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In this Episode
Step into the world of renowned interior designer Shelley Starr as she shares her remarkable journey of over two decades in the design industry. From working with Hollywood’s elite, including George Clooney, Sophia Vergara, and Madonna, to creating stunning homes in locations like Capri, Dubai, and Manhattan, Shelley’s expertise and attention to detail have earned her the trust and admiration of clients worldwide.
In this episode, Shelley Starr invites you to discover the secrets behind her success. Unveiling her collaborative approach and unwavering commitment to client satisfaction, she reveals how she brings her clients’ visions to life, surpassing their expectations and creating spaces that inspire, comfort, and bring joy.
Join us as Shelley Starr dives into her signature design philosophy, where simplicity meets humor, and great design pieces contribute to an impeccable hierarchy within a home. She opens up about her humble beginnings, starting from washing boats at a marina before dawn, to becoming a sought-after designer for A-list celebrities.
With warmth and authenticity, Shelley Starr discusses her role as a trusted guide throughout the design process, shielding her clients from any unpleasant experiences and ensuring their journey is seamless and enjoyable. She believes in delivering perfection, making each client’s world a little more beautiful, and cherishing the relationships she builds along the way.
Through engaging anecdotes and personal insights, Shelley Starr recounts pivotal moments in her career, including the game-changing instance when a client flew all the way to Capri to hire her, emphasizing the profound impact her work has on people’s lives.
Tune in to this captivating episode of “Transforming Spaces with Shelley Starr” and explore the fascinating world of high-tone glamour, enduring design, and the art of creating truly remarkable homes. Learn how Shelley’s unwavering dedication, word-of-mouth reputation, and intuitive approach have shaped her extraordinary career.
Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Titans of Trade, I am your host Constance Dunn, and today we have a designer of furniture of interiors and much more, welcome Shelly Starr.
Shelley Starr (00:15.618)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
You know, it’s really funny. Have you ever flown to South America to personally pick out a slab of wood?
Shelley Starr (00:27.054)
Yeah, I have actually. I used to spend a great deal of time in Brazil picking a lot of the wood, especially when we did a lot of the reclaimed and petrified woods on furniture years ago. You know, I’ve kind of evolved out of that. You know, in the last 10, 12 years, you know, it was kind of a thing where it was a big fad. And then it was, it was far more complicated and difficult between how much was available, you know, all the regulations and then shipping for that matter.
Tell us about it.
Shelley Starr (00:57.034)
So, and then obviously design, you know, you can only do it so many times and you’re like, I gotta move on to something different.
Right, right, enough, enough, enough. It’s interesting, because I read about that because this is going back a little bit, but you designed a custom bar for the Don Julio brand. I mean, this is, okay. So, right, but I find it interesting because you also did this Esquire apartment for Esquire magazine that was filled with Hugo Boss accessories. That was extraordinary. And so I’m curious about how these kind of
Shelley Starr (01:13.310)
Yeah. This is going way back.
Shelley Starr (01:25.438)
partnerships or collaborations came about.
Shelley Starr (01:35.282)
You know, I’m curious too. Sometimes I think it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time. You know, you get a phone call and you think, really? I’m who you want? Like all the designers out there? Okay, let’s do it. You know, and they ask you to come in and pitch what your concepts will be. And I think they pull in a lot of different designers to pitch their concepts, especially when you’re working with somebody like Hugo Boss, you know, and Don Julio.
You know, you’ve got heads on these company and they’re very particular. They’ve got a look and something that they want. So, you know, you’ve got to really kind of placate to exactly what, what they’re looking for and their brand and be conscientious of that. So great experience though. So, I mean, fantastic building, you know, it was in Dumbo, you know, in the clock. I mean, a really iconic building with these four huge clocks in the space.
Shelley Starr (02:33.130)
You know, everything about it was, you know, just spectacular, right down to all the parties.
Right, and so getting there, like you were saying, being at the right place at the right time, like what do you think put you in the right place at the right time? I mean, not just for those, but other subsequent successes.
Shelley Starr (02:53.414)
You know, I think that I’ve been, I’m very lucky. I’ve worked with unbelievable clients over the years and from the get go in my career. And I think it’s word of mouth. I think my name travels around, you know, in groups, you know, very specific groups. I know that I had worked with a client in Beverly Hills and had done their house in Beverly Hills estate.
And I know he had a very tight connection with Esquire. And I have a feeling he threw my name into the basket because it’s never me throwing my name in. I get the phone call and it’s like, oh, okay. I’ve never had that personality that’s been like, I’ve heard of this job, I’m going after it. It’s just not my style. You know, I’m more, you know, you’ll reach out to me and if we’re a great fit, we’re a great fit.
And otherwise, you know, it’s not for me to go pursuing something. People know what they want. They know who they, you know, what they’re looking for, you know, and it is design, it would never behoove me to go pushing in and say, you know, I’m the person for this job. I just don’t need interior design that way at all. So.
