Moura Starr at Allan Knight Showroom

A room at Allan Knight featuring designer Moura Starr's furniture and lighting

Text and Photography by Rebecca Sherman

Star Quality. . . some designers have it, some don't. Shelley Starr's certainly got the name for it. And a look at her newest lighting and furniture collection for Los Angeles-based Moura Starr, which Allan Knight has just brought to his Dallas showroom, reveals enough razzle dazzle to pave the Milky Way.

Heavenly allusions aside, this is one glamorous and exciting new addition to the Dallas design scene that you don't want to miss.

Shelley Starr, founder of Moura Starr,
when she was in town recently to install her collection at Allan Knight

Shelly Starr, a California native, spent years modeling in Europe and Japan before turning to furniture design. Her love of fashion was a huge influence. "I look at materials and how things are made. A Chanel coat, a dress by Carolina Herrera -- the materials they use are magnificent and the cut is obviously exquisite," she says. "But it's the nuances that only the person wearing it will see that make it special, that elevate it. I always believed my furniture should do that."

She founded Moura Starr 15 years ago. Early on, all of her furniture was built in the company's factories in Brazil. She's now moved everything to California, where her furniture is built by hand by local craftspeople.

A room by Moura Starr at Allan Knight

"I've always been infatuated with antiques and mid century furniture. But I don't want to live in a room full of antiques, and I don't want to live in mid century modern room either. So I redefined the look (of the collection) for how we live today," says Shelley Starr.

Moura Starr's Sibipiruna Coffee Table is made of hand applied waterfall
lacquer with a crystal top. A hand carved, exotic wood
"bracelet" is removable and adjustable. At Allan Knight.

"We used to pass things down from generation to generation, but we've lost that in American culture," says Shelley Starr, who designs her furniture to be collected as modern day heirlooms. "It starts with the use of fine materials. Everything is 100 percent sustainable. There's a lot of hype around that word, but it's not that way in Europe or with us. We won awards for sustainability six years ago, before anyone knew what it meant...

"...Sustainability is taking materials and knowing if our resources are limited, what will we do with them so they're not throwaway, like Ikea and Pottery Barn. There is a price to be paid for these cheap products because they deplete our resources," she says. "We build our furniture in a manner that will last. There is so little of that these days. If you think about it, who is making the future antiques of our day, the furniture to represent our time here?"

Furniture and lighting by Moura Starr at Allan Knight.

"There is a fine art to what we create," says Shelley Starr, who's patented her process of veneering, which uses metal structure underneath to strengthen. "I'm able to build in fine lines this way. Our furniture is sleek and beautiful couture, not chunky and heavy."

Moura Starr's crystal tabletops have a signature liquid look, full of depth and shine, as if they are pools of water that might be disturbed if you place an object on the surface. Starr says this effect is produced by the many layers of lacquer underneath. "It's not the same at all as coloring glass, which has very little depth," she says.

This stunning Moura Starr chandelier looks like hundreds of crystal flower
blossoms are showering down from spigots above.

Recently, Moura Starr began distributing lighting with the Munich-based company Windfall, founded by Dutch designer Roel Haagmans and German lighting innovator Clarissa Dorn.

Closeup of a crystal chandelier created in collaboration with Moura Starr and Windfall

Haagmanns and Dorn have essentially reinvented the traditional chandelier as we know it. While most chandeliers are lighted from electrical wires and bulbs from within, Windfall's signature style is to light them dramatically with tiny spots from above, mounted in ceiling plates. This allows the chandeliers to float like beautiful sculpture in the air, unburdened by unsightly hardware, explains Starr.

Room and Swirl Chandelier by Moura Starr at Allan Knight

Room and chandelier by Moura Starr at Allan Knight

"There's no such thing as filler in my line. As you can see, everything is thought through and has a strong purpose and reason to be included," says Shelley Starr, who notes that her design influences right now are classical lines, whether it's furniture or lighting.

"The interior design manager of Armani Casa, Joy Myler, called me the Chanel of furniture," says Starr, relating how Moyler told her that Armani Casa designers sometimes use Moura Starr pieces in design projects for certain celebrity clients and "friends of the house."

"It was such a nice compliment," says Starr. "I know couture, I love beautiful clothing. It's not just what people see or the fabrics, it's how they feel when they wear the clothes. It's the same with furniture: the way a leg curves, the small details a person who owns the pieces comes to learn."

Moura Starr's wallpaper and Leaf Chandelier. Both at Allan Knight.

Room by Moura Starr at Allan Knight. The chandelier is made of Swarovski
Strauss candles with silverplate tips, each hung individually,
with an adjustible drop up to 25 feet.

"We are very customizable. You can take a cabinet and do it in crystal and lacquer, or add colored crystal fronts," says Shelley Starr. "We have leather, eel, and stingray, and so many different beautiful finishes. Mostly what sets us apart are the lines of the piece, every inch sets us apart, but it's not something you see right away. The client knows they've seen something special, but often they're not sure why."

Optical illusions: Each arm of this chandelier is suspended individually and appears to float in the air; the crystal top on this table looks almost liquid, thanks to an effect created by multiple lacquer layers underneath. Shelley Starr is also experimenting with new finishes, including a white opal finish inspired by the color of the new Lexus, which she sourced from a manufacturer in Germany and had replicated.

Detail of Balance chandelier by Moura Starr at Allan Knight

Moura Starr chair detail, at Allan Knight.

Turkana chaise longue by Moura Starr at Allan Knight.

"I always tell our salespeople, don't sell our furniture. Just educate," says Shelley Starr, who sends customers away with a list of other top competitors for them to go see -- and compare -- after they've walked through her collection.

"I tell them to go shop around. If we are still on your mind after you've seen what the rest of the industry has to offer, then we're the right one for you. I didn't start out in this business to sell furniture, I wanted to make amazing things."