A Brilliant Decorator Or A Dangerous Con Artist?

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

 

My mother always used to say…

 

“There is no ill wind that doesn’t blow in some good.”

 

I checked on the original wording of that sentiment and it’s actually different wording with a different meaning. But I far prefer Mom’s version.

Over the years, this expression has taken on more and more meaning as I have noticed that whenever some sucktastic thing happens– eventually something great comes from it.

 

And without the yucky thing happening first, the really great thing wouldn’t have happened either.

 

As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be writing you right now, if some of my life circumstances had been different. Absolutely true!

It’s given me a lot of comfort in recent years to know that whatever river of shite I’ve been forced to swim through; it only means that there’s probably a little paradise waiting for me, just out of view.

OR, it might be 10,000 miles away. But one day, it will make sense why things have to be the way they are.

I’ve seen this “ill wind blowing good” phenomenon happen for others, too. How about you? Is it true for you too?

 

After all of the hoopla of Black Friday and Cyber Monday*, today is “Giving Tuesday.” And it ties in beautifully to the subject at hand, A Brilliant Decorator OR a Dangerous Con Artist?

 

Yeah, Laurel, we were wondering when you are going to get to the dirt. hehe. Common’ spill!

 

Well I am, but it is not an easy post to write because I far prefer to write about happy, good things, not the sick, depraved, unseemly side of humanity.

Alas it exists. And if we just pretend it doesn’t exist, and sweep it all under the Persian Heriz, then nothing is going to change and people will continue to get hurt.

And yes, it’s risky to call it out because it puts one in a negative light, but in this case, I am willing to take that risk. This is too important.

It’s all well and good to be “nice,” but nice is not the same as “good.” Sometimes a person needs to stop being so damned nice in order to be good.

 

What is very difficult to comprehend is that con artists more often than not appear to be very normal, very nice, very charming people.

One of the “tells” I’ve noticed with con artists who by definition are also compulsive liars is to pay attention to what they do; not what they say. They have the art of bullshit down. They know how to play to our emotions and make us begin to doubt what we already know. Don’t fall for it.

Anyone out there who’s been the victim of a sociopath/narcissist will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here’s the story.

 

About a month ago through some brilliant investigative reporting, in Boston, it came to light that a highly respected brilliant “interior designer,” podcaster and author had done the unthinkable.

 

Please take a listen to this thorough report and you can decide for yourself if this is a brilliant decorator or a dangerous con artist?

 

(While you’re listening to that, I’m going to wipe out the rest of the pecan pie.)

 

The link to the original article from CBS Boston

 

Pretty shocking, eh?

Succinctly, this decorator took $13,500 to purchase lights for a non-profit serving impoverished children in Dorchester, MA. But, no lights were ever produced.

In addition, there is a long history of such behavior which the reporters found several judgments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars awarded to the plaintiffs.

A lovely colleague, Linda Merrill and fellow design hound created this very well-written post about what happened in Dorchester, MA. And she has embedded a follow-up video.

 

Look, I can understand how a person can get into financial straits. I can understand the difficulty sometimes in just getting through each day and of going into deep debt.

 

But I cannot begin to fathom STEALING from children who have absolutely nothing.

 

These are children who the director of their after school program is making them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that she paid for out of her own pocket, just so that they will go to bed that night with food in their bellies.

They sorely need that $13,500 and a lot more!

 

 

Chilling words from the director of the All Dorchester Sports League, Candice Gartley

 

“He’s absolutely charming. He’s very articulate and puts you at ease,” Gartley recalled.”

 

Yes, ick is right.

 

Boys ages 7-10 getting some positive reinforcement through sports.

 

And to be clear. I keep seeing/hearing the word, “allegations.”

 

THESE ARE NOT ALLEGATIONS!

 

They were at one time, but now after their court cases, they are judgments awarded to the plaintiffs, every single time, but alas, in most cases, no money was recovered.

According to his website: James-SwineDotCoN

There are other obligations, (instead of purchasing furniture he was given massive checks to pay for)– like the need for cashmere sweaters, expensive cars, trips to trade shows, Paris and just now, according to his instagram, a gorgeous trip to Wales. Oh, and he can afford to fly first class, apparently.


But he can’t afford to pay back the money he took???