And I love this approach. It really flies in the face of a lot of the like hustle, visualize, manifest, go for it, grind, chase people down in the street. I’m being hyperbolic, but you get the idea. It’s a very different approach.
Shelley Starr (04:21.311)
Shelley Starr (04:25.554)
I think that it is. I also think it’s a reason why my firm has stayed smaller and I’m much more a boutique firm. I’ve never been one that’s gung-ho for a lot of work. I’ve always kind of operated off of the synergy and the concept of less is more. But I’ve had a premise. Oh, I’m so sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Here we go. Coming back.
Oh, it’s okay. Oh no, no, no worries. It’s, it’s, that’s what’s fun about it. It’s, it’s, that’s what’s fun about it. It’s, it’s, that’s what’s fun about it.
Shelley Starr (04:53.306)
Let me get this long turned off because it’s gonna go non-stop. Sorry. I should have been thinking about that Yeah, it’s um, sorry job sites Okay, um What I was saying is that it’s I Think one of the the key successes for me and why I’ve been able to do this for so long and what I
really enjoy about it is if you break it down to something really simple, there’s great designers and then there’s great clients and that’s where you get these unbelievable projects that really go places, you know, and they turn into these spectacular things. But I could be a great designer and I can have a bad client and it will not be a successful project because if the client holds us back from being creative and suggesting and driving them in a manner that really…
suits the home, then it’s a lost cause. And it’s more of a frustrating experience. And the exact same goes for, you can have a great client and that client can hire a bad designer. And that client isn’t gonna get what they want. So it’s truly magic when all of a sudden you put two working synergies together that are out for the same goal. And is odd as that sounds, it’s actually a very rare thing that happens.
You know, more often than not, you’ve got one party that’s not coming to the table with what they need to come to the table with. So it’s, I’ve always sat back and thought, I interview my clients and make my decision as to whether I’m working for them. And you know, it’s my office has a good chuckle because we turn down anywhere from 15 to 20 jobs a year because they’re just not the kind of jobs I want. If it’s not going to bring happiness and I can’t be who I am and be as creative as I want to be then.
Shelley Starr (06:52.619)
I’d rather spend time traveling or being with my daughter, you know. But on the exact same note, I’ve been extremely fortunate, like I said. I’m always busy. There’s always a big job on the board or multiple jobs. I’m always on the go.
Right. And the boundaries are, they sound really wonderful because you have a sense you want everything to work out. Now, how do clients get what they want when they’re working with you? Because you’re talking about this synergy. So how does this like synergy work ideally? Like what should
Shelley Starr (07:22.002)
Well, I think it starts from, you know, from the initial one. How do we how do we communicate? How well do we start communicating with one another? You know, it’s I’ll sit down in meetings and we better have a lot of humor because we’re not laughing. Then when shit hits the fan and things get difficult, it’s not going to be fun. You know, if somebody’s too serious or a little too uptight, then I know, hey, you know, how are we going to move along? Because I.
Shelley Starr (07:50.542)
I think I’m damn funny. I like to come with a lot of humor. I know that there’s going to be disasters and accidents on jobs. And it’s like, OK, that sucked. What are we doing next? How are we fixing this? How are we moving on? Because we’re not perfect. And design is about making mistakes and discovering how that melds into the grand scheme and how are we living with it, or maybe more often there.
Ah. Uh huh. Yeah.
Shelley Starr (08:20.118)
really happy mistakes that turn out fantastic. So it starts with those meetings and how we interact with one another. Do we have the same goals and same values? Are they meticulous? Does the quality of their project, or their home, not project, because to them it’s their home, but how do they use their house? Most…
Right, right, yeah, maybe there’s some great, you know.
Shelley Starr (08:47.858)
I would say 95% of my clients, we have the exact same values and goals in life. We’re very family oriented. We have kids. And when we’re at home, it’s where we love, it’s where we cook, it’s where we entertain, it’s where we’re passionate. Everything evolves around our families and our friends and the people that we love. And so the more we have that…
the more successful I know I’ll make their projects. So there’s a lot, but like I said, I’m a very different designer. You know, I’m not that big firm. I’m a boutique firm. I keep my costs low. I’m very hyper-focused on keeping my expenses down because the more I keep an efficient office, the more my clients’ money go into their houses. And I think that’s not to be arrogant or…
Shelley Starr (09:44.842)
you know, cocky, but I think that’s what shows when you look through my body of work. I’m not cookie cutter. And I’m everything about me is very different. The heightened level of my projects. I don’t work on the monolithic homes that are museum like, you know, and a look, don’t touch or they’re parading their house. I have very different type of clientele and thank God I do because I love them. Yeah.
Yeah, there’s a great flow in the way you work. And I think it’s really, I’m so glad that you’re here to share that with us, because I think it’s important for people to see whether they’re designers or homeowners or where they are. And there’s this wonderful flow and actually, and it’s funny because you have that about you as a person. You have very much an ease. Like, you know, we talked about, we met you many years ago at West.
