EILEEN & TAYLOR: a Division of Nautical Needles, Westbrook

Innovation by Design

by RONA MANN/photo Jeffery Lilly

“I love to take old things and make them funky.”

There’s a short pause, then Susan Lennox laughs her generous, welcoming laugh and adds, “I just like doing creative things.”

That’s an understatement. Susan Lennox is one of those people who nearly takes her creative talent for granted because it appears to come so easily.  Lennox just loves coming to work every day because to her this is not a job, but an adventure.  Her space is not a store, but a studio.  Her clients are both fans and family; most of all they are very loyal and very appreciative of her work.

This studio is Eileen & Taylor: a division of Nautical Needles. That may be saying a mouthful, but this place is indeed a mouthful of ideas, of samples, of vintage, of whimsy, of art, and of finely detailed perfection that both owner and employees hold fiercely to the highest of standards.  You cannot label Eileen & Taylor because it defies pigeon-holing.  At its most basic it is a design studio, but even those words do it little justice.

If design innovation is about coming up with new ideas and products, it’s also about changes that ultimately lead to growth and differentiation.  Innovation, by its very nature, begets change, experimentation, and new ideas, tenets that Susan Lennox eagerly embraces.  Together with Jennifer Rich and Leonora Diaz, they make Eileen & Taylor a place to come for the rebuilding or remodeling of vintage furniture; to find upholstery, window treatments, interior design, custom-designed valances and shades, outdoor furniture fabrics from Sunbrella, pillows…in short, it’s interior design on every level for both home and boat.

The boat. That’s where the Nautical Needles part of the business comes in.  Years ago, according to Lennox, “we began strictly as interior design for boats.  But then we got into homes, then accessories, then vintage furniture. At one point I had so much merchandise in my house, my son thought I had become a hoarder!”

So it was moved to the space now occupied by Eileen & Taylor, yet Nautical Needles was not left by the wayside.  “We still do boat interior design, creating, and installing blinds, drapes, interior and exterior cushions, enclosures, canvas, stainless steel…everything.  At the moment we’ve been commissioned to build 178 barrel chairs for a cruise ship and are working hard at that.”

And while Lennox is both grateful and pleased to have that kind of business, it is the individual projects that get her creative juices flowing.  Along with Jennifer and Leonora they work as a team, skillfully able to determine what a client is looking for and then creating it for them, utilizing the highest level of professionalism and attention to detail.

Jennifer enjoys interviewing clients to determine what is in their room right now that they’re looking to change in some way.  What color are the walls?  What other furniture is there?  What are the window treatments like?

“We just want our clients to give us a vision of what they want, and we’ll take it from there. Along the way we definitely have fun dealing with the process,” says Lennox.  “And then we do everything right here on site.”

“There is no middle man here,” Jennifer adds.  “All work is done right here or at our facility in the industrial park in Old Saybrook. Absolutely nothing is jobbed out.

We cut everything in our showroom and workroom and have full control over every part of the process.  We look at attention to detail much more than the average person would.”

“And we are very, very critical of our work,” Susan says.  “We specialize in really good craftsmanship from taking off old fabric, to reframing, right down to replacing springs.”

The rooms at Eileen & Taylor bespeak the depth and breadth of these talents.  In one room sporting a sign that playfully announces this is the “Evaluation Center for Disturbed Women,” one is nearly overwhelmed by a space that is completely chockablock with books of swatches, samples, colors and textures, with names like Hunter Douglas and Designers Guild.  Fabrics range from $35. a yard to $535. a yard with discontinued fabric lines starting at only $18. per yard.  While the room might appear to the lay person to be scattered and impossibly full, Susan flashes that characteristic smile and reports, “I know exactly where everything is and can find it in a minute.”  And she does!

Jennifer points with pride to pieces of furniture in which multiple fabrics are used; yet instead of looking mismatched, the different colors and textures work in concert to create something unique and one-of-a-kind.  “You won’t find that in any furniture store,” Lennox proclaims proudly. “We can even modify a frame you already have…for example, we can create a tight back chair or sofa from one that previously had cushions.  We can give you anything you want from the idea to the finished product.  All you have to do is come in and let’s talk about it.”

When you do come in to Eileen & Taylor you’ll no doubt meet Ozzie, the snow white Yorkie dog Susan “takes to work” several times a week.  This canine elder statesman is as comfortable sitting on a pile of cushions in the window as he is receiving pats and praise on a brocaded couch.  His presence adds to the ambiance of the place as much as any floral fabric, hand painted frame, or vintage design.

This month Eileen & Taylor holds their semi-annual sale on booked fabric (the other sale is in September) where prices on five yards or more of booked fabric bring customers in for a very generous 30% discount.  They come for the sale, but always find a reason to hang around because this is the place where great ideas are constantly being born.

Successful design innovation is a combination in concert of new ideas, change, risk, the hiring of creative people, having a product development process, and achieving the results that both designer and client wanted from the first.  This is what Eileen & Taylor strives for every day.  It’s why Susan, Jennifer, and Leonora love coming to work because it’s never the same and ever-changing.  And at the very heart of it, it’s also just plain fun.

“We take a client out of the box,” says Susan.  “Sometimes they’re a little uptight about doing something different or taking a risk, but I tell them, it’s just paint.  It’s just furniture.  You can always change it.”

Eileen & Taylor, a Division of Nautical Needles is located at 12 Westbrook Place (Rt. 153)

Visit their website: www.eileenandtaylor.com  Phone: (860) 399-9754

Like them on Facebook , or just come in and play with Ozzie among the swatches, the vintage, and the totally unique!

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