Owner Marinette Kozlow and her Mom, Mouna, in front of Inspired Buffalo’s Blackrock studio ({Photo: Jennifer Santora).

Part of the defining vision of Design Synergies was to, well, create synergies with other creative entrepreneurs and small businesses. DSA started as a home-based business, then grew into a tiny office shared with another home-based business, Allieway Marketing Inc. That informal collaborative grew when Get Fresh Industries – yes, another home-based business – joined us in our storefront design studio. We work together as a team of multidisciplinary designers – buildings, interiors, branding, and graphic design – to create the public face of our clients, both online and in bricks-and-mortar.

Each of us deals with the same challenges as our entrepreneurial clients, especially right now as we try to figure out what life will look like post-Covid-19. So, we get it. We all need to make the most of what we have, build upon our strengths, and find ways to grow our businesses when everything around us feels so far beyond our control.

One of our clients who is doing exactly that is Marinette Kozlow, owner of Inspired Buffalo. She started her graphic design firm in her house so she could homeschool her three young boys. Five years ago, she and her husband Tim decided to move their family and business to her childhood home in Buffalo’s historic Black Rock neighbourhood. The move served multiple purposes. Marinette would be closer to her Mom, who still lived in one of the apartments, and she could bring new life to the first floor commercial space that was her family’s corner store for many years. While the upper apartment was renovated for the Kozlow family, the downstairs was transformed into Inspired Buffalo’s new studio.

And what a transformation! Making the best use of existing design features was important, including the old walk-in cooler that was subdivided to become a spray booth and a display case, and the original wood and glass display case that was restored to show off Inspired Buffalo’s direct-to-garment printed wares and artist collaborations. Our role was to advise Marinette in the design and building process, provide building permit drawings, and to help guide her through some unexpected building code challenges.

We originally designed a new storefront that was inspired by the 19th century mercantile buildings of Buffalo. But, with budget and schedule constraints, we decided to replace some of the existing glazing and paint the exterior. The old front door was replaced with a gorgeous custom wood and glass door crafted by Premier Custom Millwork.

Inside, original store shelves now hold Marinette’s creations and artist collaborations (seriously, check out her work!). New hardwood covered up the old worn shop floor. Because of code-requirements, the original beadboard ceiling had to be covered by drywall. But other interior features remained and were freshened up with bright paint colours.

Marinette responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by doing what she does best – creating beautiful items – but with a special cause: she set a goal of making 1,000 scrub caps for local hospitals to thank our frontline healthcare workers. And she exceeded that goal! Drawing from her network of craftspeople and seamstresses, she delivered more than 1,600 caps. Then she collaborated with a local artist to create one-of-a-kind tie-dyed caps for a fundraiser. You can learn more about that on her Facebook page or website. She is also making custom masks, including an array of designs for 2020 graduates in their school colours.

Our clients are truly awesome people. Thank you for everything that you do, Marinette 🙂