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Interviews

Zachary Pulman- It all started with Lego.

We sat down with Zachary Pulman, Founder of Zachary Pulman Design, to discuss his design story to date, and ask him why design matters.

design story x eporta

Read Time 5 minutes

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and Zachary Pulman design studio?

I studied at the Royal College of Art, which was a great experience. I then went on to run an Architecture firm, which still exists today, although I am no longer part of it. We were working with property developers, and for me, the margins were too small, and the teams needed to fulfil the projects were too big. I wanted to take a more personal approach to design, so I set up Zachary Pulman Design, with a much smaller team, and the focus shifted to interior design at a very personal level.

Swingers City designed by Zachary Pulman. Photo by Paul Winch-Furness
Swingers City designed by Zachary Pulman. Photo by Paul Winch-Furness

What made you want to become an interior designer in the first place?

Lego. It was a mixture of all three building tools, Lego, Playdough and Stickle bricks. When we went away on holiday, I grew fixated with sandcastles. I could genuinely spend the whole two month's, ankle deep in sand, building one sand castle after another. I was fascinated by creating spaces.

What made you want to make a move into interior design from architecture?

I think architecture can be really slow, and I'm not that patient. Whereas interiors can be pacey, with lots of moving parts, and if you have an appetite for learning, it's an ideal place to be.

Residential project by Zachary Pulman Design in London. Photo by Chris Tubbs.
Residential project by Zachary Pulman Design in London. Photo by Chris Tubbs.

How would you describe Zachary Pulman Design to someone?

What's my spiel? Well, we're the market leaders in competitive socialising. The studio used to be a bit of an all-rounder, but now we are trying to focus on the competitive socialising arena. Outside of that, we do projects that capture our imagination, like right now we are working on an exciting new restaurant and also a fantastic apartment, in parallel with these larger leisure schemes.

Within the competitive socialising arena, the Swingers guys came along, and I think they were quick off the mark with the concept. Off the back of working on that project, we've got a lot of potential clients who would like to be in that world.

Honestly, I think we're lucky; there are lots of excellent architects and interior designers doing beautiful work, so you know, it's sometimes hard to carve out that USP.

Dickie Fitz - Restaurant, London designed by Zachary Pulman Design.
Dickie Fitz - Restaurant, London designed by Zachary Pulman Design.

What's the best part of being an interior designer?

I'm really into materials. I like discovering something new or experimenting with using things differently. I also think as a job, it's very peopley there's a lot of communication and questions to deal with, but when you have an excellent team, and everyone's digging into the project, there's an awesome momentum to it, I enjoy being a part of that.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Recently, we just haven't had the capacity to take on everything we've wanted to, meaning we have to turn some stuff away. This can be quite tricky to deal with, as one of our best selling points is the personal touch that comes with a smaller team, but the flipside of this is not saying yes to everything. Something that I've got better at over the years is dealing with conflicting ideas from clients, this can sometimes lead to awkward dialogue, so my solution is to have an agreement from the beginning that I will communicate with one person, and they can sign things off. It can become particularly tricky with residential clients.

Residential Project, London by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Chris Tubbs.
Residential Project, London by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Chris Tubbs.

And then when you start with a project, where do you get your inspiration from?

I get inspiration everywhere, all over the place. As soon as we have a brief, we interrogate and challenge it. Our job is to see through everything, all the information provided and hone in on the fundamental purpose of the scheme and the story the space needs to convey.

Is there a signature trait, that's very, Zachary Pulman?

I think it's an easy trap to fall into, and at one point we almost did. There was a signature style looming within our residential schemes, one day it almost felt like I was going into copy and paste mode when I said no, this is not the designer I want to be, let's not do that. Now I think what makes us distinctive is that there is no signature throughout our work, we take every project as unique to the brief.

Development Project designed by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Josh Pulman.
Development Project designed by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Josh Pulman.

You've done residential designs and still occasionally do, but you're now focused on hospitality. What are the most significant differences between the two?

I think we've been careful to bring some of the best traits of residential design over to hospitality. The residential spaces we created were for private clients who wanted welcoming, warm and homely spaces, that reflected them. We have added a dash of this to our approach for hospitality too so that patrons feel comfortable wherever they are.

Design matters, we know that, but why do you think great design is so important?

We get to create very tactile things, and as consumers of spaces, we're all more sensitive to that need for touch than we realise. I think there's a lot of great stuff designers do that goes unnoticed, but without them, the space wouldn't work as well or feel as complete.

Target Media Workspace designed by Zachary Pulman. Photo by Josh Pulman.
Target Media Workspace designed by Zachary Pulman. Photo by Josh Pulman.

How did you get into creating competitive socialising spaces, it's very niche?

So, I was working on high-end residential projects, then along came this Brexit thing. All of the investor guys had seen it coming, like, two years before and said, 'we're out'. I was left looking around thinking 'oh what are we going to do next then'?

It was at that point that an architect friend of mine got asked to pitch for Swingers, they had just done a pop-up and decided to go forward with plans to create a permanent bricks and mortar venue. He pitched for the job but didn't get it, however, it just so happened I had met the owner of Swingers, Jeremy, the night before. So I recommended to my architect friend that he call Jeremy up and ask for a meeting, the three of us. It was a longshot, but we thought maybe he'd change his mind. And he did so we ended up getting the job.

Swingers West End designed by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Swingers.
Swingers West End designed by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Swingers.

Have you gone back and played a game?

Yes, I have, on three different levels. We used to go back there to analyse the space for ourselves. And we've gone to a few events where we were invited to meet clients of the owners, then we've also gone back socially as individual team members.

What do you think in your experience will be the next stage of competitive socialisation spaces?

I think it's VR. To be more precise, I think it's about turning VR into a sociable activity, as you tend to think of it as a lone person with goggles on, so finding ways of creating shared experiences through VR technology has enormous possibilities for the future.

Let's see. It might not work, but someone's going to give it a go.

Residential Project  in London, by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Josh Pulman
Residential Penthouse Project in London by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Fen-Yu Jen.
Residential Project in London, by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Josh Pulman
Residential Penthouse Project in London by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Fen-Yu Jen.

What's your proudest design moment to date?

I'm really into detailing so when I look back at some of the projects we've done I'm drawn to the little details and technical pieces like staircases. One that we did work on that sadly never came to fruition was a 3D printed elliptical staircase, but when they realised how long it would take to print it just wasn't feasible. But pushing the boundaries and trying to utilise new technology is an exciting part of what we do.

Have you noticed more clients requesting sustainable products as part of their briefs?

With every project you're trying to do your bit, you're trying to spec more recycled materials for example, and all those materials used to be revolting. Now they're quite lovely. Well, not all the time, but they're getting a hell of a lot better. I think it still feels like a bit of a token gesture, but it's better than nothing.

What would be a piece of advice that you would give to someone just starting in this industry?

Make sure you love it. It's hard work, so you need to really enjoy it. I don't know how you can test that. But if after a bit, you're not into it, find something you are into.

Residential Bathroom design by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Tyson Sadlo.
Residential Bathroom design by Zachary Pulman Design. Photo by Tyson Sadlo.

Quick fire round...

For you, where is your happy place?

Just being at home relaxing.

What would be a dream project that you could complete?

I was thinking about it this morning, ideally to build a new house by the sea and at the same time convert an old warehouse in the city with two floors that are just really modern. I'd be interested to see how differently they'd turn out.

And what do you think would be a dream commercial project for you?

Honestly, I think we are working on them now. As it's all still relatively new, there is a lot to learn along the way as very little of it's been done before. It's basically all a big experiment.

Find out more about Zachary Pulman Design Here.

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