Shelley Starr (10:26.988)
Shelley Starr (10:35.703)
edge design fair and you were just very approachable. Obviously like your stuff is very beautifully put together, but you’re just like, we’re like, hey, can you want to talk to us for a minute on camera? And you’re like, sure. Invite us into your space and you’re very like talking to us. And one of the things I remembered about your work, and obviously it’s evolved and changed, but something that you said is a constant thread is this quiet, timeless elegance.
Shelley Starr (11:10.795)
and looking at your work online, it’s true. There is a quiet, timeless elegance. Like, where did that come from? The Shelley star sensibility. Like, where do you think if you had to, you know?
Shelley Starr (11:26.078)
You know, I think it comes from, oddly enough, coming from kind of very humble beginnings. Like I grew up in a very salt of the earth family. I didn’t grow up wealthy or with a lot of incredible means around me. So, one thing that was, as I started coming into my career and making my way, was when we spend money, spend it wisely.
You know, it needs to really count. And so, you know, it’s, I’m not a frivolous person by any means, I’m very conscientious. I’m actually somebody who will sit and fight for her clients over, you know, bills. If I think, you know, one of our vendors or a worker, anybody’s like taking advantage of us, you know, most designers, and that might sound mean to throw designers under the bus, but you know, most will take the approach, well, a bigger bill is more money to them.
That’s not my my premise. I’m actually in my office and everyone that works, you know with me My girls will tell you they’ve never heard somebody fight with people as much as I do because I don’t want my clients taken advantage of Because I don’t want to be taken advantage of but I also know the more money I keep on the you know to the good the more the project is going to be enhanced and we’re gonna get to those details and all those little nuances that are going to
Shelley Starr (12:50.942)
amazed and wowed a client when they walk through versus more of a cookie cutter, you know, basic project. So, yeah.
Right. So there’s this resourcefulness that’s not just in the way you run your business, but in the way that you source materials as well. Like you, you travel many places, you have exotic furs and I think it was like Mongolian fur or something on a stool. There’s woods from all over the place. What are some of the far out, far out things or something that you found and you were like, whoa.
Shelley Starr (13:07.743)
Shelley Starr (13:16.278)
Yeah, yeah, right.
This is interesting. Like in the Esquire, I know I’m like going on about the Esquire because I was just watching the videos and looking at it, but there was like, you had sourced a club chair from 1930s from Europe somewhere. And it was a beautiful piece. It was just like, I kept looking at it. It was so glossy and gorgeous, but anywho. So back to your exotic materials and share a few that are just like cool, floated your boat.
Shelley Starr (13:33.036)
Shelley Starr (13:39.010)
Shelley Starr (13:53.758)
You know, I think as interior designers, you know, that it’s kind of our job is to find that exquisite little piece, that hierarchy piece that we’re obsessed with. And we go, okay, I’m gonna actually, I don’t have to spend all my money on this, but it’s wonderful when I find that special little thing that stands out, you know, or, you know, even today with how creative and so many things going on.
put that into just some incredible wallpaper that’s hand painted, you know, and you’ll see that on some of my jobs coming up. You know, it’s so I don’t get is caught up, I would say in looking for too many of those things. But I do want that special material. I want some piece, you know, whether it’s art, whatever it might be.
that really kind of sets the tone. You know, like if you were to see behind me, well, you can’t, but you know, we found this beautiful, my daughter and I walked into an antique shop, you know, when we were abroad, and we found this painting, and it’s, you know, of this drunken dog with an empty Yukon Jack bottle. And, you know, we were building a beach house.
you know, that an 87 year old beach house that I was fighting with the city to save because they wanted it torn down and I wanted to save it. And so, you know, I was going up against some challenges, you know, in a community that I had gotten caught off guard because I wanted a cottage and they want a new build. But we found this, I’ll turn it and you can see there he is back there. Do you see him? Yeah. You know, does he have anything to do with the beach cottage? Not at all.
Shelley Starr (15:42.934)
But I can tell you that we laugh our butts off every time we all walk into the house. You know, and we entertain and everybody, it’s about martini nights here in this cottage. It’s always a lot of drinks. It’s always a dinner party. There’s always something going on. And there’s always a good chuckle about that one hierarchy piece in the house. So kind of back around to what you’re saying. Yeah, it’s, I mean, when it comes to sourcing.
you know, if it’s a vintage sofa or some fabulous coffee table, you know, it’s, I’m always looking for something, even pots, you know, I’ve found these extraordinary vintage pots and I shipped them in for, you know, this beautiful project that we’re just starting to wrap up and, you know, it was just magnificent. And, you know, I’ve had old fabrics. That’s actually how I started my career was, you know, collecting old fabrics and I’ll take those old fabrics and whittle them into pillows or…
you know, something that takes, you know, that and not just kind of a great piece, but it elevates it to something different. Does that make sense? I’ve even taken old scarves and had them made into beautiful and framed them beautifully for art. And they’re just fantastic. I love it.
