industry insider | Apr 7, 2022 |
The CEH is facing a wave of designer allegations

The CEH is facing a wave of complaints from interior designers, who say the Dallas high-end furniture brand has taken tens of thousands of dollars in deposits over the past year without delivering pieces or providing a refund.

The complaints exploded onto social media earlier this week when designer and author Erin Gates posted a series to her Instagram stories outlining her own experience with the company. Gates wrote that, after seeing other designers post about issues with The CEH, she checked in on the status of her own order and was told she’d have to arrange for shipping herself. When Gates’s shipper visited the company’s Dallas office, “No one answered and mail is piled up in front of the door,” she wrote. “I honestly wonder if they have fled the country at this point.”

Gates’s experience appears to only be the tip of the iceberg. Comments posted to The CEH’s Instagram feed, Facebook page and Google business listing reveal at least a dozen complaints from customers waiting on orders they’ve placed over the past 12 months. Substack newsletter The Wreck List has been collecting stories about The CEH in an article that likens the company’s founders to famous fraudsters Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes.

Scarsdale, New York–based designer Dana Mitchell tells Business of Home that she placed an order for a pair of nightstands with The CEH last May as a way to trial the company for future use with clients. She was quoted a lead time of three months and put down a deposit of $4,000. When August rolled around, Mitchell was told that, due to issues with third party shippers, co-founder Justin Evans would be delivering the furniture himself personally in October. But October came and went without delivery.

“Because of the pandemic and supply chain issues, it was plausible, so I let it go until January of this year,” she says. “That’s when I went to their Instagram and started seeing comments to the effect of, ‘Hey, where’s my furniture?’ and I started to get really worried. Finally I had this epiphany that this is never going to happen. Fortunately, I had paid with a credit card, and was able to get the money back.”

The congested supply chain seems to have provided cover for The CEH, as its own delays blended in with manufacturing timelines that stretched out interminably due to the pandemic. “In 2021, my lead times went from four to six months to easily 12 to 14 months, so it didn’t seem weird that this was happening,” says Vero Beach, Florida–based designer Sayre Schwiering, who had several open orders with The CEH that were consistently pushed back throughout 2021 and into 2022 before she gave up and disputed the charge through her credit card company. “The issue to me is, my clients don’t care about [the money], but they want their stuff! I spoke so highly of The CEH, I was really trying to get these pieces, and now I’ve spent thousands of dollars’ worth of hours dealing with this that there’s no way I’ll be able to quantify.”

To various designers, the husband-and-wife team behind The CEH, Justin and Diana Evans, have provided various excuses for the lateness of their product, ranging from COVID to problems with third party shippers to illnesses to technical glitches. On February 15, The CEH posted a dramatic explanation for recent issues to their Instagram account, stating that their personal devices had been hacked, making it “difficult to communicate with our clients, family and friends.” The post alleged that the FBI was investigating the case, and the couple’s three young children had been targeted.

At press time, BOH was unable to confirm with the Dallas bureau whether the FBI was in fact investigating a hack on the Evans family. Multiple emails to The CEH’s listed email account went unanswered, and no one answered the company’s phone. The company’s site has a notice that “The CEH is not accepting new orders while we restructure our business.” However, its e-commerce checkout functionality appears to be working, and according to Gates’s Instagram stories, a designer messaged that she had been on the verge of placing a $20,000 order with The CEH before seeing the allegations pop up on social media only days ago.

According to public records, the LLC underlying The CEH, called JDE LLC, was dissolved last November due to “tax forfeiture.”

With a mix of cunning and persistence, some designers have been able to get the pieces they purchased from The CEH. Santa Rosa Beach, Florida designer Erika Powell says she placed expedited orders with the company in the summer of 2021. The fall came without delivery, and the company stopped replying to Powell’s emails. Finally, she took to social media in January to find out if other designers had had similar experiences. The post led to a reaction from the Evanses, who promised that Powell’s pieces would be delivered by February 16, 2022.

“The day of the guaranteed delivery, at 3 o’clock, we got an email saying, Sorry! We didn’t get the delivery out,” Powell tells BOH. “My accountant’s husband lives in Dallas, and he went over to their facility and knocked on the door. The owners weren’t there. He photographed our pieces, and I found a shipper who could pick them up right away—we got them out of there that night.”

Most designers haven’t been as lucky. Mitchell says that many had reached out to her after seeing her comments on social media—she estimates that roughly a dozen designers contacted her, with deposits totaling at least $50,000.

The issues at The CEH seem to have begun in 2021. Prior to that point, the brand had been seen within the industry as a rising star. Founded in 2013 by the Evanses, both former schoolteachers, The CEH (an acronym for Collected Eclectic Home) began as vintage and antique pieces stored in their garage and sold through Facebook before a designer clientele began to take notice, according to D Magazine.

In the years since, the company’s mix of curated antique and vintage furnishings and bespoke CEH Label pieces have been featured in publications like Elle Decor, Veranda, Architectural Digest’s AD Pro, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens and Rue, with a high-profile client roster that includes former First Lady Laura Bush and designers like Paloma Contreras, Gray Malin, Sarah Bartholomew and Ashley Whittaker. By September 2019, the business had grown enough to allow the Evanses to open a 10,000-square-foot designer showroom in their home city—a space that would become the new homebase for their office and workshop as well.

Though the designers who have been burned by The CEH in recent months are understandably furious with the brand, the quality of their product was never an issue. “Aside from all of this, their craftsmanship and level of quality was unparalleled,” says Schwiering. “I’m upset at having lost them as a source.”

Homepage photo: ©Strandret/Adobe Stock

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