The Post and Courier

Watching HGTV one day last year, Tim Barkley and his daughter were drawn into a new show, “White Room Challenge.”

The premise: Interior designers are presented with clean slates — tark all-white rooms — then charged with using their creative talents to develop fun, unusual and livable expanses.

“The room looked like a warehouse setting,” says Barkley, publisher of Charleston Home + Design Magazine. He recalls thinking, “Hey, this is a great idea.”

A version of the challenge will take place at the magazine-sponsored Charleston Home + Design Show. In its 10th year, the show will take place at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium Jan. 25-27. Admission is free on Friday and $7 a day on the weekend.

The Home + Design show has been held at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium since its inception in 2004. But the city of Charleston-owned civic center is closed while undergoing an extensive renovation.

“In the past, we had some pretty elaborate rooms on display at the Gaillard,” he says. That included the 2011 fest when designers crafted four “man-caves” representing athletes with Charleston-area connections.

When Barkley secured the use of Johnson Hagood, he sought a special program to reflect the change. That’s when he hit on the white room challenge.

“We approached Ethan Allen (home furniture store) in Mount Pleasant,” he says, and the store is providing four designers on staff. The specialists will work on the 10-by-10-foot rooms throughout the week, focusing on different aspects each day such as painting. The rooms will take 12 hours to complete and will be ready by the time the show opens. People can view photos and videos on the show’s Facebook page. Show attendees can vote at the event on their favorite room.

Related to the challenge, the show will be giving away a $10,000 room makeover. Showgoers’ favorite white room challenge designer will be overseeing the five-figure overhaul for the lucky attendee, Barkley says.

While the challenge and room makeover are new, there will be a host of returning hit programs. They include a “speed dating”-like event where showgoers meet with designers for a set time frame, say five minutes, and then switch places to interview another specialist. Attendees also can take advantage of free design consultations with local members of the American Society of Interior Designers’ Carolinas chapter.

Barkley believes Johnson Hagood Stadium, located downtown on Hagood Avenue, will be a proper substitute this year for the George Street auditorium. The football stadium’s covered areas and rooms under the bleachers went through a trial run as site of the sister Custom Home + Remodel Show & Hurricane + Disaster Expo for three days in late August 2012.

The Citadel (stadium) underwent a $42 million renovation a few years ago,” Barkley says. “It’s all new and modern.”

Just as with the August event, the majority of the Home + Design Show will take place in the concourse, he says. The wide walkway is heated and cooled except for an exposed gate on the north end. To be safe, organizers will place a tarp over iron gates and bring in temporary heating, he says.

“I would say we are really going above and beyond so that the public is comfortable with the stadium,” Barkley says.

The magazine publisher is aware that the show will be a harbinger of the local housing market and its recent signs of recovery.

Yet by sponsoring shows in strong and lean real estate years, “We found that thankfully, we are pretty insulated in Charleston,” he says. “Even in the darkest days of the recession, we had some of the best home shows ever.”

It wasn’t without some worries, however. “Between 2008 and 2011, we had a lot of very anxious clients,” Barkley says. The home shows helped at least some of the presenters get through tough spots, he says. One vendor he talked to last year says if it weren’t for attracting customers at the August event, the business wouldn’t have survived through the fall.

At least 2,000-3,000 people, many of them well-to-do homeowners, are expected to visit the show next weekend.

“We always say we are not the biggest show, but everybody (who attends) drives a Mercedes,” he quipped.

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or


Dates: Jan. 25-27.

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Location: Johnson Hagood Stadium at 68 Hagood Ave. in downtown Charleston.

Admission: Free on Friday, otherwise $7 during regular show hours.



• Giveaway of a $10,000 room “makeover” for the home.

• Introduction of “White Room Challenge,” mimicking the show on HGTV, which will showcase the work of four interior designers transforming all-white,10-by-10 foot rooms into chic, livable spaces.


• Free design consultations for homeowners from American Society of Interior Designers professionals.

• Weekend-long silent auction featuring buys on home-related items.

• Three-to-eight minute “speed dating” to find a builder or remodeler.

• Invitation only “An Evening of Kitchens, Baths, + All That Jazz … New Orleans Style!” 7-10 p.m. on Saturday.

Benefiting charities: The Citadel Brigadier Foundation Memorial Fund, The Journey House, and Pet Helpers.

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