Made Local: Cerno


At Cerno, friendship is the foundation for the magic that is made in each piece of lighting. Based in Southern California, the company was formed by three childhood friends who met while growing up in Laguna Beach who were all influenced by the local culture that would later shape their approach to design. From the creative spirit to the love of the environment and community of makers, Bret Englander, Nick Sheridan and Daniel Wacholder, embarked together and separately over the years on many projects that would later unite them in one common goal—to build something creative, locally. “We lean into the unique environment, our friendship and the artistic and coastal communities that raised us.”

For over a decade, their brainchild has evolved into a dynamic studio based in Southern California that produces modern and contemporary decorative and architectural lighting as well as custom pieces for residential and hospitality projects. Frustrated by flawed overseas production, they design and produce each piece here in California, allowing for more authenticity in materiality and flexibility for innovation. Here, Bret shares more about how their California roots are crucial to the company’s mission.

(From left) Bret Englander, Director of Sales and Marketing; Daniel Wacholder, Director of Engineering and Operations; Nick Sheridan, Director of Design.

What defining moment encouraged you all to partner and start Cerno? There was an actual moment 13 years ago, in December of 2008. Daniel called me in the morning and asked if I wanted to go for a surf. I always want to go surfing, so for me, it was a quick “yeah.” It’s rare when the waves are so small you can’t surf around here, so we drove up and down the coast searching for waves, and there was nothing. So we went down to one of our favorite beaches in Laguna and sat in the sand and had a conversation. This was the moment when we said, let’s start a company. We knew we wanted to do something that we all loved. Daniel, Nick and I love adventure, design and building things, so we let our passions dictate the type of company we wanted to start.

The Merus sconce from Cerno’s permanent collection.

How do your Southern California roots inspire the design of each collection? When we started the company, Nick’s background in architecture made him the design authority. We have all learned a lot since then, but Nick’s still the driving force behind our aesthetic, his background in life and design informs a lot of our designs. Growing up in a craftsman bungalow, Nick’s first love was Craftsman-inspired design like Greene and Greene. However, his experience in design school led him down a path of falling in love with modernism. His idols became Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Ray and Charles Eames. Cerno’s design is unique and influenced by our love for the ocean and the natural environment. We like to use materials honestly and celebrate the organic beauty in the wood, metal, stone and other materials we use.

Architectural lighting for a commercial building in L.A.

Why is it so important that all the production remains in California? Building things is fun and the reason why we started the company in the first place. To separate ourselves from the production process would feel like we were abandoning our roots, going back to when it was just the three of us in a small industrial garage in Laguna Beach Canyon. Today, we have a team of incredible people in a much more sophisticated and larger facility in Aliso Viejo California.

-Technology is at the core of the California economy. What role does it play in your engineering? Great question. We believe there’s a time and place to use technology. We have a laser CNC as well as several other large CNC mills and routers. We also model everything using the most current CAD software available, but we also make many of our fixtures the way they would have been made 100 years ago with traditional woodworking and metalworking tools.


Which designer and/or style influences your aesthetic the most? I touched on this earlier, but we all love the honesty of modern design. It celebrates integrity, minimalism and pushes a lot of structural boundaries. Nick turned us all on to the greats like Corbusier, Eames, Mies van der Rohe, Lautner and Dieter Rams, to name a few. They all inspire us a lot.

-What brought on the forthcoming collaboration with ceramic artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr? We love the natural beauty of Terracotta, and I have been pushing for a few Terracotta pieces for a while. This year we reached out to Scott and Naomi about our vision, and they made it happen. Daniel and Nick had a ceramic company in high school and college, so we were familiar with the material, but we knew the quality we were seeking was outside our current level of expertise. We have known the Schoenherrs for a long time, and we knew how meticulous and skilled they are, which is why we reached out to them, and we are stoked they could make it happen.

Do you have more collaborations planned for the future? We are always open to collaborating; it’s fun and usually pushes us outside of our comfort zone, which we know is important.

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