In 1928, naturalist Henry Beston published The Outermost House, a book about his tiny Cape Cod cottage, meant to be a summer retreat but “as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go.”
It is that same beauty, mystery, and attraction that inspired Chris Nagle to come to the Outer Cape, make his home here, and—this year—to open a new incarnation of the Outermost concept as a combination shop and gallery on Commercial Street. Nagle loved the Cape since his childhood vacations here, the feeling that “there was something much larger around us,” he remembers. “A perfect day is sand dunes and ocean.”
It’s that love and that feeling he’s communicating through Outermost, opening May 24th at 427 Commercial Street, the culmination of years of exploring what it is that makes the Outer Cape… the Outer Cape. Stepping into the space feels like a continuation of the view out the back deck: it’s a place of sand and water and sky.
Outermost’s signature piece is the Outermost Chair, which—like everything else at Outermost—comes with a story. Nagle was at an outdoor flea market when he came across an Adirondack chair. He didn’t buy it, drove three hours home, got up the next morning and drove straight back to make the purchase: the chair had haunted him all night. “I set in in my yard and just walked around it!” he remembers. Nagle researched the chair, found it had been designed by a doctor for perfect comfort and use, and called in some skilled woodworkers, who found the chair—though simple in appearance—was deceptively complex. Nagle partnered with Cape Associates, and the result is simple, solid, and beautiful, with a notched seat and tapering legs. The Outermost Chair comes in three finishes: a natural sapele mahogany, clear-coated, or painted, with the option for custom colors. Nagle even developed Outermost Blue, which is “the blue of our water,” he explains. “It’s deep, with a touch of green; when the light changes, the color changes. Just like the ocean around us.”
In a sense, the rest of Outermost developed around that chair; everything is textured, natural, evocative. The “colors” for the wooden bowls include names like driftwood, shorebird, and sand-dollar; “when I saw them,” says Nagle, “I felt it in my lungs.” The pottery isn’t the gloss of chain home-décor stores; what’s here is matte, simple, with natural colors and flowing lines. The candles present a whole aesthetic of their own. “We’ve lost the art of dining by candlelight,” says Nagle. “With candles, dinner becomes an event.” Outermost candles are beeswax, all created by a local artist. “Candles make the smallest spaces just make sense,” says Nagle.
The theme running throughout everything Outermost is texture. “Texture expresses time, it tells stories,” says Nagle. “I spent six months in Rome, and I kept noticing textures—the wear on the stairs, how the paint is chipping—that all tells stories about the essence of the place. And that’s what we want to do here. I may be curating it, but what we’re capturing is the essence of this place.”
It’s texture that really sets the art apart from other galleries. “The artists interviewed me, not the other way around!” says Nagle. “It’s a delicate balance, having art and product be in harmony together, but they can be curated to help each other.” One of the artists represented is Nagle’s sister Lynea, who has “this looseness—she uses color, texture, allows for space in her work,” says Nagle. Outermost art is painterly, it’s physical, it’s material… like the world around it.
Where will it go? Nagle acknowledges Outermost’s primary clientele is second-homeowners, people who already have their major pieces in place, but “the top layer is available, and we can help with the texture, the color, the sensibility of this area.”
Nagle has brought people together who share his passion for the area, all of them interconnected with each other and with the Outer Cape. His business partner is Adam Slone, with whom Nagle had a conversation last fall about the retail culture in Provincetown. “We saw there was a lane there, an opportunity to do something special,” says Nagle. “Adam’s one of the most positive people ever. Within days of that conversation, we started looking at spaces. We knew we were taking a leap, but it felt right.” Lesley Weller took time out of her own marketing career to help out. “It’s totally about the trust,” she says. “”We all connect and see things the same way, and that sees us through when we see things differently. When you know someone, you know how they’ll react. I know I’m always in good hands.”
And the staff? “People came to me wanting to work here!” says Nagle. “There’s this amazing energy and love of the idea—they all know how special this area is, they love the town and want to represent it to visitors.” And in fact the space is so experiential that staff have discussions about how best to allow those visitors to encounter it. “There’s a view of the lighthouse out back,” says Nagle. “We can go back there when we sense someone needs some space to really experience a piece. We give them that space.”
Nagle has carefully curated other objects that reflect back the area. There are exquisite leather pieces, embossed coasters and wrapped leather carabiners. There are gift bags, designed especially for real estate agents to give to new homeowners. There are wooden boxes and candleholders. In everything, there’s an attention to detail that verges on perfection.
“The world today,” wrote Beston, “is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.” It’s a sensibility shared by Chris Nagle and everyone at Outermost.
And one has to think Beston would feel entirely at home there.