It's A Mystery: New contest to guess Lowcountry celebrity 'backyard' spotlights 2014 Custom Home + Remodel Show

Backyard Retreats designed this outdoors scene with palmettos flanking a swimming pool deck. The Custom Home + Design Show Aug. 8-10 will include a 1,600 square foot backyard geared to reflect the outside retreat of a Charleston celebrity (Provided).

You've read their novels, heard the ballads, watched them on TV or in the movies. But is that enough - with a few hints - to imagine what's behind celebrities' houses?

Such is the detective-like task awaiting willing patrons at the 10th annual Custom Home + Remodel Show and Hurricane Expo Aug. 8-10 at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium.

"We've always had a special exhibit that focuses on outdoor living in the Lowcountry," says Tim Barkley, publisher of Charleston Home + Design Magazine. The publication sponsors the three-day event Friday-Sunday on the stadium's covered concourse.

"This year it has a twist," he says. "We are building a 1,600-square-foot backyard at the stadium that was inspired by one of five 'mystery celebrities.'"

The famous people with Charleston ties are writers Pat Conroy and Dorothea Benton Frank, actor-comedian Bill Murray, politician and reality TV star Thomas Ravenel and singer Darius Rucker.

There will be clues to identify the celebrity, he says, and show guests are asked to try and come up with the name. "Guess the correct celebrity and you go into a drawing to win a $22,000 backyard makeover" to include pavers, plants, lighting, outdoor furniture, grill and a water feature, he says.

The exhibit's called the Mystery Celebrity Backyard Challenge.

"We never saw ourselves as a typical home show," Barkley says. Organizers try to roll out fresh, snappy ideas that appeal to the public. "We always try to change things up," he says.

This year's celebrity whodunit isn't the first event from Barkley that's involved well known Charlestonians. A few years ago, "We did some celebrity designer rooms at the Charleston Home + Design Show (in January)," he says.

That "rooms of the famous" effort transitioned into the "White Room Challenge" where remodelers turn empty space into plush living places. "This is our first foray to the backyard."

Barkley emphasized that the celebrities aren't involved directly with the exhibit.

DIG Landscape, one of the participating home and remodeling companies, conducted research to whittle down a list of 15 celebrities while poring over Architectural Digest and other sources to review home and remodeling articles on the five stars selected.

The landscaping company will set up the display, while offering clues to assist the sleuthing show-goers.

"It's a great outdoor living experience," he says.

Barkley expects the mystery celebrity challenge to be a fixture in future shows, which will return to Gaillard Auditorium beginning next August. "When you use the word 'mystery' and couple it with 'celebrity,' you have everybody's attention," he says.

While the star-studded backyard puzzler may be the most drama-filled exhibit, the show's fixtures should draw sizable crowds. They include:

- Charleston Hurricane Expo on Friday. It urges "the public to have a plan and to take steps now to prepare for a hurricane." More than 50 emergency agencies and groups have been invited. Kevin Shealy Allstate Insurance has arranged for the Allstate National Catastrophe Team to be on hand. Organizers will give away 500 "hurricane kits," to include safety lights, first aid, gloves and waterproof matches.

- Live grilling demonstrations daily by Jack Waiboer of North Charleston. He was featured Wednesday on The Travel Channel's new reality show American Grilled! Waiboer will conduct three grilling demonstrations a day on grills furnished by Palmetto Outdoor Kitchens.

- Charleston Architect Symposium on Friday. Architects earn continuing education credits and enjoy a free catered lunch.

Another adjustment for the 2014 Custom Home + Remodel Show will be a reshuffled exhibits layout that helps direct patrons through the event and be able to see as many businesses as they want without struggling to find them all.

"It's a nice easy flow," says Barkley, noting that he tested the layout at the Home + Design Show in January. Barkley, who has two daughters, says he based the paths on the layouts at theme parks, which effectively guide people toward their destinations.

This year's show should attract close to 100 vendors. Barkley says he's pleased the home and remodeling companies will be busy this year, noting that times were tough in the housing industry just a few years ago.

"I'll tell you, you never let up," he says. "It's nice to see where we've come from in 2008. It was pretty scary for the vendors. We made it through together."

Barkley says this is a good time for customers to pull the trigger on any major home design or remodeling plans. "I think if anybody's thinking about a project for 2015 or the fall, they (need to) start the process early," he says.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or

Event: Annual show to assist people with home and remodeling projects. Also includes Hurricane Expo.

Location: Johnson Hagood Stadium concourse, 68 Hagood Ave. in Charleston.

Dates: Aug. 8-10

Hours: Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Admission: Free on Friday, $7 on Saturday and on Sunday. Youngsters under 13 get in free.

Vendors: Close to 100.

Estimated attendance: Up to 1,500 on Friday, a few thousand on the weekend.