EVERYONE in this industry went through financial hardships during the recession. I am an interior designer who (barely) made it through the horrific years of ’08-’09. I’ve survived being robbed by a vendor for $30,000 (and still had to buy my client her carpeting out of my own pocket!) and much more. It’s a tough business.

Not to say poor me. But the last thought on my mind was taking my clients’ money and using it to pay for my own expenses. NO, what happened is that we went into enormous credit card debit.

 

How do you STEAL hundreds of thousands of dollars from innocent clients AND declare bankruptcy?

 

And why are these only civil charges? Any lawyers out there who can explain this to us, because I do not understand why he can do this over and over and over. I have heard from a reliable source that there have been substantial judgments awarded since the bankruptcy.

 

But I do not want to waste one more second of my time (or yours) on this [insert your own word here], except to inform people about the grizzly truth. Up to you, what you do with the information.

 

Aside from what’s been stolen in tangible terms, what has happened is these incidents serve to perpetuate the grotesque myth that us decorators are a bunch of unscrupulous rip off artists who are taking advantage of our clients every which way possible.

And believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. But yes, like in every profession, there are some bad apples on occasion.

But, I am so proud of dozens of my colleagues who’ve rallied together to right a wrong; not to give Mr. Swine, a way out.

 

Through the fabulous leader of the interior design community on facebook,(a private group for those in the interior design and home furnshings industry) Laurie Laizure, we decided to create a gofundme page to help the kids out.

 

And this is what I’m asking of you this Giving Tuesday.

 

What I would love more than anything is for people to give to this worthwhile organization in Dorchester, MA.

 

It’s programs like these that help impoverished kids who are beginning life at a disadvantage to thrive, build self-esteem and keep them off the streets.

Maybe if enough people give, more kids could be helped. There might even be scholarships if there’s enough money; who knows? Maybe because of our help one of them will discover the cure for cancer.

OR, without our help, they might end up somewhere unmentionable.

 

Again, Here is the link for the GoFundMe Page

I heard that Ms. Gartley broke down when she saw what us designers did. All of us were crying that first day.

Please remember that they still HAD to have the lights. So, they had to take money needed to create new programs to pay for the lights. The safety of the kids is at stake. What good is an after school program if it’s not safe?

Some of the Volunteers at the All Dorchester Sports League

 

They operate on the slimmest of budgets. In fact, most of the adults helping out are volunteers.

In addition, Ms. Gartley had to answer to her board of directors. She damned well nearly lost her job over this!

To say that this situation makes me sick is an understatement.

But you know… let’s thank Mr. Swine, for this much. For without his misdeeds, the children would still not be adequately served.

And on another note. The coincidence of my being in Dorchester, England only a few weeks before this story breaking gives me chills.

Amen.

 

But the giving isn’t over!

 

 

I owe the paint/palette collection owners a board. Actually two more boards. These are the last of the 12 promised bonus boards for those who’ve purchased the two-part paint/palette collection.

 

Below are the 144 colors Benjamin Moore colors.


One designer told me that she ONLY uses these colors when specking colors for her clients. It makes the decision making so much easier!

 

For this month’s post, I decided to do a wall using one of the pretty shades of pink.

 

 

This color is Benjamin Moore Sunlit Coral.

 

The inspiration is many-fold.

First is Ben Pentreath

His sofa, wall color

The color is lighter than the original Parsonage Pink, but it is very close to the lighter shade of Parsonage pink.

 

And the next is a wonderful designer who makes and sells Ben’s fabulous sofa, Max Rollitt. His website is a must-visit.

 

Ben Pentreath’s Sofa!

 

Above and below. Two vignettes via Max Rollitt.

Oh, man. Love the yellow with this Chinese Art Deco rug. These have become rather popular in recent years.

And, if you can’t afford a Max Rollitt, there’s the delightful very-similar Harper sofa from Anthropologie.

 

 

And here is my gift to y’all for Giving Tuesday, the 11th bonus board!

 

 

It is funny, but I’ve always thought that yellow and pink is kind of icky-poo until Ben’s living room. I think that it needs to be a warm pink. However, I love the colors in this mock-up.

And a little inspirational widget with some of the items and others that could go in this room. You can click on each image for more info.

 

 

 

 

I took the liberty of adding another coat of white wash to the coffee table. I do stuff like that– even to new furniture.

There is a paint palette of 12 colors coming tomorrow, but it is only for those who own the Laurel Home Paint Color/Palette Collection. If you click the link, it will lead to you to all of the information pages, for those who are interested in learning more about it.

