Trovato Interiors LLC: Interior discoveries
-January 19th, 2017
Spokane Valley design consultant Susan Usai has years of retail experience working with homeowners to improve the furnishings and look of their residences, so finally getting to operate her own furnishings store was like a dream come true, she says.
She and business partner Hank Seipp, a commercial real estate agent and multifamily investment specialist with the Spokane Valley office of Minneapolis- based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, own Trovato LLC, a 3-year-old company that does business as Trovato Interiors.
Usai and Seipp have been a couple since 2008, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided to create Trovato, a project that she says merged her talent for design with his background in property management and real estate.
The business, which moved recently to a renovated former residence at 9919 E. Sprague, sells home furnishings such as sofas, chairs, and tables, as well as home décor accessories. The store also provides interior design guidance to its customers.
“In starting this business three years ago, I was able to take my passion for design, and combine it with my backgrounds as an entrepreneur, and training in home furnishings,” says Usai. “It felt like I’d been training for this my whole life and it’s honestly the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”
Usai says she has always loved interior design, having previously worked for several furniture stores here over the years, including at an outlet of Norwalk Furniture Corp., R. Alan Brown Interiors, and Spear’s Home Furnishings.
She spent three years studying as a philosophy major at Gonzaga University, one of those years being a study-abroad trip to Italy, an experience from which she still draws inspiration.
“After that, I kind of changed my career’s course,” she says. “I’d already been through Norwalk’s design training program but most of my training was personal or on-the-job experience. Eventually, I realized the best way to do what I wanted to do was to own my own business.”
Usai says she came up with the idea to open her own store, after discussing a similar idea with another designer.
“I realized that was what I wanted to do, so I spoke with Hank (Seipp) about it the very next day,” she says. “He was on board, and just like that, we charged ahead with finding a location and getting an inventory.”
Usai says she chose the word Trovato as the name for her furniture business, because it means “found” in Italian.
“I wanted the shop to feel like something you’d just discovered,” she says. “I thought that word translated most closely to the sense of a discovered treasure.”
She says she sees the shop as a mixture of both old and new styles, combining masculine industrial objects alongside softer things like velvet linens and contrasting finishes.
“Our store is not the typical Northwest design that others here do so well,” says Usai. “There are stores here like Madison Home or The Tin Roof that might offer some items for similar prices, but most of my inspiration comes from outside the Northwest.”
As for the company’s new leased quarters, Usai and Seipp say their business has been flourishing in the larger space since relocating there from a 2,200-square-foot space at 18 S. Union Road in November.
“I’ve always thought this was a beautiful building, and everyone who visits tells us how happy they are to see it getting some use,” Usai says.
Originally built in the 1940s, the home was remodeled in the 1980s by well-known Sandpoint architect Jon Saylor to include a wrap-around commercial space. Following those renovations, the building was used by a travel agency for a few years, and then sat empty for over a decade before piquing Usai’s interest.
While the white stucco structure has a total of 7,400 square feet split between a basement, main, and upper levels, Usai says the main retail space totals about 5,400 square feet.
“It’s the perfect home for creating the look I wanted,” Usai says. “It’s given us more than double the space, and put us in a more trafficked area.”
Usai says the business moved into its new space after replacing some of the old flooring, lighting, and countertops, and adding a new exterior sign and cleaning up the yard.
“We’d kind of hit a plateau saleswise at the old location because it was hard to find,” she says. “This is a bigger space with more room for parking, as well as receiving shipped product. The layout flows well, and the architecture fits my vision.”
Trovato offers a wide variety of home furnishings, and customers can buy items in stock or order their own pieces to be custom-made in different sizes, fabrics, or finishes. The business features products from manufacturers such as Norwalk, Bramble, Aiden Gray, Coast to Coast, and Import Collection.
“Our most popular product lines are Norwalk and Bramble,” she says. “Those are really our bread-and-butter lines, the ones we sell the most from.”
The store also offers accessory products such as tablecloths, napkins, and bedding from Crown Linens, fragrances from Hillhouse Naturals, pottery, candles from a local candle line, and artwork by area artist Suzanne Tebbe.
Usai is the store’s only employee and spends the majority of her time there. She also provides in-home design consulting to various clients, as a complimentary service to customers who buy furniture from the business.
“I really enjoy being self-employed,” she says. “I may eventually need to hire some additional people, and I have had some designers express interest in working with us, but it’s not something I feel we need right now.”
Usai says she’s happy with the store’s current lines, although she may want to expand the selection of some offerings on its upper floors.
“I’ve only just begun to experiment with those rooms,” she says. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind just getting settled in here. Our plans for 2017 will likely include ordering more furniture to start developing those upstairs spaces now that we’ve filled the main level.”
She says although December is not usually a big month for furniture sales, the store was still heavily trafficked last month and saw some home accessory sales.
“I expect we’ll see more furniture buyers in the coming months, especially as we bring in new pieces this spring,” she says.