I first met interior designer Tom Zulawski shortly after he moved back to Buffalo over 15 years ago. At the time, I recall speaking with Tom about the rebirth of the city (even way back then). Little did I know that Tom would end up playing such a significant role in shaping the future of this city.
Shortly after meeting Tom, he started up his design firm call ZDesign. “When I originally moved back to Buffalo, after living in LA and NYC, I began to test the waters,” he told me. “Early on, I knew that I wanted to be a part of making Buffalo great. I’ve always loved construction and design. My parents were builders and they let me help with the design aspect on some of their jobs. When I was young, there was always work going on at our house – I have always lived in a work in progress. Now I get to work side by side with some of this city’s best developers, on some very exciting projects that will help to transform Buffalo.”
Tom told me that one of his favorite aspects of the job is watching old Buffalo buildings come back to life. Until the day when there is modern architectural infill being constructed, his immediate passion is helping to update the city’s historic building stock.
Recently, he has had the good fortune to work with developers the likes of Ciminelli, Kolkmeyer, Hamister and Jerge. “The developers like working with us because our firm specializes in design and procurement,” said Tom. “There are no sub-contractors – we do our own shop and detail drawings, specs, right down to the cabinet designs. We come in up front to work with the developers, the architects, and the general contractors, to create cohesive top of the line project designs – our goal is to deliver a quality product for the best price. In the end, there will be no change orders – something that can drag down a project. And no designs are compromised – the end result is a sleek, polished-looking end product. For a design firm to be able to handle so many aspects of the job, working so closely at the top, that’s actually a big city approach. We work hand in hand with the core team, and it shows in our end product designs. Our professional reputation is how we land the next job – and right now we’re extremely busy.”
Currently, Tom and his design team are in the thick of the downtown rehab boom. They are working on the 237 Main Street project, which will deliver 35 of the highest end condos that the city has ever seen – completely customizable with indoor parking and rooftop access (see history).
Developer Paul Kolkmeyer brought ZDesign onboard to deliver first rate results for a project that will also boast a high end restaurant and massive banquet facility, with two private dining rooms – one of which will be situated inside a former bank vault. There will be a martini bar and cigar bar – all very high end. It is said that there are two restaurant frontrunners that are being considered at this time – NYC’s #1 steakhouse and a high end Italian restaurant are both in the running.
Other city of Buffalo projects that Tom’s firm is involved with include the Birzon building at 86 Main Street (9 apartments), 888 Main Street apartments, 506 Delaware – Knights of Columbus building, and 465 Washington (see below) – 45 apartments, Allpro Parking headquarters and coffee shop (see history).
Needless to say that Tom is busy these days. His firm is working on a series of projects outside of Buffalo, and the firm has secured work with some additional exciting Buffalo developments that are on the near horizon. “We’ve been hoofing it in this city ever since we moved onto Main Street three years ago (see below),” Tom pointed out. Not only is he working on all of these inspirational buildings, he has also carved out a nice office presence for his firm in the process.