How incredibly gorgeous as the sofa? I am totally in love with this!
I am in my 16th year as an interior designer, a creative director at a prestigious firm here in NYC and have seen my share of nightmare orders. I know things can go wrong because after all it is furniture and that is just the nature of the game. The experience I had with Shelly "Starr" (Reich prior to Badauy and now after Badauy changed to Starr) and her company Moura Starr really take the cake though. A colleague, the principal of her own firm warned me not to work with Shelly or Moura Starr based on her own experience a few years back when she placed an order. I thought her issue was isolated happening when the company was still pretty new to the game. Funny; Shelley Starr had the nerve to even publish my colleagues work on the Moura Starr web-site too! Given my colleague’s situation, I requested to work with Shelley Starr the owner directly. I called for her a few times leaving word with her staff to set an appointment with my client and I who lives mainly in LA . She actually saw pieces in the the LA showroom she thought would work for her project her in NY. She is a well known actress and treated as such during her visited to the LA showroom. She made it clear she or her designer would be in touch. My firm's policy is not to use our client's name to gain leverage with vendors for various reasons as one can imagine, especially when leaving a message (especially when client is one of notoriety). After three weeks, none of my calls returned, my client and I met for a shopping trip in SOHO. I wrote Shelley and her staff off as flakes and figured I could steer my client to equally beautiful pieces from other vendors. We happen to be passing Moura Starr and decided to go in even without an appointment as it is also a retail showroom. My client received a call and had to take it in the car, so I went ahead and walked the showroom for a minute or two. I approached a salesperson fluffing pillows. In the middle of one of my questions she walked away, right past me to greet my client who was coming thought the doors without excusing herself. This would be my first meeting with Shelley. Apparently, when in LA my client had spoken to Shelley during her visit to the showroom. I later found out from my client during the visit; though she told Shelley she has a designer already, Shelley offered my client her design services regardless. So we went through the showroom together, listening to Shelley’s lowdown. I asked some questions and requested Shelley send me some collateral on items. Shelley directed the answers to my client who graciously reminded Shelley I am the designer. During a moment alone, I mentioned to Shelley my office tried to reach her a few times to set an appointment. She told me she never received any messages, blaming her staff and herself with the excuse the business was in the midst of expansion and her traveling, “on the hunt for the very best for her Moura Starr’s clients”. In the future she instructed me to reach her on her mobile phone if there is anything else “her” client or I needed. Did she mean “my” client??? Based on my colleague’s experience and now my dealing with Shelley, I mentioned the encounter to the principal due to the substantial amount of money we were about to drop on pieces from one showroom. He said he had heard some funny stories about Shelley and Moura Starr but wasn’t concerned she would poach our client. Our client had been working with my boss for years now and was completely loyal to our firm. He pointed out we are placing our orders at least six months prior to the installation date, so even if the orders are late, we still have some cushion. At this point, he saw no reason to steer the client toward other manufacturer sighting most of the major pieces were now taken care of with such certainty; I should proceed to start getting firm quotes and begin ordering. My assistant and I both called Shelley at the showroom two or three times and emailed her twice so to get some quotes but we didn’t get a response. I finally contacted her on her mobile, told her we wanted to order a significant amount of furniture and she asked me to meet her at the showroom on a Saturday; then she would take time to work with me. I agreed and we made an appointment she was two hours late for, sighting she had a client emergency needing tending to. While waiting for her I asked her staff where she might be and what was holding her up, no to be nosey, but to plan my Saturday accordingly. They were unaware she was even going to be coming in or who I was and seemingly could not reach her. I started with out her, working with a woman who seemed to really know her stuff but was hesitant to work with me because I admittedly was there to see Shelley. We choose finishes and reviewed dimensions. Toward the end of my meeting with out Shelley, She arrived dismissing the sales associate and objecting to her work sighting she needed to be at the reins of this project from start to finish due to my clients profile. So we started over. She made no apology for being late. Instead I was met with a snarky comment that I was essentially in the service industry and she, Shelly is an important figure in the furniture world, so her lateness should be excusable. With as much politeness I could muster, I set her straight reminding her it is my firm specifying the furniture and if there was an ego here, it should be checked. All I was concerned was ordering the furniture for my client in a professional manner as she should be and if there were any issues, lets get them out now. This went completely over her head because for the next hour and a half, she got up