5 On Your Side

Cary woman: 'Unprofessional' designer failed to deliver furniture

Posted December 14, 2010

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— With the upcoming holidays, many people want their houses to look just right. But one Cary woman says she has been waiting months to get $27,000 worth of furniture that she purchased.

Samira Tahtawi called WRAL’s 5 on Your Side after Showcase Windows and Interiors, a Greensboro-based company, failed to deliver her furniture.

Tahtawi hired Showcase owner Kelley Varner to be her interior decorator after seeing an ad in a Cary magazine.

“(Varner) was very energetic. She was very eager. She was here every week to take down some of the ordering that we had decided on. She was very helpful in designing how the room should look,” Tahtawi said.

From the end of May to mid-June, Tahtawi ordered everything from draperies to furniture to mirrors. She paid half up front and, according to the contract, the other half was due "upon installation." It was supposed to take eight to 10 weeks.

“Then when (Varner) came back and told me that the delivery was imminent, she requested the full balance be paid,” Tahtawi said. “And I made a comment as to, ‘Oh, I've never paid the balance until the items are actually in the house.’ She said, ‘I really can't get the items until you pay me in full.’”

“At the time, I felt like if I didn't pay her I wouldn't get the items, so I went ahead and paid the check,” she added.

Tahtawi said all she received from the $27,000 order were draperies. She said Varner had many excuses for repeated canceled delivery dates, including everything from health problems to family emergencies.

Tahtawi said the final straw was when Varner canceled the delivery at the last minute on Nov. 19.

“I left her a message and said, ‘I'm going to have to get more aggressive with you at this point, because this is unacceptable. It's unprofessional, and you've been paid for all this,’” Tahtawi said.

Tahtawi called 5 on Your Side, which found that plenty of other people were having problems with Varner. The Better Business Bureau listed 19 complaints, and most involved delivery issues.

When 5 on Your Side called Varner, she said she was "floored” and blamed the delays on her mother's illness. She said she missed the Nov. 19 delivery because "something came up." Varner also said she offered Tahtawi a free $8,000 sofa for her trouble.

“I said, ‘No, I didn't need a couch. I needed the furniture I'd already ordered,’” Tahtawi said.

Varner then left a message for Tahtawi saying she wanted to schedule a delivery, but she did not offer a specific date. Part of the problem, according to Tahtawi, is that Varner insists that, as the designer, she has to be there.

“I've said, ‘You don't actually have to be here. I know how things have to look, so I could be here with the delivery people,’” Tahtawi said. “At this point, I just want this taken care of. I just want her to do what she needs to do, and finish the job.”

After further conversation, Varner agreed to deliver the furniture last Friday.


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  • St Ives Dec 20, 2010

    BTW is this the same Kelly Varner who is a preacher for Jesus. If so it makes me laugh even harder.

  • St Ives Dec 20, 2010

    Would love a follow up and I do bet this lady did not get her furniture delivered as promised. I would file charges.

  • St Ives Dec 20, 2010

    My advice is check out the designer with the BBB before you hire her or him. I would never pay more than 50% upfront and never never give the full payment before it is all delivered. Also have a little faith in your own taste. Many places that sell window treatments and furniture have designers on staff that are there to help you and it is one middleman being avoied. This desinger is not to be truseed and deseves to be charged with fraud.

  • biketrip43 Dec 16, 2010

    The fact that people are criticizing this consumer for how she spends her money is nuts. I am sure these same people would be the first to complain about the recession/economy, jobs, etc. This consumer spent money she earned and in one way shape or form contributed to our local economy. An economy cannot recover unless people with money start spending it. Finally, this consumer did something very brave in reporting the issue in such a public manner so others would not be victimized by this dishonest decorator. The negative comments here demonstrate nothing but ignorance and jealousy. Props to WRAL.com for reporting this issue and hopefully preventing future consumers from dealing with this woman.

  • Quay Girl Dec 16, 2010

    I am a designer in the area and have practiced here since 1982. In defense of designers in the area, when custom work and orders are processed, 50% down is the norm. If the customer cancels the order, the 50% down will cover the designer's costs, which, on custom items or orders, is typically non-refundable. In defense of the customer, orders for furniture and draperies should not take more than 8-10 weeks, start to finish unless a specialty fabric or backordered piece is on that order. I have made custom window treatments for years for designers and decorators. I would schedule the work as soon as I received the materials. I wanted to get paid, too. I think that the decorator that was hired spent the money on someone else's order...robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • rdmcswai Dec 16, 2010

    Squirreling Dervish loves Oreos - Why on earth does it matter how much money the client has? She got screwed by this decorator, and that's wrong no matter what your income may be!

  • dana6 Dec 16, 2010

    FYI, this headline is incorrect. It should read "Unprofessional Decorator Failed to Deliver Furniture" Kelley Varner is not a designer. She is a decorator. The difference is designers have a 4 year specialized degree with internship and decorators need no training at all. Please hire designers. In most states (not NC) they require a license. What a sad situation for this family.

  • BigUNCFan Dec 15, 2010

    If she did not deliver the furniture, then essentially it is theft and I would get the DA to prosecute as a felony given the large amount.

  • ljweidner1 Dec 15, 2010

    I also had the unhappy experience of dealing with Kelly Varner. I got her name from the Cary flyer and talked to her and other decorators. I agree with Ms Tahtawi that she seemed professional, enthusiastic and competent. We gave her a check for over half of the amount due. After months of waiting for custom made drapes, I took the course of filing complaints with the BBB and the auditor general's office. I called the TV stations but they could not take my complaint. Kelly continued to make excuses, make dates and not show up, not return phone calls, promise delivery dates and deliver nothing for over 2 years. Finally, with the help of the auditor general's office threatening to file suit, we got our drapes and Kelly gave us a full refund. I filed my story with Angie's List as well. We were new to the area, we had researched her and found nothing and we are retired and we don't have thousands of dollars to spend. Good luck Ms. Tahtawi.

  • Squirreling Dervish Dec 15, 2010


    Dr. Samira Tahtawi practices obstetrics & gynecology in Cary, North Carolina. Dr. Tahtawi graduated with an MD 12 years ago.