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Check out trends, ‘cube’ challenge at Buffalo Home and Garden Show

A cube is a cube is a cube – or is it? This was just one question faced by local interior designers as part of the White Room Challenge, an all-new attraction at this year’s Buffalo Home & Garden Show, which opens today.

As part of the challenge, designers from the Interior Design Association of Western New York were given one of seven 12-by-12-foot white rooms and four elements they must incorporate into their design schemes – an 18-inch wood cube, an 18-by-24 Parsons sofa table, 4 yards of muslin fabric and a basic 2-by-3-foot mirror. Each designer also received the same beach-themed inspirational poster, from which they could draw colors or whatever else spoke to them.

Their finished spaces are what people can see – and vote on – when they visit the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center this weekend and next. This is the place to check out close to 300 vendors – including 60 new ones – and see what’s hot and happening in awnings, flooring, kitchen and bath, landscaping, sheds, spas and more. Celebrity guest Jason Cameron, host of DIY Network’s “Man Caves” and “Desperate Landscapes,” will be there this weekend as well.

Of course, inspiration also will be found within those seven spaces transformed by designers. They painted, upholstered or even cut down those cubes, for example, transforming them into an ottoman, side table or even a ceiling lighting fixture.

For her space, Pamela Witte of White Orchard Home Furnishings chose a Moroccan theme, complete with black walls stenciled in bronze and gold by David Roach and a hanging electric flat-screen fireplace flanked by reproductions of old Chinese red doors. A different flooring option can be seen in each of the seven spaces; the floors were provided by M P Caroll Hardwood.

Karen Bialkowski of Kittinger Gallery crossed the border and stepped back in time for her space. “It’s about reminiscing about our memories at Crystal Beach,” said Bialkowski, who plans a slide show of 200 vintage pictures of the old theme park on the TV console.

Creative Storage’s Diana Augspurger and associates created a colorful beach/pool changing area in their space. Nicole Milley and Heather Benson, of Nikki M Design, tell a love story in their space, created for a fictional 20-something French woman in a long-distance romance with a New York City man she met while he was vacationing in France. This all takes place in the 1930s, mind you, so Skype is not an option here.

Laurel I. Swartz, owner of Iola Designs, transformed her space into a playroom. She pointed out an activity wall with three sliding panels on a track – one with a corkboard, one with a chalkboard and one with the mandatory mirror plus an additional one so kids can see themselves from the stage and dress-up areas. As for the muslin, Swartz dyed it bright colors, cut it into strips and created a time-intensive rag rug.

Across the way, designer Erin Kent created a sitting room with an old parlor feel. The walls are painted a bold blue, inspired by the water in the French resort-themed poster given to each designer.

“I want to show people that you can use bold color and not have it be overwhelming,” Kent said.

And James Harasimowicz of Space Innovations took an interesting approach to the mandatory elements: He deconstructed the cube, table and mirror and incorporated them into a large wall sculpture in his versatile media room. He used the muslin to create ceiling panels.

The furniture was custom-made for the space in styles not always associated with “media room.” What one won’t find here: a recliner with beer holder.

Some show highlights:

• Cameron will offer landscaping and “man cave” tips at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the main stage, upper level.

• Cristin Frank, a local “upcycling artist,” will share her creative reuses for old and obsolete furniture in presentations both weekends.

• A Flower and Garden Market will be set up in the main lobby, where fresh-cut flowers and garden-themed products will be sold.

• Experts will offer a free appraisal (one per person) of old household items between noon and 4 p.m. and 6 and 8 p.m. Fridays and between 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Learn more at


Details: The Buffalo Home & Garden Show runs two weekends only – today through Sunday and next Friday through March 17 – at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Adult admission is $10 at the door, $7 online. Children ages 6 to 12 years, $3; free for ages 5 and younger. Discount tickets ($6 adult) are also available at participating Tops Friendly Market locations.