Yeah, a hierarchy piece. I love that. So would that be a piece that other things are tied to? Or is it a… what is it?
Shelley Starr (17:05.666)
Well, yeah, that’s a great question. And here’s the thing, when you’re designing, you definitely have your hierarchy pieces. You have things that are gonna, you start out, what are your weak points? What are you working on? How are you fixing problems? I’m very lucky because so many of my projects are large. I know they’re monster estates.
Shelley Starr (17:31.990)
wrapping, I’ve wrapped up a Calabasas and it’s almost 14,000 square feet. And we’ve built 1400 square foot master closet just for her on top of all that. You know, like, so you get to, gives you an idea, right? Of how lucky I am and what I get to do. Um, but then you have these projects, you know, that are smaller. Kind of coming back around to what you’re saying that the thread, when you are picking something like that is.
There has to be a thread, the story. And as I developed over the years as a designer, sometimes I would go into the jobs and I wasn’t always quite clear about my story because you have a client wanting one thing, talking to you, and then you’re looking at the house and what’s really right for the bones of that house. You know that you’ve got a budget. So you’re working against all these different dynamics, not to mention…
what’s going on between the husband and wife. Sometimes you can’t even get them to agree. And that gets back to that whole relationship. But coming back through, yeah, I like, once I have that story, then it’s very easy for me to pick those hierarchy, like in the cottage and showing you this piece. This is a tiny little cottage. It’s 3,000 square feet on Balboa Island. Well, it was 2,300 and I took it up to 3,000. But the theme was good time.
You know, it was, friends are coming in from LA. There’s always people, the doors are open. Everybody’s welcome for drinks. There’s a pizza oven, we’re cooking, we’re just, it’s nonstop, so I wanted humor. You know, I want you to walk in and I just wanna know how fast do I have a martini or a glass of wine in your hand, and how fast are we getting down to having a good time, you know, and what a laugh. So there’s that thread in this particular job. I have a client, you know,
Shelley Starr (19:23.182)
Larger it comes down to their family their entertainment their kitchen, you know, they have very large groups come together But they want to be outside, you know so again those threads of things that you look for are a Constant but when you have a big estate you can’t show up in a 14,000 square foot house and have one hierarchy You’ve got multiple hierarchies in each room and area
Shelley Starr (19:47.778)
that take you there and drive you into that place, because otherwise you end up with these massive houses and why go use the space? You gotta find those things in every arena of that house so that they look forward to using that room. That makes sense? I hope I answered your question.
So yes, you did, so you’re storytelling as a designer. You’re telling stories. And you’ve worked a lot in LA and then there’s like New York Park Avenue. There’s also abroad. And were you doing something in like Idaho? I was just on your Instagram a while ago and there was like a…
Shelley Starr (20:08.318)
Yes. You are.
Shelley Starr (20:26.686)
I’m just, we’re about 75, 80% through on, for the last couple of years, building a beautiful place in Park City, in Deer Valley, actually, up in Talisker, and it’s just, oh my God, fantastic. I mean, it started out as a serious pain in my back end, you know, and it’s like, I don’t know how we’re gonna do this, but it’s evolved into something where, you know, I even took my girls, everyone from the office we went a couple weeks ago.
Shelley Starr (20:55.330)
for a nice long weekend. And we never went out anywhere. We just sat at the bar and cooked. And I mean, we never left the unit. It was absolutely pathetic. We thought we were gonna ski. We thought we could do all these things. And all of our friends, people that were in town were like, you guys aren’t showing up, are you? It was like, no, you wanna come over? And it was just a constant.
Yeah, you had a list at the end, it just gets crumpled up and thrown over your shoulder. Um, yeah.
Shelley Starr (21:20.670)
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. But now they have a great idea of what it’s like to travel with me.
Right. And so, you know, the, the hierarchy or like the premise, the thread, the main, the main gist of the story at Park City, what, what would you describe that as being on this project?
Shelley Starr (21:35.052)
Shelley Starr (21:41.026)
Mm, chic, sexy mountain and how fast are we coming off the mountain for some apres drinks and cocktails? Yeah, you know it’s
Okay, yeah. So, yeah. I’m curious about something working out of town because you’ve worked in Dubai as well. Like, do you, I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you get stressed out when you’re not right on the job site? Like, you’ve got jobs here and there and moving and grooving. Like, what’s that like? Like, you’re very calm. You’re very…
Shelley Starr (22:12.686)
I don’t think we’d be a designer if we weren’t stressed out. I mean, my God. No, working in new places, every time you start, the first thing you just think is like, am I prepared to take on how complicated this is gonna be? Because you’re not with your mainstay crew. You know, you asked me for anything and I can call up and I’ve got somebody, I know somebody, even coming through COVID.
Shelley Starr (22:38.982)
where I lost a lot of incredible factories and people just didn’t make it through. And I remember for a while I sat back and I was like, what does this mean for my career when I’ve known these men and counted on them for over 20 years and now they just aren’t here with me anymore. This is hard. But as soon as you go elsewhere, yeah, it’s, it’s a whole nother level of being complicated. Sorry. That’s my big guy. Hey, hey, hey, come here.
