meet the makers | Jan 6, 2022 |
This SoCal designer launched an innovative lighting company with his lifelong friends

Nick Sheridan was raised with an appreciation for craftsmanship. The Orange County, California–based lighting designer’s father was a general contractor who taught him how to build furniture at a young age. “He had a passion for Craftsman-style design and woodworking,” Sheridan tells Business of Home. “By the time I was in high school, my friends (and future business partners) Bret Englander and Dan Wacholder and I had numerous building projects, many of which took place in my parents’ yard using my dad’s tools.”

This SoCal designer launched an innovative lighting company with his lifelong friends
Creo ceramic sconces by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr for CernoCourtesy of Cerno

An early fascination with design inspired Sheridan to pursue a degree in architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, where he was first introduced to the work of legendary modernist designers including Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Charles and Ray Eames. “I fell in love with modernism and the minimalist design ethos,” he explains. “It was a transformational time that taught me about the power of good design and continues to fuel my creativity today.”

After graduation, Sheridan landed a job designing custom residential homes and kept running into an issue that would ultimately change the trajectory of his career. “I could never seem to find the right light fixtures for the modern homes we were working on,” he says. “I began to dream up light fixture designs and realized that I didn’t really want to practice architecture—I wanted to design lighting.”

This SoCal designer launched an innovative lighting company with his lifelong friends
Nick Sheridan at work inside Cerno's Aliso Viejo, California–based studio.Courtesy of Cerno

In 2009, he teamed up with Englander and Wacholder to launch Cerno, a design and manufacturing company specializing in simple, energy-efficient lighting solutions. “We had a small booth at Dwell On Design in Los Angeles and exhibited five LED table task lamps built of wood, concrete and metal, as well as a hybrid task light/ambient sconce,” he says of the brand’s first collection. “We saw that LEDs were the future of lighting from the start, so we embraced them and let them inspire our designs.”

True to modernist form, Sheridan says he approaches his lighting designs with practicality in mind. “We usually start by identifying a product category, function and material palette—for instance, a sconce for a hallway application that utilizes leather,” he says. “I always recall my dad telling me that before something is built, it must be drawn. So I begin with sketches that I turn into 3D models and mockups to present to the team.”

All of Cerno’s sleek minimalist fixtures are crafted inside of a studio in Aliso Viejo, using an array of natural materials including hardwood, brushed metal, concrete, stone and terra cotta. “All the design development and prototyping are done in the same shop as our production,” Sheridan says. “As a team of skilled craftspeople, we are constantly mocking up new sculptural forms, exploring new materials and evaluating innovative lighting technologies.”

Cerno also collaborates with local artisans, as well as designers and clients, on distinct lighting designs. For example, the brand recently debuted a pair of outdoor-friendly, unglazed terra cotta sconces, Creo and Dea, designed by ceramic artists Naomi and Scott Schoenherr of Laguna Beach. “We do a lot of simple modifications to our standard product line, and we also will build custom fixtures from scratch, often starting from a rough napkin sketch supplied by a client,” Sheridan explains. “I think we are uniquely skilled at understanding the aesthetic vision a designer has for a space while also understanding lighting technology and manufacturability. It is a fascinating and rewarding part of the business.”

This SoCal designer launched an innovative lighting company with his lifelong friends
The Volo pendant by CernoCourtesy of Cerno

The brand’s latest collection, Volo, features a pendant light and flush mount constructed of solid hardwood and spun aluminum, with leather and metal accents that forge a unique indirect lighting effect. “The light delivery is highly efficient and effective,” Sheridan says. “The aesthetic glow it emits is beautiful.”

Looking ahead, he says the brand has a number of fresh light fixtures in the works, including an indoor static sconce that will also be available in an outdoor version. “Even at a young age, the three of us loved building things together,” Sheridan says of Englander and Wacholder. “Our mission is to enrich the lives and the surroundings of those who use our fixtures, while respecting the planet and everyone involved in the process.”

To learn more about Nick Sheridan and Cerno, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.

Homepage photo: Nick Sheridan at work inside Cerno’s studio in Aliso Viejo, California | Courtesy of Cerno

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