Because six of Chris Dalzell's custom homes had been featured by national publications since 2012, it didn't surprise many who know him that he would be tapped to build the 2020 HGTV Dream Home, once it was known that it was being planned for this area.
The HGTV Dream Home is viewed by countless millions on television, via the internet and social media. It even has its own Wikipedia page. And, this year's 2020 Dream Home, in the Windmill Harbour community of Hilton Head Island, has already been called "the best one ever," and is expected to generate nearly 140 million entries from across North America for the TV network's sweepstakes.
Executives of HGTV reached out to Dalzell, president of Bluffton's Shoreline Construction Company, just a year ago this month to ask if he was interested in helping them find a specific location and bringing the 2020 home to life within 10 short months - because they knew he could, and they were pressed for time.
Dalzell was already quite familiar with the process of constructing custom residences to be published or broadcasted and was ready for the challenge. Shoreline Construction, founded in 2007, had previously built HGTV's Smart Home in Palmetto Bluff in 2018, plus a Southern Living Idea Home (2014), Garden & Gun Magazine's Artists in Residence Cottage in Palmetto Bluff (2017), a Cottage Style Magazine featured home (2017), a Coastal Living featured home in 2012, and a Better Homes and Gardens remodeling project on Pinckney Colony Road in Bluffton in 2018.
Dalzell, who speaks with a gentle South Georgia tone that belies his sharply focused approach to homebuilding, also knew just the right job foreman to see the project through to the end - a bright, well-spoken young man named Josh Thomas, who had transitioned into remodeling homes and residential construction from the fire and security business.
Thomas has a reputation among his peers as someone who can "thrive on chaos" because of his talent in reacting quickly to problems and balancing numerous tasks simultaneously.
"Being the superintendent on the job, I needed to be ready when the phone rang," said Thomas. "This was a parallel project, meaning that not only were we building a house, but we were doing it right alongside a film crew that was following us almost constantly with their own timeline and requirements.
"It was not like a normal timeline when you have one or maybe two subcontractors onsite in a given day," said Thomas. "With the HGTV home we would sometimes have four or more trades a day working on the job - plumbing, HVAC, pool, landscaping, carpenters, dry wall, roofers, electricians. It was something to behold!"
Thomas said the timeline had to be perfect. "Every Thursday we would have a conference call with the video team and the folks at HGTV headquarters to review everything that was planned for the upcoming week, because they had to be doing their B-roll as were moving through each phase."
Then on weekends, when things were quiet, Dalzell would come onto the site by himself to make sure of quality control and how to overcome potential problems that might pop up.
One big obstacle suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It was Hurricane Dorian, barreling toward the South Carolina coast the first week of September after devasting a portion of the Bahamas.
For the Dream Home, it was the final phase of construction with the first furnishings being readied for delivery to the site. Karen Kiley, vice president of home promotions at HGTV recalls the high tension in the headquarters offices as corporate executives nervously followed reports on the Weather Channel.
Conversely, Dalzell and Thomas remember feeling comfortable they had done everything possible to batten things down and be prepared for the storm.
Fortunately, despite a brief Beaufort County evacuation, Dorian passed by quietly. There was just a week's delay from the original timeline, and the three-bedroom, three-and-a half bath, two story Dream Home was beautifully furnished and introduced to the public with rave reviews.
Today the Dream Home sits on a quiet, tree-lined lane overlooking an expanse of Spartina salt marsh toward the Intracoastal Waterway. The visuals draw "oohs" and "aahs" from millions as they watch video reports by HGTV spokespersons Brian Flynn and Tamara Day and hope they will be the lucky winner of the Sweepstakes. Entries in the contest will be accepted until Feb. 19, with the winner announced in early April - date yet not determined.
Details of the Dream Home's features are too numerous to be given justice in this short space. Better to go online at HGTV.com or catch one of the frequently repeated episodes that feature the home on the TV network.
The lucky Sweepstakes winner receives not only the home but also a 2019 Honda Passport Elite, all the furnishings in the home, and $250,000 from Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans.
As for Shoreline Construction's Dalzell, he's already a proven winner!
Kingston Rhodes is a freelance writer living on Hilton Head Island.