Oh, it’s cute.
Shelley Starr (23:07.458)
So, but you know, it’s also kind of the intriguing part and you find out how, if you don’t, hey, Bushan, if you, you have to find, I kind of like the game and the process of, okay, who do I know? Who can I call? And before you know it, somewhere I’ve worked with somebody and I know somebody and that gets me into a call to that person. And then I realize,
Shelley Starr (23:37.914)
on luckily my reputation. So once I do even call into people that I don’t know and I tell them who I am and what I’m looking for, you’d be amazed at how fast people start saying, you need to meet this person, you need to talk to this person. So oddly enough, like how in Deer Valley, I managed to meet all the best of the best that really are on top of their game and helped me bring this huge place to life.
is, I mean, yeah, it was a fantastic experience. I’m armed and I’m dangerous because, you know, you’re Dear Valley, call me again, because I know stuff now.
That’s cool. And there it goes with the way that you flow. You turn something that’s potentially a stress point to something fun, like, wow, let’s find out who we know. Let’s find new people here. I love the attitude. You mentioned earlier that when the fit is not right, you’re not going to take the project on. So are there tips that you have for saying no elegantly?
Shelley Starr (24:30.747)
Shelley Starr (24:39.967)
Sometimes people don’t like to hear no, even if they know you’re right on all the points. I know this is a, you know, but you seem like you’d be really good at it.
Shelley Starr (24:52.246)
You know what, I think, actually there really is. It’s about just being kind and being considerate. Like, oh my God, congratulations. I’m so excited for your job. You know, I don’t know any, sometimes I may know names or be like, hey, let’s look at this area. You know, I can be extremely honest with somebody when they’re talking to me and go, I’m not the right fit for you. Your budget is not, you don’t wanna hire me.
You need to hire a junior somebody a lot less because you’re on a very tight budget. You don’t bring in somebody like me, even as efficient as I am. You know, I’m I’m at the high end and oh, my goodness gracious. You know, and I like sorry, and I and I love the beauty of doing the, you know, a beautiful job. So, no, I always.
Shelley Starr (25:46.498)
take time to talk to clients that are potential people, and show them respect and gratitude for the fact that they even called me. Because earlier when we started talking and I said, we turned down over 20 some jobs a year, I don’t say that with arrogance. I have incredible gratitude and appreciation that these people even call me and that somehow my name or my reputation and my work.
Shelley Starr (26:15.950)
caught their attention because they are a sea of interior designers. I mean, honestly, in my industry, I think we’re a dime a dozen. So how do we separate ourselves? But back to what you said, I take time, I talk with them. I usually know pretty fast. Sometimes I’ll end up taking a meeting and then figure out we’re not right for one another. I have a lot of that. I have people that were just… We had a three hour long meeting.
Shelley Starr (26:45.938)
You know, and we were really kind of like, is this the right job in a beautiful beach house here in Newport? You know, and when the husband and I sat and we really talked about how this job was going to roll down, you know come down it I had to say, you know Interestingly enough. He’s got two yachts. It’s probably I mean how much he spends on his on his yachts is a little fabulous, but you know good for him and you know, you can’t wait to be invited on one of
Shelley Starr (27:15.670)
but his house is not the same priority. And so I looked and I was like, I don’t think we’re gonna be the right fit. And he knew too, because he’s like, I don’t wanna spend this much. I think I want some ideas and I think we’ll take this through. But I can also look and recognize and go, what an amazing preple. And I love them. And we absolutely adored one another. And then we became, we stayed in touch and they were here for dinner just a couple of weeks ago.
And it makes sense.
Shelley Starr (27:45.530)
They got here like 5.30 and left at one in the morning of how much fun we all had. So here is a great example of showing consideration, you know, that being considerate and appreciative to the fact that they called me. We got to know one another. But just because I’m not the right designer, I can’t, doesn’t mean I can’t look and go, but we should know one another and be friends, you know, and develop a friendship, you know.
Ah, I love that. Yeah, yeah, I love that. Yeah.
Shelley Starr (28:15.866)
Yeah, I’m sorry. So yeah, I think that if you’re inherently kind and considerate, it’s never a question of how to turn somebody down. I would never ignore anybody. And if I have, it was by accident or I didn’t get a message or I didn’t know. But that’s just not my demeanor whatsoever.
Yeah. And going back to the beginnings of Shelley Star Designer, what were some projects that you think of when you look at the trajectory of your career that you went, oh wow, this is a game changer, this is going to usher in a new chapter or a new level of my business? Where there’s some that just were like, oh.
