In the universe of product design, there are dozens of designers who strive to be the one, who spend their time looking for ways to make a mark early in their career and stand out amongst the new brands, new releases, new seasons and new trends. For 28-year-old designer and creative director Sergio Prieto, standing out comes naturally.
Born in Talavera de la Reina, Spain, an hour and a half southwest of Madrid, the creative director of design brand Dovain Studio was immersed in art and beauty from a young age thanks to his native city’s rich history of ceramics and pottery. “There is just something inside of me that drives me to create things,” says Prieto. “When I had to decide what to study in university, one of my teachers asked me if I knew about product design. It was then that I realized what my dream job could be—what I was looking to do in life finally had a name.”
After studying at Tomelloso School of Art and Design in Spain, Prieto was ready to get to work. He has not let up since, bringing his geometric shapes and washes of rich, robust color to life in furnishings and lighting for the Dovain Studio brand. “I started working for the company here in Portugal as an intern. After two weeks, they called me in to have a meeting and asked me if I’d like to start working for them full time in a senior role.”
During his early design training, Prieto was encouraged by his professors to develop a process in which rigor and research inform his practice. His love of conceptual, organic motifs and patterns emerged from his drawings to develop into the clean lines and organized aesthetic of his design work. “I realized that for me, the best research was in my own life,” he says, reflecting on time spent living in China, Italy and France. “Everything from traveling on the metro in a great city to walking on the street could be an inspiration. The best pieces I design come from clearing my mind and starting to sketch,” says Prieto. “It’s a bit like magic—suddenly I see all the shapes in my mind and the piece appears.”
hile the concepts of Prieto’s furniture are visions, the actual materials are very much of this earth. Using local white Estremoz marble and eco-leather for a table Dovain has called the Axis Console II, and a mix of velvet upholstery, polished brass and dark walnut for the studio’s exquisite Arco Chair, Prieto is committed to building with the absolute best. The lush fabrics on his Elefante and Meco chairs come from ateliers that employ the same fabrics for haute couture collections.
The use of such high-end materials has been Dovain Studio’s calling card, as is the way the pieces are meticulously crafted. Many of the orders require a consultation, during which Prieto and his team speak directly to clients about their personal tastes and their color and finishing preferences. This custom-specific strategy to décor helped land Prieto on the cover of Architectural Digest España’s coveted Best of España issue. The exposure has since prompted Dovain Studio to expand the design offerings in their made-to-order suite of home décor. Still, no matter how much fame comes Prieto’s way, each piece, from the upholstered seating to the marble tables to the lighting, is crafted on demand in Lisbon using local supplies. “I use materials that we have here in Portugal because there is nothing like them. I use the Portuguese marble because it’s really quite beautiful, but I think one of my favorite materials is our quality of metals because of their luster, shine, color and versatility.”
For Prieto, the darlings of the Dovain Studio collection are the lighting fixtures. Rare, multihued metals feature prominently in their designs, and their versatility makes them elegant accent pieces which can highlight—and complement—vibrant paintings or subdued portraits hanging on walls. “I could not live without natural light but I know you can’t have it around you all the time so I wanted to make something that was the closest thing to daylight,” says Prieto. The result? Dovain’s stunning Space collection of ceiling fixtures and table lamps made from shining lacquered metals as well as the studio’s gorgeous Lola Floor lamp, which comes in crimson and cerulean hues. “I design lamps as if they are pieces of jewelry,” Prieto says. “I’m careful with their colors and embellishments and treat the pieces as if they were works of art.” The price to pay for such precision is time. “There are technical elements to the design,” Prieto says, noting the ways in which canopies and sockets require special strategies, but one main intention drives the designer and keeps him focused: “I want these fixtures to be masterpieces.”
Only half a decade into his career, Prieto already feels settled and ready for what lies ahead. Dovain Studio has just moved spaces to a location in the heart of Lisbon, which inspires him to no end. “I have loved a lot of cities, but I feel like this is my home and I will be here forever,” says Prieto. “The light in Lisbon is amazing—there is something so special here. The mix of buildings and styles, and the colors we have… I couldn’t live without them. Here, color is life.”
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