Plenty of homeowners have commissioned an interior by Sawa Design Studio or a renovation by Leader Design Studio, but the businesses themselves have always been in rented digs. But that changes this fall when respective owners Punit Patel and Christopher Leader officially reopen the Historic Waterworks building in Sarasota’s Rosemary District. The pair of business owners, whose firms have worked jointly on a number of projects throughout town, bought the building to provide a permanent home for their own companies, complete with a shared showroom and including extra office space to grow into or rent out as they see fit.

The building was purchased by Leader and Patel on July 25 for $215,000 from Frank Howell’s Historic Waterworks company, property records show.  Howell purchased the property from the city for $279,000 in 2003 to lease as office space in subsequent years but dissolved the company in 2011. Leader and Patel now hold joint ownership of the Orange Avenue building but will maintain Sawa and Leader studios as separate corporate entities. While there is a significant amount of overlap in the projects done by each firm, the two companies don’t exclusively work together. Patel said the companies, as of August, were actively working together on about five separate projects.

The history between Patel and Leader dates back to when both worked at Jonathan Parks Architect in management roles for that firm. Both eventually set out on their own. Leader founded Leader Design Studio in February 2011 and Patel founded Sawa Design Studio in September that same year. Before the Waterworks building was purchased, Patel was operating out of the Ampersand Construction building and Leader worked out of a spot at Carlson Architectural Studio. The Waterworks building has room to showcase both studios, and, of course, as owners of the structure, Patel and Leader can renovate, decorate and completely rebuild parts of the structure as they see fit.  Leader foresees using the 1,700-plus square feet of office space to have a design lab where new designs and products can be put together in interesting and experimental ways. “The building has all these big open spaces with 15-foot ceilings,” Leader says. “We can have an open design studio concept. It’s kind of a shell ready to be built out.” Patel has also found tremendous success internationally exporting his designs for use in other countries, most notably his native Kenya, where an increasing number of residents exposed to Western culture want to bring the lifestyle of American living into their homes in Africa. That business could create work for other companies working within the Waterworks space.

As for the rest of the space, Patel says potential tenants were already in mind from the time the building purchase was made.  “We’ve been trying to create a whole environment, where a group of young individuals can create something cool,” Patel says. In short, the pair wants to run a design hub, an incubator not unlike the entrepreneur-focused HuB on Fruitville Road but that houses groups that work in design fields that work in concert.