alleviate the feeling. With the expectation of hard use and inevitable damage, the team chose vanities from Ikea so replacements would be easily accessible and inexpensive. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Subway tile in a shower. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Back outside, the courtyard carries the hue of USC cardinal red thanks to fume-free, nontoxic, abrasion-proof paint bought from “We call it fraternity-proof,” said Frank Acevedo, the Phi Sigma Kappa alum who helped to guide the fraternity through the renovation. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
New exterior lighting and redwood siding are nods to the building’s midcentury origins. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
In the place of solid walkway walls, railing with more transparency. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Replica of the original lunch bell outside the dining room. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Decorative slots make the pavement more permeable, so rainwater percolates into the ground rather than runs off into the gutter. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
“We want them to understand they’re active participants,” said Acevedo, who added that the house can serve as a model for salvaging an older property. The brothers, meanwhile, expect the renovation to help with recruitment. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
“The house is a reflection of how we carry ourselves,” Bashoura said. “It says this is a place that treats people well and love each other as brothers.”

More design profiles: L.A. homes and gardens (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)