Biz owner is decorating queen of home living

Constance Swanlund talks about her shop, Eclectic. Swanlund said she’s always had a knack for decorating and finding unique home items to fill rooms.  - Leslie Kelly
Constance Swanlund talks about her shop, Eclectic. Swanlund said she’s always had a knack for decorating and finding unique home items to fill rooms.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

Constance Swanlund’s background includes waitressing and owning a deli. But after people kept telling her how wonderful her place looked, she began to think about getting into home decor.

“Everybody who came over to my house wanted my stuff,” Swanlund said. “But I couldn’t send them anywhere to get things like I had because my things were one-of-a-kind items that I’d collected over time.”

Instead, she decided to open a store on Bainbridge Island and began selling home furnishings and decor similar to those that she used in her own home. That was 1984.

Today, after having had two shops on Bainbridge and three stores in Poulsbo throughout the years, she’s got a thriving store in Silverdale. It’s called Eclectic and it will soon celebrate a year in business.

The store is located at 9991 Mickelberry Road, NW, and like her other stores, Bad Blanche, Northwest Design Center and Bad Blanche Collection, it consists of 10,000 square feet of unusual items that are found in locations throughout the world — many of them one-of-a-kind — and brought to Silverdale for those customers who want to have something in their home that no one else has.

“I mix the eccentric with the everyday,” she said of her design style. “I like the sweet with the sour, the salty and the sugary, and the crunchy with the soft.”

Some items are things that aren’t one-of-a-kind, but very high quality, she said.

Take, for example, the Stanton and American Leather sofas.

“They are the best quality you can buy,” Swanlund said. “I’m very proud that we have those two companies’ products in this store. American Leather is the only sofa sleeper that the Disney resorts will buy for their hotels because they are so durable.”

Her products are amazing quality at an amazing low price, she said.

On the more unique side are the items she’s traveled to India and China to buy and bring home to her store. A solid door painted red with carved Chinese symbols including a pair of dogs that symbolize protection is among the more ornate items in the store.

Another is a pair of intricate wooden carved Shanghai cabinets with red and green scrolling from Beijing China.

“They are given to the bride and groom on their wedding day,” Swanlund said. “And they are passed down in the family. So finding one is unusual, let alone a pair.”

She travels extensively to buy for the store, and she attends gift markets in the U.S. One of the places she finds some items is at estate sales. Several items in the store have come from estate sales on Bainbridge Island. A set of Marboro lamps originally made in Venice, Italy, she acquired that way.

Having grown up in Kenmore, Swanlund came to the Kitsap Peninsula after high school to live with her godmother, Phyllis Rebar. Soon she began waitressing and then opened the Sunshine Country Deli’s on Bainbridge Island and then in Poulsbo. After 10 years in that business, she decided to open a home furnishings store on Bainbridge Island in 1984 and called it Bad Blanche.

That was the beginning of a series of home decor stores of which now she has Bad Blanche Collections in downtown Poulsbo and Eclectic in Silverdale. In between years, she also sold advertising.

“None of this was planned,” she said. “But when I first opened up on Bainbridge and then in Poulsbo, I knew that this was the place for me. People here are just so nice and they really care about helping out the small businesses.”

She’s never had any formal training or schooling in interior design.

“Some people can play the piano,” she said. “Others can cook a fabulous dinner. I can’t do either of those things. But when I put things together, whether it’s large pieces of furniture in a room, or a collection of miniatures on a shelf, it just seems to work.”

She attributes much of her success to her employees. Currently she has nine between the two stores.

“Attention to detail is the most important thing,” she said. “When someone orders a sofa in a specific color, and wants the legs made of a certain wood, with the accent pillows in another color, all those details have to be written down and ordered correctly. If not, when the it comes in, someone has to tell the customer that they’ll be waiting a bit longer for their sofa. That’s what we try to avoid.”

She and her crew will take on home decorating challenges such as reception areas in offices, and even furnishing condominium units before they go on the market.

While she splits her time between her stores, she alway makes time to go to Sammamish to spend time with her daughter.

And be certain, that wherever she goes, her dog, Bentley, will be with her, even at work.

“Because he’s one-of-a-kind, too,” she said.


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