Shelley Starr (29:05.750)
You know what, again, I’ve had such great luck with amazing projects and working for some incredible people. I remember one, you know, I had so many beautiful jobs and I was very busy and I was in heaven, but I was working and moving a hundred miles an hour every day and I decided to take a break and my daughter and I was taking my daughter, we were going to Europe and we were gonna be away for a month.
and we were spending a couple of weeks in Capri. And I had this client call me and say, you know, I want to, oops, sorry. I have a new house and I’ve been told that I need to talk to you. And I said, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. You know what? I’m not gonna be, my computer’s glitching. Sorry about that. I’m not gonna be available for this and because I’m gonna be away. If you can hold, I’ll talk to you when I return. And he immediately was like, you know, that’s not gonna work for me.
Shelley Starr (30:03.470)
Make sure I get them full enough. That’s not gonna work for me because I need to get started on this job right away. And I said, I’m sorry, I absolutely, I’m going away. Long story short, he sends me a message and we were already in Europe and he’s like, yeah, I’ve already interviewed four people. I met you, we had had a meeting and I just said, I’m not gonna be available for several months. And he flew to Capri.
Shelley Starr (30:29.438)
And he came and met me with a check and handed me a check, you know, had lunch with my daughter and I, you know, out on the terrace, the Caesar Augustus. And I remember sitting there just going, I don’t know when my career hit a point where a client lies to Capri to tell me they’re going to hire me and have me a check while I’m on vacation. By the way, we couldn’t snap those checks and deposit them either at that time, you know, it traveled with me until I came home. But that was a big, a big.
Shelley Starr (30:57.974)
change, you know, where the confidence in me started to adjust and grow into a different place of like, wow, you know, it’s, I know I’m thoughtful. I know that I’m hardworking. I know that people see the thread in the quality and the attention to detail and what I do. But that was one of those great things. And, you know, so that was, that was a stage of about 10 years ago, you know, when that really started changing. And then the next big one.
oddly enough was I started taking a break from work because of some choices in life and I wasn’t really quite sure how I was feeling with design. I was trying to reposition and think about my projects and when it was time for me to go, okay, I’m coming back in and I put a call in literally to one client, one great client that I had built a beautiful house for, for years down in Malibu. And I called that client and I said, you know what,
I need to step my firm back up and get going. She goes, done. I’m making three phone calls today. I was like, okay. Within literally four days, I went on three huge calls. I got every one of the jobs. I ended up turning one of them down and I took two of those jobs. Thank God for her friendship and that family’s generosity.
Thanks for watching!
Shelley Starr (32:24.722)
you know, look out for me and be like, no, you need to meet this woman. But, you know, coming back into that, it’s twofold because COVID was a really horrible thing that happened. And yet at the same time, it was a driving factor that slowed things down where I was kind of able to come back in and go, you know what, I’ve got some things I wanna learn. I wanna kind of go back in and start exercising the creativity and what I, what
design means to me, what my customer service means, how I want to run my projects. And then at the same time, I just was blessed with these unbelievable clients, unbelievable projects. And I went to a whole new level of the best design work I’ve done in my entire career. And so the last three years have been just magical. I mean, really, really
Shelley Starr (33:24.098)
I could quit today and I get to just, I’m in heaven in my head because I’ve done so many unbelievable things and created so much beauty and happiness. I mean, and the relationships with the clients because of the work that my firm and I have been doing. And by the way, I want to say, it’s, you know, Shelley Star, yeah, that’s me, but I’ve got these girls behind me. And
Shelley Starr (33:51.102)
you know, none of us are just what you see. It takes the synergy and the respect and the collaboration of my team, you know, to make these things happen. You know, and that’s why I travel and I try to do everything I can. I absolutely love my staff and the girls that I have. I have so much respect for them because they tolerate me on a nonstop basis.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah.
Well, I love how you embrace all these facets. Like there doesn’t seem to be a lot of separation with clients, friendship, work, travel, family. I think this is a really valuable approach. I mean, it’s just you living your life, you know, but for an outsider looking at like, you know, you’re showing what how you do something that is different than I would think. And speaking of I have to ask because
Shelley Starr (34:35.500)
there’s obviously you’re creative, but then there’s like a showroom in Newport Beach by the water. There’s a business, there’s a staff, there’s project management. So where did you kind of get your business chops or your organizational chops? Is there like this, were you like a paper girl? Was there some kind of background that you have, whether it’s traditional or business school or not, that really lends itself to you being able to do what you’ve been doing for decades, you know?
Shelley Starr (34:56.648)
Shelley Starr (35:15.358)
You know, I think, no, you know what it is? It’s a, the beauty is as we get older, it’s experience. And it’s working hard. And nowhere in my life did I come in with entitlement or, you know, I want instant gratification. I’m happy doing the work. You know, I’m not somebody who’s hyperphosed. The bank accounts and all that, that is not what’s on my mind.
You know, I have more than enough in life and I’m a single mom, you know who is Blessed with I mean just I’ve got a daughter who’s the love of my life and a big dog and a lot of friends and yeah, so I Think all those things that you’re asking are all things that I’ve developed and you know learned Over time of when I made mistakes and owning those mistakes, you know, I’m very much so someone I screw up
The bill is on me. I had a huge mistake recently on a job. We were so into a beaded wallpaper from Maya Romanoff, but I never considered the weight being a problem. And when it went to my wallpaper installers, we got all the scaffolding, we went to start putting this paper up. It was like, oh my god, we can’t keep the paper up. It’s not going to hold the ceiling.