to speak to friends who rolled int and out of the showroom that afternoon, leaving me at the table and sitting in the showroom for a total of four hours that day for something that should have taken an hour. When I confronted here the regarding the situation, she reminded me that she had a business to run and if there was a problem with time, she would happily meet “our client” in LA to review the finishes next week while she is out there. Later the following week after some tweaking to the order I received a quote totaling over 300K. I also received a half a dozen calls from Shelley over the following three days requesting a deposit be made. I explained during the first out of the six calls she made that I had the principals approval, but was waiting for the client’s and I should have it shortly. A few days after receiving the quote, in early September a wire transfer was made to Moura Starr for a deposit that was over 150K. I spoke to Shelley to confirm she received the funds. She confirmed and told me Brazil was already working on the project. I thought this was strange because she just received the money. Shelley confirmed the entire order would arrive to our warehouse in 16 weeks. I received an email from Shelley in the beginning of November 2009; the order was looking good and there weren’t any issues with production. She saw the items when she was in Brazil visiting the factory. I received a call from Shelley toward the end of December, 2009 requesting the balance be wired to Moura Starr’s account. She said she needed the balance before she could deliver the furniture which now was arriving a bit early. I wanted to pay via Amex, but she requested we wire the money since she gave us “such a break” on the total . My Principal agreed and a day later the balance was wired with the understanding from Shelley the order was arriving to our warehouse in Long Island CIty by Jan. 8, 2010. On Jan.11, my assistant contacted the facility to learn the furniture had not yet been delivered. To our surprise arrangements from Moura Starr had never been made contrary to Shelley’s last email stating she received the transfer and her that assistant contacted Mike to reserve dock space for the delivery. I later found out from the warehouse that this has been the case numerous times where the clients have been expecting a delivery to be made and it never happening when promised. I let my principal in on the situation and giving her the benefit of the doubt, he advised I ring Shelley to see what was up, maybe a miscommunication was to blame. I did so leaving a message since no one else, including her assistant knew what I was talking about. Four days went by. I called once again during but still no word from Shelley and none of her staff could answer my questions still. They told me I had to speak to Shelley directly. A week later, my principal and I were in SOHO and decided to stop in the showroom to see if Shelley was in. She wasn’t but we were introduced to a gentleman who claimed to be Shelley’s partner and husband. He had no idea about the order. He looked in the system and saw our or estimate/quote, but no live order. I had my assistant fax signed order confirmations and along with printed emails confirming the transfers were received to us at the Moura Starr showroom to review with her “partner/husband” was dumbfounded and tried to reach Shelley via phone. He assured us he would figure out what was going on and get back to me or my principal by day end. When my principal called to speak to Shelly’s Husband the following day, he was told he was out of the country traveling with Shelley. No word from Moura Starr then for the next week and a half. I stopped in the showroom and found Shelley there and when I confronted her to the where about of the order which was now two weeks late, she claimed she told me the furniture was shipping from Brazil first and not directly to my warehouse; that I was confused regarding the arrangements. I asked why she needed the balance then on the furniture when it was not in the US already as we paid for shipping separately. According to our contract, balances are not rendered until items are in the U.S. Her response was, “Let me school you in how the furniture business is run...” I could see where this was headed so I excused myself and got my principal on my mobile to speak with her. She walked away from me when I went to hand her the phone and started talking to some people who walked in the showroom at that moment. I approached her and said my boss wanted to speak to her regarding the order. She snapped saying she was busy. I told her she should take the call because the next person she would maybe speak to is our lawyer. They spoke for at least five minutes. I got back on with my boss who was extremely irritated. He told me she was going to check the status and I should remain there until I got an answer. 