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Meet Dianne Sheridan of Dianne Sheridan Designs in University Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dianne Sheridan.

Dianne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My creative passion has always been drawn to the use, style, feel and appearance of space which is not just the literal physical arena of the four walls around us, but also the emotive arena created by the environments we create, be it our home, our gardens, or our places of business.

Those physical spaces mean a variety of things to people: Safety, comfort, joy, family, and so on. Clearly, space is not just a place, but a state of being that encompasses so much more. And lighting impacts this space. This is why I love lighting because lighting is emotion. Lighting can be awe inspiring. Lighting can be calm. Lighting can be intense. Lighting can be passionate. Lighting can be soothing. Lighting is a lot of emotions and impacts “space,” in both its literal physical sense of the four walls around us, and the emotive space, or the world of our emotions. Space, therefore, seems to me to be, not only the overarching physical boundary you do your work within (the house, yard, building), but also the deeply personal arena you work-out your emotions on and within.

Following an early interest in architectural design, I pursued a degree in interior design. My focus on kitchens and baths was realized through the Honors Kitchen Design course taught by Nancy Blandford of Built-in Design, an El Cajon based kitchen designer who has won over 25 national design awards and has been published in numerous design magazines. Through her recommendation, I received a job offer to work for a San Diego based cabinet showroom a year before I graduated. While working there I learned how cabinetry is built; all the components required: from hinges to drawer guides, wood species, door styles, and decorative moulding. Through this foundation of materials and details I was able to discern what sets the style from contemporary to traditional, modern to old world and everything in between. With the understanding that the materials drive the style, the lighting plays a vital role in the design, from both the functional and aesthetic points of view. I continued in this position a year after graduation and then went on to work as the design assistant to the owner of Kitchen Studio Del Mar, Michael Fineman. As a high-end kitchen design studio the showroom catered to a sophisticated clientele, therefore the kitchens and bathrooms were not just highly functional; they also reflected an artistic representation of the homeowners’ lifestyle. This in turn required the lighting to conform to and assist in establishing many functions through the use of effective task lighting, general lighting, accent lighting, and ambient lighting.

Throughout these early years in my career I was continually finding new aspects of the multifaceted field of interior design that I enjoyed and appreciated, particularly so with lighting. The moods, feelings, colors, and effects that the play of light can create on space began to consume my attention. I quickly began to notice, in my first years as a kitchen and bath designer, the powerful fluidity of light – the way its flexible tones, colors and shades vary according to a wealth of factors inherent to the light source or the surface it reflects upon to create moods, looks and feelings in space, more so, at times, than does the actual change in surfaces, or physical shifting of space. The more experience I attained the more I began to understand how the impact and contribution of lighting on our experience of space is underestimated.

In 1998, seeking to learn more about the use of lighting within the industry, I began working with Jim Sultan, a prominent San Diego lighting designer. Not only was Jim highly experienced and very talented, he was extremely generous with his knowledge. As a lighting design professor at the New School of Architecture in downtown San Diego, he devoted his professional life to instructing up-and-coming architects, as well as appearing at lighting conferences around the country. As his assistant, I learned a tremendous amount from the hands on commercial and residential lighting design projects. I learned the importance of detailed documentation through lighting plans and technical calculation lighting worksheets. Working with him not only provided me the invaluable field applications but also the opportunity to deepen my theoretical understanding of lighting.

This experience brought forward in me a desire to specialize specifically within lighting design and in 2000 I opened my own design studio located in Encinitas, CA. My business, as well as knowledge, has continued to grow over the years thanks to these early educational experiences, in the field, and in the design room. In May of 2017 I decided to move my office of 17 years from Encinitas to the Artworks Building on Park Boulevard in University Heights, the neighborhood I have lived in since 2002. Being surrounded by other professionals in the design industry has renewed my passion for lighting design.

The impact of light on space has forever changed how I approach each project I work on. Every lighting design I undertake is absolutely unique due to the interplay of innumerable factors that will impact the effect of light on the specific space. I understand and advocate the importance of working as a unit with the other designers on every project, from concept to completion. Additionally, because I have also found that many within this industry have not had the opportunity to learn about the significant impact of light on space, I am following in the footsteps of my former mentor, Jim Sultan and teach interior designers in the art and science of lighting design. I plan to bring to the forefront a greater understanding and appreciation of the powerful impact that light can have on space.

Has it been a smooth road?
The ever changing building and energy codes, along with constant technological advances in lighting products provide challenges, but ones that when systematically met with a deep understanding of how lighting impacts a space, environments are more pleasant, life is more productive and the soul is enriched.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Because the ever changing energy codes and continuous technological advances of luminaries create the shifts and trends in lighting, the importance of working with a professional lighting designer, who understands the balance of the art and science of lighting, will become more and more realized.

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