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Behind the Design with Cerno

Behind the Design with Cerno

Sharp contemporary design, organic feel and energy-efficient LEDs from three friends in Laguna Beach, CA.



A Q&A with Nick Sheridan, Bret Englander, and Daniel Wacholder, Founders

Interview by Sarah Schaale

What’s your design process like?

Nick: The design aesthetic of Cerno lighting
was developed mostly when I was in
architecture school, which shaped my
sensibility, along with an academic year
I spent studying in Italy and other
traveling. That aesthetic value is applied
to both a need, i.e. a working desk lamp,
and a set of components, like a specific
LED array, or a dimmer. It’s usually a
need or a new component will be a
starting point to inspire a design. In the
case of Cubo, [founding partner] Daniel wanted
a light that he could use to read in bed without disturbing his
fiancée, and also have it provide ambient room
illumination—a hybrid lamp.

Most of Cerno designs often begin by trying to exploit the
way that LEDs can provide light like no other source has
been able to in the past. The manufacturing process,
materials to be used, electronic components to be
concealed, and the problem it solves are all applied
simultaneously while going through 10 or 20 iterations in
the computer before it’s introduced to Daniel, who solid
models the design in the computer. We work together
to fine tune any issues that he may see with
engineering and manufacturing of the piece.
Then Daniel works out every
"nut and bolt" until he has
resolved it to as few parts
as possible.

Honesty in material is important to our brand. Form is backed by function, not by a desire to create ornamentation.

Winner of the LED Award for Best Luminare for Public Use Interior, 2010. The Cerno Cubo Wall Sconce features a solid walnut base that offers great aesthetics while energy efficient LED lamping functions as an ambient light when stored behind the polymer shade, and task lamp when the aluminum arm is fully extended. Designed by Nick Sheridan.

The Cerno Claudo Pendant adds a distinctive architectural element to modern interiors. The otherwise solid wood shade diffuses light through slim, precisely cut slits. The glow cast by the inner LED array both provides flattering ambient light and offsets the deep tone and grain of the shade. Available in two finishes.

"It feels signature and iconic while still keeping a clean and timeless modern aesthetic," says designer Nick Sheridan. Inspired by the structural connection between metal and wood, the Cerno Silva Table Lamp finds stability on uneven surfaces and allows the cord to exit discreetly and effectively.

Bret: The way we work has a lot to do with being very tight knit from day one. We’ve known each other for 20 and 25 years. That’s a unique thing to bring to the professional environment, and it makes for a different approach to business. Really, this company started on the beach 25 years ago. We all went very separate ways professionally and academically, and it’s like 3 brothers bringing all their different skill sets together.

Do you have any role models?
Nick: I am influenced by Mies Van Der Rohe, John Lautner, Santiago Calatrava, and Charles & Ray Eames, to name a few. I respond to honest, unapologetic, clean, and simple design where function is paramount. The modern movement is over 100 years old now, and different portions of it go in and out of style. The goal is to create a cohesive product offering and language that is both iconic and timeless.

What’s important to you in design?
Honesty in material is important to our brand. We use solid walnut and Baltic birch in ways where you can appreciate the materiality. If we use veneer, you can see its thickness at the edge. The forms are purposedriven and clean, lacking surplus. Form is backed by function, not by a desire to create ornamentation.

Tell us about your space. Your office is...
A no-frills place where we run the whole business. But all around the space are prototypes we’ve worked on and projects that are in process or on hold. There’s a lot of energy and interesting objects to keep us going all the time.

What mistakes do you see in design?
When I was working as an architect and specifying products, there we so many items that nearly pulled off being a clean and beautiful product, but almost always I would say to myself, ‘why did they feel the need to add this element? Or why does this element curve and create a unsolicited organic shape? It’s unnecessary.’ I always cringe when I see that - a good product that has some added, unneeded element that compromises the whole thing.

Really, this company started on a beach 25 years’s like 3 brothers bringing all their different skill sets together.