 

And again, please consider giving a monetary gift that will help these adorable children of Dorchester on this GivingTuesday!

 

 

Again, in case you missed it, this is the link to the GoFundMe page to give to the All Dorchester Sports League.

I’ve already donated $250 and I am going to donate another $250. I’m thrilled to be in a position to help out!

Thank you so much in advance. Oh, it would be so wonderful if we could reach our initial goal of $25,000 within the next day or two!

As for Mr. Swine. I have disconnected myself as much as possible. If you happen to find the URL to my podcast, I’ve done a 301 redirect that takes the reader to my blog page. If anyone finds any other connection to him on the site, please let me know and I will take care of it.

Much Love,

 

 

PS: *For cyber Monday, I finally broke down and got a new fridge (Haier, fits exactly in my space), dishwasher (kitchenaid), range (kitchenaid) and nuker/convection (Maytag). Everything’s white except for the fridge. I have some ideas for that, too. So excited. No, they aren’t the top of the line, but they are all super nice appliances– a huge upgrade from what I currently have. And I got a great deal at Home Depot!

I believe that they still have their sales going on.

PPS: If you’re needing help with ideas for Christmas/Hanukkah gifts, please check out the holiday shop and hot sales pages.

 

8th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2021 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

69 Responses

  1. I somehow missed reading this post until now, which isn’t surprising considering how jammed up my inbox has been with urgent requests to buy “stuff” now, and I am shocked and dismayed, huge understatement, to read about this despicable excuse for a human being. When I hear about people like him, who keep scamming innocent victims over and over again, I wonder to myself how do they think they can get away with it, in the long run? Won’t they get caught, eventually? Well, as you clearly laid it out, people like him declare bankruptcy and continue to lie, lie, and lie. I just want to thank you for writing about him so that more victims will not be taken in by him. It just broke my heart to see those children’s beautiful faces at ADSL, who did not deserve this. I just made a donation to the GoFundMe account, and I thought that I would point out that donations can still be made even though GivingTuesday has passed.
    Thank you, Laurel, for exposing this man. And thanks to you, many donors stated that they made a donation after learning about the need on your blog. Way to go, Laurel and everybody else who has tried to help right this wrong.

    1. Hi Rosalyn,

      Thank you so much for your kind note and donation too! It’s difficult to understand how people like this function, but there’s definitely some faulty wiring, a true lack of empathy, and they are expert liars.

      I’m overwhelmed by how many people jumped right to it after this came out. And if one isn’t able to give monetarily, that is absolutely fine.

      The director of the program is beside herself with gratitude. She said that this is the first winter that she’s not going to have to worry if there will be enough funds to subsidize their winter programs.

      The kids are very excited too. It’s a wonderful holiday story!

  2. That description of him sounds like so many charming, lying sociopathic serial killers. It’s the same narcissistic power play. I’m sorry I can’t donate; we’re not even doing gifts this season, except for some handmade gifts from owned materials. These children are so used to being disappointed with people and promises – this just reinforced that expectation of disappointment.

    1. No worries Rebecca about the donation. That was me for most of my life! Your verbal support is priceless!

      And bless those children! We’ve raised $26,225 for them. So hopefully, they will see that there are people who genuinely care about them and want to make a positive difference in their lives!

  3. I listen to his podcast! Okay…did listen… this is horrible. Going to get rid of him from my playlist.

  4. I heard some stuff about this guy years ago, and didn’t know what to make of it. Some of the complainers were actually kicked off FB. Thanks for letting us know, and what you have done is commendable.

    1. Well, that’s quite intriguing Ellen! I’m sure there are many sordid details that are not known. Many probably happened pre-internet. And he’s in his mid-60s.

  5. Brava, Laurel!!! Let’s plaster this predator’s mugshot all over the web and shout his cursed name from the rooftops. Let him be shamed and shunned wherever he dares show his face. Finally, let him serve a nice long prison term! I, too, will give my little share to the Dorchester do-gooders and their young charges (that scumbag will probably think we’ve discharged his debt for him, though!).

  6. Hi Laurel, thanks for bringing this up. I made my donation and am so grateful to do so. Love your blog. I always look forward to your postings.

  7. Just gave…Laurel. Thank you for sharing this opportunity to help. Boy it makes me so mad what this sick man has done to a non profit for children!

