Transforming a showhouse League chair has eye on details for fundraiser

Design panels for the 2013 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League Showhouse at 4 S. Adgers Wharf downtown.

If you’ve ever walked through a showhouse, chances are very good you’ve been fascinated by its finishes, bedazzled by its bedrooms and generally spellbound by the spectacle of it all.

Showhouses allow visitors to experience, if only for a little while, a residence that quickly could become the home of their dreams.

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s 36th annual Designer Showhouse is being set up to provide visitors with that same feeling.

But the magic doesn’t just happen. It’s all the result of much planning and attention to detail.

House Chairwoman Carol Lou Yaeger recently talked about the 4 S. Adgers Wharf residence, which is being transformed by seven designers into the 2013 showhouse that opens for a month beginning March 21.

An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people will visit the structure, which began life as a cotton warehouse in 1800 and was converted to residences in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

Funds raised from the house admission, boutique and furnishings sales, and lunch in the cafe will support the CSO music outreach programs, including scholarships. Visitors can tour the house, shop the boutique, eat at the cafe or do all three.

Q: How many people does it take to pull it all together?

A: CSOL committee of 43, working with merchants, government offices and students, who literally do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Q: What should visitors expect to see?

A: A historic property whose interior design respects its past, is appropriate for today’s living, offers solutions to the challenges of decorating smaller rooms. The home’s spaces, designed with an artistic family in mind, occasionally is a little edgy.

Q: What kind of house does CSOL look for?

A: We look for a house that’s on the peninsula, preferably old. It has to be at least 3,500 square feet, preferably with a dependency for a boutique. We can’t use a house that requires repairs.

Q: When do you find the right house?

A: We usually get an appropriate house in September or as early as June. This year, I got it New Year’s Eve morning.

Q: How much time do designers spend working on their spaces?

A: They have about a week to move their furnishings in and set up, except for kitchens and baths. But this year, there won’t be a kitchen because it can’t be renovated within the six weeks CSOL has control of the house.

Q: Do the neighbors know CSOL is moving in?

A: Yes. I have met all of the neighbors. After all, we are bringing 5,000 to 7,000 people into a residential neighborhood. We assured them there will be no loud parties at night.

Q: Which rooms are being designed this year?

A: They are the living room, dining room, foyer, hall and stairwell, master suite, artist’s studio, gentleman’s study, guest room and lady’s office/retreat.

Q: How are designers selected?

A: The showhouse committee holds a lottery, and designers draw for the rooms they want. Those whose names are drawn can switch rooms with another designer later if they choose.

Q: Who are the this year’s designers?

A: Angie Artigues, Caroline deVlaming Farrior, Sandy Ericksen, Sandra Gaylord (allied member of American Association of Interior Designers), Roberta Ketchin (allied member of ASID), Maria Schendzelos and Julianne Vadas.

Q: Do you know in advance what designers are going to do with the spaces?

A: They submit presentation boards to the design committee. That includes designers, house chair and co-chairs and the league president.

The homeowner has to agree to any changes to the structure, as well as paint or wallpaper. If a designer wants to paint a wall purple, the owner can say no or allow the designer to paint over it when the showhouse closes.

Q: Will one designer know what another designer’s plan for her space is?

A: They must know what the designer working in the next room is doing because the house must flow. The CSOL showhouses are designed as one residence. This isn’t one of those houses where each room says, “Hey! Look at me.”

Q: Do you survey visitors on what they like about the showhouses?

A: Yes. Each year, we conduct a survey and visitors get to choose the room they like best. We have a little ceremony and the designer of that room gets a plaque. We call it the “People’s Choice” award. Sometimes I’ve made a little crown for them.

Q: The residences in which CSOL showhouses are staged are usually for sale. Do you always sell them?

A: Much of the time. A couple saw the house on Murray Drive while the designers were working on it and bought it that day.