Making something beautiful out of something ugly

It’s been a crazy kind of week in the local and national interior design industry. A (hopefully former) member of the design field – a designer and host of a popular podcast – was outed as a scam artist who not only has a history of allegedly leaving wealthy clients high and dry, but also took advantage of a local community based non-profit. The All Dorchester Sports & Leadership is an after school program for kids in the Dorchester section of Boston. This f-er (whose name I cannot bring myself to write) promised to help the organization with much needed exterior lighting – supposedly pro-bono and at cost. Instead, he took their $13,500.00 but didn’t provide the lights. Despite a court order, he’s only refunded half the amount due. After years of trying to get their funds back, the organization reached out to the i-Team at WBZ, Boston’s local CBS affiliate. Reporter Ryan Kath tracked the guy down, who promised to pay the balance that week. That was last April.

This week, they tracked him down at the airport (having just gotten out of his first class seat) and followed him to his Land Rover, where he said he couldn’t recall speaking with the reporter several months ago.

Anyway, we in the design industry do not stand for this type of behavior. It’s not who we are. These situations only play into the sometimes negative perceptions of interior designers who are only out to make a buck and spend as much of our client’s money as we can lay our hands on. For 99% of us – this is not at all true. We are, at heart, people pleasers who care about how people live. We care about functionality, we care about safety,  we care about beauty – we know how important all these things are to all our lives.

A few weeks ago, a group of interior designers here in Boston put on a fundraiser called Heading Home to Dinner which was a decorated tabletop and bar cart event. They raised $100,000.00 to combat homelessness. This is who the design industry is.

I’m in a Facebook group of designers and industry professionals from across the US and Canada who saw this injustice and took it personally. Many of us know the perpetrator, myself included. We knew we needed to do something to right this wrong, to take back our collective good names.

And we did!  We set up a Go Fund Me and in less than two days, we exceeded our original goal of $7,000.00 and have raised over $16,000.00 for this wonderful organization. Companies have stepped up and offered goods, designers and builders have offered services. ETA as of 11/13 we’ve now raised $21,000!! 

When we started, I reached out to the iTeam reporter Ryan Kath for advice and an introduction to the organization – so they would know we’re stepping in to do what we can. And, we made it clear that this was in no way a bail out or attempt at exonerating the person who owed them money. JS – if you read this – you still owe these kids the money. You’ve admitted on tape that you owe the money.  Your former industry colleagues expect you to finally do what’s right.

I was interviewed for the followup on the story.

I spoke with the exec. director of the ADSL yesterday and she shared her appreciation for these initiatives. She said that they will be able to put in place programs that they hadn’t been able to fund previously.

Something beautiful from something ugly, indeed.

Kids in red t-shorts from All Dorchester Sports and Leadership

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xoxo Linda Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

8 thoughts on “Making something beautiful out of something ugly

  1. Sounds like his name should be James Swan, Million Dollar Swindler. Thank you for posting this. I’m not in the design industry and have never heard of this man despite reading quite a few design blogs. It galls me to no end when anyone cheats someone else and then lives “high on the hog” with ill-gotten gains, no matter what the profession is. I’m glad this man was called out and I wish more people would speak up when confronted with this kind of issue.

  2. Wow, it takes a really special type of low-life scum to swindle a non-profit organization. Good for you and the other designers and bloggers for raising money and calling this guy out.

  3. I was an interior designer in Boston for 25+ years and have done countless fund raising events for local non-profits. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned – as a collective group, interior designers are people pleasers and strive to improve the lives of others. Mr. Swan’s behavior and ethics regarding this story are certainly not indicative of any Boston designers I have know. The Boston design community is very supportive of helping others less fortunate and enthusiastically jump into action when called upon to support a long and varied list of those in need. Although I find Mr. Swan’s behavior repugnant, I am so proud that the Boston design community has once again stepped forward to help. This one bad apple, just needs to be tossed out of the basket!

  4. When you see him at functions, you should do as they did in high society historical England and “cut” him – turn your backs to him. Just shun him at every meeting. They would even cut people on the street. Of course, he’s probably not the type to be shamed.

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