Business duo marks 25 years of following its passion/ Heartland Interiors

Based in Country Village, Val Scalzo, left, and Diane Wainhouse have decorated homes for well-known area business leaders, as well as members of the Seahawks and Mariners.   - TOM CORRIGAN,  Bothell-Kenmore Reporter
Based in Country Village, Val Scalzo, left, and Diane Wainhouse have decorated homes for well-known area business leaders, as well as members of the Seahawks and Mariners.
— image credit: TOM CORRIGAN, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

Like most other businesses, they started out small.

Actually, really small, with each partner depositing $75 into a business checking account.

“We’ve always loved interior design,” said Diane Wainhouse and those initial dollars went into creating and manufacturing an original gift line that was sold out of their homes and their cars to local gift stores and, eventually, Nordstrom.

“We kind of had a unique energy,” said Val Scalzo. “It just kind of took off.”

Long since having moved their enterprise into Bothell’s Country Village, Wainhouse and Scalzo are the duo behind Heartland Interiors, which celebrated 25 years in business in February. Out of that initial small investment grew a company that has generated an excess of $1 million in sales for each of the last several years.

“We’ve shrunk and grown, shrunk and grown, but we’re still here,” noted Scalzo.

Most recently, Heartland moved into smaller quarters in the front of Country Village where the partners stock artwork, lighting, furniture and home accessories.

But while the retail part of the business is important, both Wainhouse and Scalzo said private interior decorating or design now makes up a large portion of their revenue.

“It didn’t start out that way,” Wainhouse said, adding the interior-design work really began to blossom for them about 10 years ago.

Initially, after that first gift line was a success, Scalzo said Heartland needed to reinvent itself, as it has several times since then. Both mention their association with the former Street of Dreams tours as essential to their success and survival.

For those who don’t remember, Street of Dreams was a local, annual showcase of model homes. The Heartland home obviously was a showcase for the interior decorating skills of Scalzo and Wainhouse. They won several “Best of Show” awards for their efforts, but probably, more importantly, both said Street of Dreams got Heartland’s name out into the public domain.

When Street of Dreams faded, Scalzo said Heartland needed to change once more, this time stepping even more into interior-design work.

“It’s constantly creative,” Wainhouse said, adding a comment about blending the client’s dream and vision with their practical experience and expertise. She said Heartland has its own style, somewhat European, but very eclectic and very colorful.

“It’s so personal and emotional,” Scalzo said of interior design, adding some people get very involved with the decorating of their homes.

Both partners agreed that from their vantage point, the current recession finally is starting to come to an end. But Wainhouse said customers are still careful with their purchases. Without prompting, both she and Scalzo said there are steps you can take to revamp your home without spending a lot of money.

For example, embellish items you already own or group things and get rid of clutter, Scalzo said. Simply rearranging your furniture can make a big difference.

Wainhouse said the pair often get asked about how to start a small business and she and Scalzo offered a few tips.

First, start small. After making their initial investment, Wainhouse and Scalzo put any earnings right back into the business. They said by not investing a lot at the start, their risk was small, which allowed them to concentrate on the creative aspects of the work and not the accounting.

Just as importantly, the duo both several times mentioned getting into something you enjoy. Neither has any formal training in art or interior design.

“It’s just personal passion,” Scalzo said.

Both said being friends obviously hasn’t hurt the success of Heartland. They originally met through their husbands at the time.

“I couldn’t imagine doing this by myself,” Scalzo said.

“We’re kind of like sisters, but closer,” Wainhouse concluded.

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