    1. Yes, Kelly, and you know that he was at that networking meeting looking for opportunities to scam. Of course, that’s conjecture but since that’s exactly what he did, I think it’s a logical deduction.

  8. Wowwwwww. I had not heard of him, but just checked out his web site and blog.

    There are some cryptic posts on his blog that must be referring to the mess he created.

    I wonder how all this developed in him. He has a big fancy web site and clearly has a passion for design. It seems that there is some pathology going on and he’s been hiding it for a long time.

    This is incredibly sad for everyone involved.

  9. Wow, this jerk is an out-and-out crook! Either that, or he is majorly mentally ill. Which I rather doubt. Do the to-the-trade crowd know about him? I hope everyone who reads your blog will post that video on FB!! Let’s put the bastard out of business!

    On a happier note, LOVE Ben’s sofa, so neo-classical! And thanks for the beautiful bonus board.

    Finally, thank you Laurel for using your voice to help out those kids!

    Best wishes,

    Diane

    1. Hi Diane,

      The situation is quite complicated as he has been lying to his sponsors and others. But, there is some movement on the justice side of things that I’m not at liberty to discuss at this time.

  10. How thoughtful of you Laurel as always. Just donated and looks like the campaign has almost reached their goal !

  11. Laurel, you are a gem. Thank you for all have done, and now, taking time to advocate for kids. I’m only sorry I didn’t see this post yesterday! Love the new board too. Timeless design = more time and money for good causes than trends and costly mistakes.

  12. Well done, Laurel! Thank you for making us aware of a bad situation that collectively, we can help with. Better because of you!

    “Together we can do great things.” Mother Teresa.

  13. You are a terrific person for using your platform to improve the world, and I am glad to help. Please everyone consider that Laurel offers us excellent content twice a week and asks nothing in return, and even the smallest donation to this worthy cause is an excellent way to show our appreciation for the best designer with the kindest heart!

    1. That is so sweet of you to say Rachel. And I just found out a little while ago, that we’ve surpassed our initial goal!!!

      So, so proud of the dozens of kind and generous readers!

  14. Thanks for letting us know – even a little money goes a long way in these programs.

    BTW, I’m lusting after the blue rug in your sunlit coral mock-up. What? Where?

  15. Love that you changed the name to Swine! I also love how people rally in the face of wrong-doing. Thank you for the opportunity to give. It’s true the worst times in my life (and there have been some doosies!) have led to some great things. There’s always something available. If I stay in gratitude, the silver lining is usually revealed.

  16. This whole thing makes me sick. But I LOVE that we, as designers, have come together and raised so much money for a great cause in my own state! Sharing!

  17. Hello Laurel, Kudos to you for this expose. The poor unfortunately are an easy target to rip off because they have so few defenders. Although the name James Swan is poison to you, you should have included it in this article. You have a very high search engine ranking, and so people searching his name would be directed to this article and possible donations, instead of just to his own self-serving sites. (Several times when I looked up decorating-related topics, Laurel posts were among the first results that popped up!).

    In Cleveland, we had an education superintendent, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was involved in all sorts of scandals involving tens of millions. She repeated her tricks in Detroit and Chicago, where they finally caught up to her and tossed her in Jail, as I see from Wikipedia. She makes James Swan look penny-ante.

    Interestingly, the first James Swan the computer served up is one who helped finance the U.S. Revolution, although he was later imprisoned in France for many years. Adding to coincidence, before he left the U.S. (apparently a bad choice), he had a summer estate in Dorchester, Massachusetts!
    –Jim
    P.S. Another silver lining to this scandal: Now when people ask me what is wrong with my apartment, I can tell them that I paid James Swan to decorate it, and I am expecting the new furnishings any day now!

    1. LOL on the PS! Thank you Jim. And yes, I am aware of my SE ranking, which has been the result of a lot of Blood, Sweat… but even so, I don’t want to have my name linked with his, but it is now! It’s okay, though.

      What I’m so thrilled though is that so many have generously donated to this wonderful cause!

  18. Did it! $50
    Not much but wanted to stand up for all the good people in the world who would never think of ripping off sweet children! Thank you Laurel for being that strong voice.

    1. Are you kidding? $50 is very generous! If every unique visitor landing on this website over the course of one year only donated ten bucks, that would be well over $25,000,000!!!