Shelley Starr (36:39.650)
back to what you say, it took five minutes for me to have a good damn hard laugh about it and go, that’s about as dumb as you get, but it happens. And then you pay for the mistake. And you know how you learn? You paid for that mistake and you move on. You know, and it’s like, okay, the client, yeah, that bill’s not on you, that bill’s on me. Where, you know, I tell you that story because it’s very honest. It’s just things happen, you know? And how do we deal?
Shelley Starr (37:09.738)
them as we go into it. So experience and it’s a lifetime of experiences and you know hardships and everything that you can imagine you know that you go through as an interior designer and anyone who doesn’t own that or designers that fight back with clients or even make it put a client in an uncomfortable position. For me that that’s inappropriate you know because they come to you you know and it’s
Shelley Starr (37:38.494)
I definitely have one big thing that is very key for us and that is no matter what the client, how bad things get or what’s going on, they’re never to have a bad experience through the process. They hired me to shield them from that. So it’s like the buck stops with me, the trouble is anything, it all stops with me. And I’m there to make their world perfect. And that’s what they pay me for. And so when you live off of that premise, okay, bite the bullet on that.
Shelley Starr (38:07.738)
We own the wallpaper. All right, it goes into storage. One day we’ll find a wonderful home and it’ll be like, it belonged there, it never belonged here. Do you know what I’m saying? And don’t fret about the money. Yeah, it was a very expensive mistake, but don’t fret about it. It all works out, but what’s proper is making sure the client is good. So again, it’s those experiences that drive me to who I am and how I run my business. But like I said, I really…
Shelley Starr (38:36.302)
keep things quite simple. You know, it’s, I kind of have a funny little thing, you know, keep it simple, stupid. You know, don’t overcomplicate things. You know, we have a very organized system. You know, if you were to walk our office, it’s beautiful. Everything has its place. You know, you want to know about, you know, molding and all the different molding, there’s a box. You go there, you know. So it’s how you manage that says a lot about our, you know, one’s mind and how organized we are.
Shelley Starr (39:07.162)
And yeah, you know, and the same goes for, you know, when clients, you know, one of my clients, he just, he laughs because he’s like, I just know the moment I ask you, you’ll already send me something that you’ve already sent the email out and you’re on it. But I just love to ask because I just know like you’ve already done it, you know, I couldn’t imagine if you were running my life. So thank God you run our homes.
And you know, if you weren’t doing what you were doing, like in an alternate universe, you know, what would be your job if it wasn’t this? You know, like…
Shelley Starr (39:40.291)
I would totally be a chef or a party planner. Yeah. No question.
And you mentioned your daughter because you have parties and you do dinner parties or birthday parties. And that’s, so that’s like fun for you.
Shelley Starr (39:54.114)
Oh, I love it. You could tell me it’s noon and you could say, you know what, 20 people come tonight. I’m like, game on, let’s do this thing. Oh yeah, oh yeah. You know, it’s.
That’s awesome! What was a favorite job of yours before design? Was there something fun? It could have been when you were 12 or 20 or that was just like a cool job. It’s funny thing that’s in my bio.
Shelley Starr (40:18.818)
Okay. No scooping ice cream.
Shelley Starr (40:24.898)
No, I can’t say I have any really fun like jobs. You know what they were? And one of the things I have, one of my dear clients, you know, she sent her middle son to me because he was wasn’t sure what to do with his career. And he did kind of like design. And he called me and he said, he said, you know, can I can I come have lunch with you? And I said, Oh, my God, of course, I’m so flattered. You’d want to talk. And I told him and it was funny because I
Shelley Starr (40:51.766)
These are very, very successful people. Like we’re not, I mean, I just, I’m amazed at the way this family works. So the idea that their son came and spent time talking with me, and what I told him is, you’re out of school. You wanna get in design. You know what you do? You go to work for one of the best companies and you learn about process. If I was starting my career over again, I’d go work for Ralph Lauren, because that would teach me everything I need to know about design and the whole process.
and I would stay there for two years and I would learn everything and I would grow as far as I can. And then at two years, I’d get out and I’d move on to the next company and I’d go learn a little something from them. And then I’d get out and I’d go learn. And never for the next five years, do you think about money. You think solely about the educational experience of every one of those jobs. And so everything that I did, back to what you said that I did as I was coming up was, did I work as a hostess? Did I?
try as a waitress. I’ve done so many different jobs. When I went to college, I was cleaning boats at 4.30 in the morning. It’s like, I’ve had to do a lot of different things to get to where I am and know what it means to work hard, but to always do your best. So I’ve run the spectrum of so many different things, but I have been in design for a long time.
