A Light in the Frattic

by Maggie Shields | 6/26/14 8:33pm

by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

The staircase is narrow, only wide enough for a single person to pass at a time. Each step creaks loudly under your feet as you ascend, and the air gets thicker and hotter with each step. A single door is at the top of the staircase. “Freaks always welcome,” the sign hung on the door promises.

When you walk into Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority’s frattic, it’s hard to say what grabs your attention first. The giant American flag pinned to the wall is eye-catching, but the medicine ball-like object hanging from the ceiling is close competition. A bed sits in the corner, and another across from it has been turned into a lounge area. A closer look reveals an inner room complete with two more beds and a scenic view of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity. A futon and coffee table make the room feel like it was created for the sole purpose of hanging out.

A traditional attic would be a lonely and stuffy home. We’ve seen it before in the high school favorite “Jane Eyre,” in which the lunatic wife of Mr. Rochester is locked away in the attic so as to not be seen or heard. KDE, however, doesn’t seem to take its cues from Gothic literature.

Living in the attic is a desirable opportunity, and there’s often more sisters who want to live there than space can accommodate. While the opportunity to call the frattic home may not be available to every sister, it’s not an exclusive space with a closed-door policy.When she was a new member of the sorority, Regan Roberts ’16 said she liked that the space was accessible to all members, not just its residents.

“Spending more time in the house gives me a better idea about what we’re about,” Roberts said. “When I would visit sophomore year there was always some kind of social thing going on in the frattic. It’s a more intimate space, a very accessible and inviting space.”

This open atmosphere is why the frattic operates as both a residential space, and often a social one. It’s an alternative to nights spent entirely in the basement. If a sister is having an off-night and suddenly loses her god-given gift for throw saves, the scene may journey upstairs to the attic.

Clare Detrick-Yee ’16, who will live in the frattic this fall, said that she chose to live there so she could continue to be social while in season — she’s a fall athlete.

Carly Kuperschmid ’16, a current resident, also said the combination of a social scene with residential life was a strong motivator for wanting to live there. The previous residents hosted new members of the sorority and make the space feel open to all. She said this atmosphere is something she can maintain with her fellow roommates.

The frattic’s open-door policy means that many visitors see it as a haven to avoid leaving the house. On a Friday or Saturday night, the short trip upstairs may seem more appealing than a long trek back to an off campus house. The frattic becomes the place where sisters end the night. Detrick-Yee said that the futons, bean bags and chairs that fill the room mean that stragglers often find their way to the frattic to sleep for the night.

With such a strong social scene happening in the room, the decor is essential, showcasing the personality of the women who live in the room. Some of the decorations carry over term to term: above the entrance to the inner bedroom is a sign that says “I Love Vodka,” and a buoy sits in the corner.

The summer residents of the frattic, however, have added some new touches that have changed the personality of the space. Some of the more interesting pieces are a skateboard, several posters of butts and a camouflage chair from Walmart that they nicknamed “Big Joe.” Draped across a chair is a full body Scooby-Doo costume, a bequest from a former frattic resident.

Kuperschmid’s bed in particular has some flashy decorations including pizza lights and a cheetah-print duvet.

“It’s pretty swag,” she said.

While the social prominence and stylish decor may make the frattic sound ideal, Kuperschmid acknowledged that not all aspects of the summer frattic experience met her expectations. Due to the unfortunate scientific fact that heat rises, the room is often hotter than other parts of the house.

“I didn’t take into consideration the fact that it would be a sauna,” Kuperschmid said.

Despite the summer temperature conditions, the frattic is a fun place to live for many KDE women. Unlike other dormitory rooms that allow more reclusive students to vanish, residents of the frattic mix their social and living spaces together and love the result.

“For a while you see it [KDE] as social first and residential second,” Roberts said. “The frattic is a good way to show that goes hand in hand.”