  19. Gobsmacked and saddened. I listened to his podcasts and know several of the designer guests he had on it from RVA. Seems like he is just digging a deeper hole instead of making amends. Pretty pathetic James. Hope he comes around and makes this right otherwise a total loser pos.

    1. Have to say there was something about his voice that creeped me out. And when I did my podcast about a year and a half ago, he was like an automaton. I figured that it was just me because he was so highly respected. But now it all makes sense.

  20. Hi Laurel,
    Thanks for alerting people to this lying thief and his tactics.
    I couldn’t help myself and had to send him my thoughts about
    what he did, (on his website). Hope the kids get their lights,
    I will make a donation, Love your style!

    1. Thank you so much Ann. Sadly, he has no conscience so your words will most likely have little meaning. But, maybe others will see and at least question.

      Have to say that he’s a very good liar because he peppers it with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Difficult to understand because it’s so messed up.

  21. Bravo Laurel and cheers to you as well! Thank you for taking the high road and taking action to right this wrong. Your post was so timely…I just found McSwiney’s designer podcasts about 2 weeks ago and was beginning to sift through them. Naturally, I’ve scratched him off my listening list (how is he even a “thing” still??!!!).
    Thanks again
    Christine from CA

    1. Hi Christine,

      Because he’s a pathological liar, that’s how. There’s much more to this story that I haven’t shared. And that’s because it’s all so unreal that it would sound like a bashing.

  22. Right in my own backyard and I didn’t know a thing about it. I don’t know why he’s not in jail! Thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention,

    1. Thank you for the support BJ. It is scary calling someone out. And it’s not something I take lightly. But this behavior has been going on for years. Money aside, the breech of trust is an exceedingly serious crime for it eats away at a person’s soul.

  23. Thanks, Laurel, for shedding light on this story, and on “Giving Tuesday”, very appropriate. My bank account didn’t allow me to participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but I would MUCH rather take part in something like this. I have made a small donation and am thrilled to see the total is over $22,000! So close to the goal… I hope this story goes viral so that cad will never rip off anyone again…

    Lisa C.

    1. Thank you so much Lisa C. And I also understand if folks don’t have the money to spare. That has been me most of my life. Unfortunately, he is still spreading a lie that he’s paid in full.

      I think we need to have another follow-up from the I-Team! And maybe 60 minutes can pick it up or something.

  24. Thanks for sharing. He sounds like a horrible, horrible person. Just made a donation and they are very, very close to the goal.

  25. That’s appalling Laurel but sadly that type of person exists in all professions. In contrast what a quality human being Candice Gartley is. I plan to honour her and do my little bit for the kids. Thank you Laurel for your human decency and bringing to my attention. Here in Aus we would never have heard and been blissfully unaware whilst listening to his podcasts.

    1. Hi There from up over! Sadly, many here have not heard either and he is still LYING! But I am so grateful for so many people donating and I don’t care if it’s five bucks. I should’ve said that in the post.

  26. What a disgusting ‘swine’, indeed! I am really quite shocked at such perfidy and selfishness. There’s not much more I can do but help out with the GoFund program, and I can promise that I will never listen to any of his podcasts ever again..
    Thank you Laurel, for your kind heart..
    xoxoxo

    1. Thank you so much Dolores! There’s an update. He’s making claims that he’s paid in full. Laurie Laizure emailed the director who said – FALSE. No money given back!

      What kind of insane brand of crazy is that?!?!?!

  27. Thanks so much for this post, Laurel. I’ve just made a donation and hope they reach their goal.

  28. WOW! This just make smoke come out of my ears! I’m not a lawyer,
    but isn’t this fraud? Why isn’t this person in jail?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      My question, exactly! Because if he’s not stopped, he will just continue to screw people over. One judgment awarded is over $200,000!!! But, that was just before he declared bankruptcy.

      But… NO furniture was ever ordered! No purchase orders. nothing! He kept telling the clients that it’s in the warehouse! I can’t even begin to imagine how upset they must be.

  29. Laurel,
    You are a delight every time you show up in my inbox. But today is the tops. Thanks for the nudge to support a terrific cause and make a difference in kids’ lives.

  30. Not only are you smart and funny . . . I always read your posts . . . you are thoughtful and kind . . . thank you for sharing an opportunity to make a difference in some childrens’ lives.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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