“This is Cape Cod. Everyone who lives here should definitely embrace this special place. There is no other place like it on earth,” says David Shinn, owner of VU Design in Hyannis. “The light here, the natural environment is so spectacular. Each Cape home should reflect that beauty, but also be a place where you can put your feet up and relax.”
As he walks around VU Design’s airy, yet welcoming 4,000-square-foot showroom just off Hyannis’s Main Street on Bassett Lane, it is obvious Shinn loves the work he and a staff of three other interior designers do for homeowners on Cape Cod and beyond. “I hope our showroom gives customers the flavor of our design strategy, which is based on the value of approachable Cape Cod elegance,” says Shinn, who has over 25 years of interior decorating experience.
“We appreciate designs that are beautiful, but also functional in a kind of vacation-ready, laid-back style,” says Shinn. “There is an importance on the Cape for function over form. In most cases, your second home on the Cape will not be as formal as your main residence.
“You want to be able to come off the beach and throw off your sandals and put your feet up on the coffee table without saying, ‘Is this all right?’ You don’t need to be babysitting your furniture, but you still want it to look great.”
Shinn says VU Design carries dozens of “tried and true” lines known in the industry for classic elegance, yet durability. “All our designers have worked with these lines on a regular basis,” says Shinn. “These styles and fabrics work with what we are all trying to do, which is to balance top-quality furnishings with Cape Cod’s lifestyle needs.”
In a spacious meeting room with a sparkling chandelier, design books cover the walls from floor to ceiling. “These are some of the companies we believe in,” says Shinn gesturing to the books. “We like Cisco Brothers for furniture; Trowbridge of England does an amazing job with their print art work; we carry chandeliers by Chandi Lighting of California—the crystals on these chandeliers are from Poland and Czechoslovakia. These are all companies that are known for quality, yet take the traditional and give it a creative twist.”
Shinn points out several displays of gorgeous fabrics, from brightly colored nautical designs in primary colors to fine linens in subtle natural hues. “These fabrics—created by companies like Thibaut and Robert Allen—are vibrant, top-quality fabrics that have been great forever,” says Shinn, noting that such fabrics may range from $50 to several hundred dollars per yard. “Sometimes you have to help people understand the cost of fabrics that are classics, yet can transition into fun looks with a contemporary edge.”
Pointing out a line of cottage-style furniture with marvelous sculpted lines and seaside-hued limed finishes in one of eight rooms decorated in different vignette styles, Shinn stresses the importance of adding a touch of whimsy—or fun—to every design.
“Interior design should never be uptight,” says Shinn. “Homeowners should have some fun with our designs. Let us as designers go over the edge a little.” Shinn notes that while some homeowners are apprehensive about taking risks, VU’s designers are usually successful in convincing clients to think outside the box. “Ninety percent of the time, clients will see what we have done and say, ‘Wow! I could never have envisioned that, but thank you for pushing me into something so creative.’ It’s part of our job as designers to make that happen for our customers.”
Above all Shinn and his designers believe that each homeowner’s design should be unique, reflecting the customer’s personal tastes and definitive lifestyle needs. “I just don’t believe in cookie cutter designs,” says Shinn. “Each design should be different. Everything doesn’t have to match; I like creative, flexible spaces that really express the homeowner.”
Sometimes clients will be surprised by Shinn’s willingness to incorporate old family pieces that may have more sentimental rather than antique value. “Sometimes clients will take me to an attic or basement, show me an old piece, and say something like, ‘This was my mother’s. I know it is so fuddy-duddy or old-fashioned, but it is really special to me,’” says Shinn. “I tell them ‘let’s make it work somehow’ because it gives them good memories of someone very important in their life.”
This willingness to really listen to his customers and bend his ideas far beyond any blueprint has established a solid customer base for Shinn far beyond Cape Cod. “I have clients that I have grown with for 15 years,” says Shinn, whose experience includes interior decorating for many affluent Cape families and beyond. “Some of these people are very wealthy customers who don’t go shopping. I do all the choosing and shopping for them.” At the other end of the spectrum are customers with a limited budget who receive the same attention from Shinn and all VU’s designers.
“Whatever your style, or your budget, we will work to make your space beautiful and right for your life,” says Shinn. “That is the best thing about this business—surprising someone with a design that may have been hard for them to envision, but that makes them happy every day.”