20 minutes later, Shelley comes out saying the order is sitting in a container along with all the other orders due to ship to the U.S. because the Brazilian dock workers are on strike. Needless to say, at the time there was no strike and this was just a lie. Supposedly, the strike lasted a month, bringing us now into March. My principal spoke to Shelley while I was on vacation. She told him first she would air the items in. When he called her to see if she made the arrangements to do so, she said they were on the water and would be another four weeks until checked into customs and delivered, now directly to the client because now we are going to miss our installation date. Now into April 2010, still no furniture and after some back and fourth with Shelley, Moura Starr, our lawyer and even our client who was told by Shelley the order had not been placed until April 2010. At that, my client reminded Shelley the monies were wired directly from her account to Moura Starr’s in September and December of 09. Shelley then said the order was not finalized with signatures until April 2010. This was not at all the case. A table(one table) needed to be changed because by the time Shelley actually rendered our deposit and finalized drawings from September to M-Brazil, the manufacturer of the majority of the items on the order (with exception of three sofas from Mariani, an Italian manufacturer) the material for the table was no longer available and the finish needed to be substituted. The table still came in wrong, Shelley’s reasoning: she changed the finish I signed off on the second time because she didn’t feel it would be in my client’s interest to have the finish I chose. What??? Later, Shelley also made it sound to my client the entire order was held because of the one table change, not due to production issues, but to my principal and I not communicating. Shelley’s and Moura Starr’s explanation as to what happened to the order and funds during the period we waited for the furniture finally came down to what they claimed to be an accounting error on M-Brazil’s part; the manufacturer of the furniture. Funny, because included in the order and according to Shelley also coming from Brazil were the three Italian made Mariani sofa’s mentioned. The furniture from Brazil arrived to the site the two weeks ago and the sofa’s just last week, the air-bill stating Italy to New York. From our understanding, Moura Starr purchases the furniture through a company owned by Shelley which acts as her own agent for Moura Starr from M-Brazil. Mariani is also sold through Resource Furniture which it is said to supply Moura Starr with sofas. So, if there were an accounting error on M-Brazil’s part, why did the sofa, which had a production/delivery time of 16 weeks show up just last week from when they were ordered, deposits rendered in September and balances paid in December? It seems to be the popular consensus among my peers that Shelley runs Moura Starr as a sort of Ponzie Scheme. Robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to the ordering cycle. It is said she has a tough nut to crack given the three showrooms and apparently there is one in Saudi Arabia now? I read here that if she is flush, you’ll get your furniture. If she isn’t doing so well, they may use your deposit and balance to float their operation. Rumor has it Shelley is completely over extend and has not paid rent on her SOHO showroom in a few months. She isn’t paying all her bills at 979 3rd Avenue too either. I get small business and you have to do what you have to do to survive, but this situation was completely out of control. When confronted professionally, Shelley answers with insults and lies. She is completely arrogant and from the way she treated my principal and client, completely delusional in how she sees herself and the situation as well as how she generally conducts herself. Like we don’t have her emails and bank transactions? And then there is the poaching and total disregard for the trade profession. It turns out that my client reported back to my principal and I after she and Shelley had a conversation, per Shelly, “Your furniture would not be late if you had worked with me directly like you wanted too. It is obvious the firm is incompetent and feel they have bigger fish to fry. It is evident they were not looking after your interests regarding the follow up and status of your order with Moura Starr.” At one point during the conversation, Shelley even went so far as to tell my client she had paid out of pocket to rush the furniture my client reported. My principal doesn't wish to recoup money and time lost with Moura Starr or Shelley and nor does my client. In our own ways, we are moving past this nightmare of deceit and pitting people against each other. Furniture is a sticky business for the most part, most manufacturers are family owned. Fortunately, not all are run by people like Shelly or are the way Moura Starr is. Do your research, don’t just go by the blogs and comments left on sites like this. The odds are based on the reputation in the industry Shelly and Moura Starr have, the comments people left here are probably from friends or Shelley herself. A the end of the day, nobody is going to tell you the financial standing of their company. But, if things don’t add up, like calls regarding questions about product or appointments aren't returned and your concerns or questions are dismissed, the staff seems to be clueless about how orders are executed, then consider taking your business elsewhere. And if you have a client who is considering purchasing from Moura Starr, steer them elsewhere. Though I normally I see this practice as being gosh, especially when the pieces do work; saving your client from time wasted and disappointment is part of our job as designer. Maybe saying “no” now is better than them saying to you later, “I wish you told me what you knew/felt before we ordered.” At the end, the furniture did arrive. Some pieces slightly damaged, some pieces in a finishes and fabric a bit off from what was approved. A few pieces structurally different as well as not the same quality as in the showroom and are not GREEN as stated. My client and Principal are disappointed as I am too, but we made it all work and each of us in our own way moving on from this nightmare. Unfortunately, none of what we went threw was worth it. I did not intend this to be a rant, merely an account of my experience and the spins Shelley and Moura Starr put on truth.