Punit Patel is the owner of one of Sarasota’s premiere design firms, Sawa Design Studio. Opened just over a year and a half ago, Sawa has already won an American Institute of Architects (AIA) award and graced the cover of two magazines. With business partner Christopher Leader, owner of Leader Design Studio, the accolades, as well as the list of clients has continued to grow rapidly.
What sets Sawa apart from other regional design companies is Patel’s passion for integrating unique materials and products. I visited his studio (artfully renovated in the Water Works building downtown) and took a tour to see just how a client is presented with their options when working with Sawa. Winding up the spiral staircase is a loft that houses samples of innovative and fresh materials. Not only do the clients have the ability to see and touch their potential products, but they are also able to preview their renovated space using 3D SketchUp. This 3D computer program allows the client to envision every inch of their newly redesigned space.
Patel not only owns Sawa Design Studio, but Sawa Management as well, opened in 2011. He currently has three investment properties in Sarasota including the 1926 Embassy Arms, an eight-unit apartment building located in Laurel Park. After working with a local architect for ten years post graduation, Punit decided to turn down his acceptance into the Masters Program at the Parsons School of Design in New York City in order to start his own business. He was thereafter able to open Sawa Design Studio in 2013.
Patel has come a long way from his native Kenya. Coming from a large family of doctors, Punit’s vastly different career path was not initially accepted by his parents. However at age 19, he decided to enroll in Ringling College, never having stepped foot into Sarasota. He came with two suitcases in the middle of the night and has never looked back. With 25 current projects in the Sarasota area, Patel is also working to introduce western living to his rapidly growing hometown of Nairobi. Just in case you were curious, Sawa is Swahili for collective and/or all good, a name very befitting for his growing international company.