Shelley Starr (42:18.402)
I mean, since I was 30 years old, I’ve been designing product. I’ve had my own company. You know, I’m a long haul in this, you know? And before that, you know, I was just traveling the world. I was very curious about everything going on. So it’s, you know, but like I said, I think now if you’re starting out, you know, people want to go out and they want to make all this money right away. It’s like, maybe that’s going to work for a few people, but I would treat more, you know, I tell…
Shelley Starr (42:47.182)
are like I tell my daughter. You don’t go to get to that first job because it’s gonna be your end all. You just go in there to learn. You’re going for the experience. It doesn’t matter how meaningless you might think it is. It’s gonna be your host’s job. Host’s job is gonna teach you about communication. And that is a key factor in what’s going on in society today because very few young people know how to look up and have a conversation. I can’t tell you how many kids that come over, they just can’t look at you and talk.
Shelley Starr (43:17.494)
They can’t look at you in the eye. My daughter’s gonna meet you head on and she’s gonna have a conversation with you. So it’s like, they all hear us somehow. Yeah.
I love that approach. Yeah, because I was a hostess as a teenager and to this day, it’s like how to not, how to stay calm when there’s people coming at you. The doors are open and it’s the public and most people are going to be sweet as pie.
Shelley Starr (43:31.107)
Shelley Starr (43:41.122)
And it’s rude, and it’s a rude person that’s just suddenly nasty and you’re like, okay, I can look at you and I can get in a fight and be like, my god, you are an asshole. Or you know, you’re like, what do I need to do to try to make you happy? How do we change what’s happening today for you? Yeah. What?
Who’s just… yeah! And who’s just…
Right. Right. And it’s not always easy, but those are great experiences that I thought you had because it was interesting. I’m like, it makes sense that you came from humble beginnings. And it also made sense that you did a panoply of jobs. Some of them like bust ass scrubbing boats when it’s still dark out, you know? So.
Shelley Starr (44:12.396)
Shelley Starr (44:15.594)
Yeah. Oh yeah. I cycled through Western and Eastern Europe, over 3,600 kilometers on a bike with pioneers for two years. I know perseverance and patience, but I’m also very dedicated. When I’m like into something, that’s it. You know, that’s, yeah. Nothing scares me.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, yeah. That’s what I, see, I’m gonna have to watch this over. Yes, yeah, no doubt.
Shelley Starr (44:40.346)
Except for today’s economy. And political environment. That one’s like blowing my mind.
Right, right. And I want to thank you for saving the 87 year old cottage on the beach. That’s really admirable, you know? Yes. And your dog, is it Bernice? Bernois, what’s the?
Shelley Starr (44:54.890)
You have to come and visit us.
Shelley Starr (45:00.478)
No, he’s an English white retriever who I thought was going to be, yeah, 75. I thought, oh, you know, we’re getting the 75, 80 pound dog. And then, and then we’re at the vet like a couple of years ago. And I’m like, what do you mean he’s 120 pounds? Like nobody told me I was getting the 120 pound dog.
Is that big?
Dang! Dang! So you probably have a special car that you transport them in.
Shelley Starr (45:26.194)
Yeah, how do we transport that beast? We do have a big truck that my daughter now has. She inherited the truck. I have a fun little 356, you know, and he does love to get in that little car and go for a drive. He’s not happy when he finds out we’re heading to like, you know, the groomer, but he loves if we’re heading to the office. But my life is very compact. You know, I’ve built this cottage and
Shelley Starr (45:52.802)
we take a beautiful little walk along the harbor and the boats and we go to my office, which sits right on the water in the marina. So, you know, I’ve got this really nice life. I have to drive to LA a couple times a week and I’m with clients and I’m on job sites. But the moment I leave, I come back to a very quiet, you know, fun life. And there’s, like I said, friends, everybody’s close by. And we moved into just some place I didn’t even think I was going to, I would love and I’m obsessed with it now.
Obsessed. I’m obsessed with all the people we’ve gotten to know. I’m assessed with the doors being open and everybody like riding up on their bikes and having drinks with us and like Who knew? This is so dang cool!
Yeah. Aw, I’m glad. And it’s, I think we’ve all learned a lot from you and it was just really great just approaching you and you were just like, sure, in typical Shelley star fashion, you’re like, sure, let’s do it. I’m available. Like, I was like, I knew she’d be like that. So you are and always. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Shelley Starr (46:56.935)
You’re welcome. And may I tell you, it’s because of all your experiences that you know how to be a great interview and how you know how to handle and coordinate and take us through this. You have these exceptional traits as well. So, you should be really proud of all the experiences you’ve had because you make us comfortable. So, again, this is that synergy of, it takes a wonderful host and interviewer.
Aww, thank you!
Shelley Starr (47:24.802)
to pull these things out of us, even if I am kind of a chatty gal.
Aw, that means a lot. Thank you so much. Ha ha ha.
Shelley Starr (47:33.504)
yeah, thank you
Thank you so much. You too.
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