Why Not White?
Interior design team Paul White and David Nault of Boston’s Weena and Spook use white as a backdrop for their Cape-Nantucket Sound project.
Remember back to your youth, say age 21, when you had just finished school and the world seemed to be your oyster? You were young, fearless and felt anything could happen!
That was David Nault and Paul White; newly-minted Fashion Institute of Technology (New York) grads standing in the street at 660 Madison Avenue in New York’s Upper East Side looking up at Barneys’ flagship store.
With a rolling rack full of their newly-designed fashion collection samples funded by a couple of investors, and David’s sister as their fit model standing by their side, the team walked through the door.
Their meeting went well, and although their fashion was a perfect fit for Barneys’ high-end fashion fourth floor, they were new to the game and as unproven designers, were asked to return with a more modest sportswear line that Barneys could showcase on the second floor.
David and Paul did just that, hoping that someday it would lead to a ride up the escalator with their rolling racks all the way to the glittering fourth floor high fashion realm.
Then came the stock market crash of 1987 and all the duo’s investors left.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise when David and Paul realized that it was much more fun and less stressful to sell directly to the customers through trunk shows. They quickly sold out their collection.
Their next gig was creating a private label for a store on Martha’s Vineyard and the pair moved to the island.
The store didn’t last long but their stay on the Vineyard did. At a loss for their next chapter, they decided to put a small ad in The Vineyard Gazette for their fashion design services. At $25 for 25 words, they had two words left so they added the words “also slipcovers” on a lark.
Armed with some serious fashion sewing skills on an island without a fashion scene, they decided that if you can fit a woman you can certainly fit a chair so how hard could it be to make custom slipcovers?
The phone rang off the hook and soon the pair were arm-deep into chaises and couches for the well-heeled island set. Their company, with the light-hearted name of Weena and Spook, was born.
Twenty-five years later, David and Paul are wildly successful with a cadre of very loyal clients on the Cape and Islands.
They cultivate unusually long and close relationships with many of their clients. Often they get to know the young homeowners first when they have one child with one on the way and stay with them as the families grow to five children and a bursting household.
As life would grow more hectic and colorful for the families they work with, they would ask David and Paul to design them a calm home atmosphere to balance their crazy lives. “Designing someone’s home is a very intimate business,” says David. “You are asking them how many handbags they own or how many shoes to get an idea of how to design their closet systems.” Their clients also appreciate that the pair are a couple in real life as well, so as David and Paul joke, “all the fighting gets out of the way and they have agreed on all the major design decisions before even pulling up to the house.”
Working with the same families for so many years, David and Paul are often asked to pick out and order the everyday items in the home as well—stocking the cabinets with servingware, choosing bedding and even picking out kitchen appliances. Weena and Spook love to take on these extra services because they help to complete the atmosphere they have created for their clients’ homes.
“Our design approach is to make homes look like the homeowner had the know-how and the time to do it themselves,” David explains.
Paul has a very structural mind which allows Weena and Spook to not only design all interiors, doors, cabinets and built-ins, but also to custom design 80% of the furniture for the homes as well. They contract talented woodworkers they adore, and upholsterers they adore, so their team can do it all.
Cape-Nantucket Sound was a project in which the homeowner wanted a quiet, serene palette.
Paul imagined how beach grass looks in winter and created a matching palette for the home.
The homeowners had small kids so Paul designed the dining room with curved doors that could shut out the noise of a loud, happy dinner party from the kids asleep upstairs. “It looks kind of like a jewel box when it is closed and sets the dining room apart from the rest of the home,” he remarks.
Much of the house has a baseline canvas of white. “Think of a room like a blank canvas, like an art gallery first, then you add pops of colors and textures,” says Paul. “Colors are added inside that reflect what you would see outside in the summer. This palette also keeps the home feeling warm in the winter when the leaves are off the trees.” The mostly white rooms have accents of the blues of the ocean, the greens of the grasses, and the browns of the trees.
Most of the rooms host all white furniture, which might make guests pause when asking for the red wine at a cocktail party.
But Weena and Spook have a secret weapon because all of that pristine white is made from indoor-outdoor materials.
This gives the furniture both beauty and practicality. There is no fading from the sun through the large windows and spills are easily wiped up. “Everyone has messy lives and this material is all we use now because we want everyone to be comfortable and relaxed in their homes, no matter what happens,” David says.
This magical material is called solution-dyed acrylics. The company Perennials has an outstanding collection of fabrics and carpets that are all resistant to spills and fading.
The pair also source from MariaFlora Fabrics, an Italian firm that creates fabrics that can look and feel like linen, chenille and velvet.
“This is the new wave. Clients say ‘Don’t show me anything that can’t get messy,’” says David.
“Ten years ago, only 20% of the fabrics used were messy-friendly, now the marketplace is full of this type of fabric,” David says.
The one room to which they added a myriad of color was the family room. Because this space was going to have games and toys in them anyway, the team wanted to anchor the room with bright colors so the clutter wouldn’t stand out.
On the shelves, the pair added a large collection of yellow-covered National Geographic magazines hoping to encourage the kids to pick up something to read that was not a tablet or phone. David fondly remembers reading the iconic National Geographic magazines as a child during visits to his grandmother and expanding his world through their stories.
The collection of red books on the bookshelves are all real books, purchased from a set design company touting “books by the foot.” “We checked out each book before putting it on the shelves to make sure they were diverse and family-friendly material,” reassured David.
Even the coffee table books were chosen specifically for their color and size to fit the room’s design. At the end of a project, the team often gifts the homeowners with coffee table books, and the clients are repeatedly surprised that David and Paul have chosen just the book that they would like.
David and Paul are not surprised at all. During the design and installation process, they develop a trusting and close relationship with the families and they put much thought into exactly the type of book to suit their client’s tastes. They don’t gift novels because the homeowners may not have the time to sit down and read a book, but anyone can pick up a coffee table book and flip through it while having their morning coffee, David reasons.
In the end, homeowners get exactly the home they love. Many of their clients think their home is so beautiful that they don’t want to change a thing, and even take detailed photos of each room so things can be put back exactly where they were after a party.
When asked if they still do any fashion design, Paul remembers being asked by a client to design a mother-of-the-bride dress for her. “Because I knew her so well from working with her for many years, I was able to design a bespoke outfit that perfectly fit her style and personality and she loved it.”
So the pair have come full circle in their design journey. They can do it all and their clients love them for it. Sometimes dreams really do come true, and from their abode in Yarmouth Port, the world really does seem to be their oyster.
Valerie Gates is a freelance writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.
To read the story behind this company’s unique name, Weena and Spook, visit capecodlife.com.