Laguna Beach isn’t the most obvious place to find a trio of minimalists looking to redefine the way people view modern lighting design. Yet the coastal southern California surfing town is where Cerno founders Nick Sheridan, Bret Englander, and Dan Wacholder met as children and turned a common love of modern design into a business, creating energy-efficient lighting solutions that verge on art.
“Growing up, we were surrounded by a lot of artists and entrepreneurs, which inevitably inspired us,” says Englander, who heads up sales and marketing. Sheridan’s background in architecture informs the designs and Wacholder oversees engineering and operations. Working almost exclusively in LED, Cerno marries form and function through a bond that’s so intuitive that it conveys a sense of confidence and comfort in their process. “Daniel and Nick have been building and creating things together for more than 20 years, and often they appear to be communicating via telepathy,” says Englander. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
We caught up with Englander to tell us a little bit more about that design process, plus LEDs, Laguna Beach, and why it’s so important to them to respect the environment.
Laguna Beach is beautiful. Did the natural environment of the community have any impact on the ideals of the company?
Many creatives and entrepreneurs call Laguna Beach home, and growing up it was a huge inspiration to see people starting companies and finding success. At the core of Cerno is a love for design and making things, and also the decades-old friendship that me, Daniel and Nick share. As the company has grown, we try to share why we started Cerno with our team and communicate a sense of pride for being part of making quality products in a quality environment in the United States.
Do you continue to draw inspiration from the surroundings of the natural environment of Laguna Beach?
When you spend the amount of time that we did on, or in the ocean, it becomes part of your DNA. The sea is both an anchor and a compass; it grounds you and gives you a sense of direction. We feel very fortunate to call Laguna Beach home, and the people and place continue to influence and inspire us today. Our new linear pendant the Lenis was directly inspired by our love for boats and the ocean. This fixture also brought up a lot of memories because the first project we built together 25 years ago was a sailboat.
Since the beginning, wood has been the main material in the majority of your fixtures. How and why was this decided?
The natural beauty of a material that grows in nature is something man cannot replicate. We love the variations in each piece. And although it’s a laborious material to finish, it’s also a forgiving material. Our team does a fantastic job of understanding how to use each material. We use wood when it best suits the product we are designing.
Tell us about the different wood types you use.
We primarily use American black walnut. However, we also work with maple and oak quite a bit. There is no oak in the standard line, but a lot of our custom projects use it.
Cerno started using LEDs before most of the industry. How has LED technology changed over the years, and how does it affect the design process?
LEDs continue to improve, which is exciting. We always try to source color temperatures that suit the anticipated application best, which in our case is usually 2700K. But we are now offering a lot of the product in 3500K as well. We also only use LEDs with a high CRI. At Cerno, our goal is to be continually innovating and improving. So, we are always exploring new methods and technologies.
From inception to creation, every fixture is made in your factory in Irvine. Can you tell us about this process?
A cohesive design process allows for our designer’s (Nick Sheridan) original intent to be respected and preserved through the entire process. Having a vertically integrated process means nothing gets lost in translation. As Cerno products evolve from the design and proof of concept stage through engineering and onto production, the entire team is communicating and works together to make sure the product is resolved. Which is where the name Cerno came from; it means “to resolve” in Latin.
How do you make your factory and production process more sustainable/environmentally friendly?
The most environmentally responsible thing a manufacturer can do is make high quality products that are built to last, so they do not end up in a landfill.
We also always strive to get the highest yields possible out of our raw materials. We recycle the majority of our scrap metal, and we donate a lot of our extra wood to local craftspeople.
Making everything at one location is also inherently better for the environment because it reduces the number of trips that the materials/products take from the raw material stage to finished product and then onto the customer.
Cerno seems really connected to the environment. Why do you think it is important for businesses to help protect the environment?
I think it’s important to take it a step further and answer why it’s important for everyone on this planet who has the means to do their part, to respect our natural resources and take care of the environment. Too often, people do not react until a crisis is in their face. Well, there is a crisis now, and people are still not changing their ways. We all need to do our part to create more awareness and show more respect for our planet through action. The ocean is already way too polluted and only getting worse.
We have a tremendous amount of respect for entrepreneurs like Yvon Chouinard and Elon Musk. Yvon started Patagonia and One Percent for the Planet; he is truly a steward of planet earth. Elon is continually challenging dogma and disrupting things that he believes will benefit society. He may make a lot of people mad along the way. But in the end, it’s inspiring to see him continually go against the grain. From PayPal to Tesla, Solarcity, SpaceX and now The Boring Company, I can’t wait to see what he tries to do next.
And we can’t wait to see what Cerno comes up with next, either. To see more, check out our selection of Cerno lighting designs.
Team Y is a dedicated group of design devotees. We love everything that has to do with modern design, from products like lighting, furniture and decor all the way to interior design, architecture and city planning. What inspired the design? How does it work? What does it mean? We want to know. And once we know, we are constantly inspired to share what we've discovered with others who love design as well. That's Y.