Photography by CHICHI UBIÑA

Lighting the Way

Patdo Light Studio’s Nania and Novasel Share Their Trade Secrets


“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself,” wrote the 15th century philosopher Erasmus. Patdo Light Studio co-owners Mari-Lou Nania and Gary Novasel couldn’t agree more. For 35 years, the duo’s high-end lighting boutique – which features a custom design advisory service — has been a premier source for homeowners in Fairfield and Westchester counties and beyond.

Novasel, who holds a BS in Industrial Design, teaches landscape lighting at the New York Botanical Garden and has taught architectural lighting at the Parsons School of Design. Nania, who earned a BA in Fine Arts, hand selects Patdo’s wares for their freshness of design, quality of materials, and precision in craftsmanship. In addition to the pair’s many residential customers, their commercial clients range from the Bathhouse Spa at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to the Dooney & Bourke flagship store in Manhattan to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.

high-gate-living-roomNania and Novasel believe that lighting is a powerful architectural tool, integral to both the form and function of a space. To this end, they recently installed a state-of-the art “Light Lab” at their Port Chester headquarters to let visitors experiment with possible options. Below, the designers reveal the tricks of their trade, as well as new trends that are revolutionizing their field.


What are the key topics that need addressing by homeowners, along with architects and builders, in the design process?

“The team needs to consider many questions, keeping a budget in mind. What is the house’s architectural style? What are the planned interior materials, finishes, colors and textures? Is there a preference for recessed lighting, decorative lighting, or a mix? If recessed, what shape is desired — round, square, rectangular or linear — and what aperture size? People also need to consider the temperature of the lighting – do they want a warm, incandescent-type glow, or a crisp, halogen-style feel? Will there be an artwork collection on display and how will that be handled? And do they want “smart house” controls, where lighting can be adjusted remotely?


What are current lighting trends?  Are customers requesting traditional, modern or contemporary styles?

There is a strong trend towards both contemporary architecture and interiors. Even if the exterior of the home remains traditional, the interiors are becoming more contemporary. We are seeing greater interest in geometric shapes, as well as demand for square down lights and flangeless down lights (which eliminate the white trim around the baffle, for a cleaner look). Finish-wise, gold is making a huge comeback in decorative fixtures. LED (light emitting diode) lighting has opened the creative floodgates for designers, stimulating them to devise previously impossible shapes for decorative fixtures. In addition, we can now hide miniature yet powerful LED tape into the smallest architectural details such as handrails, toe kicks, moldings and coves.


modern-kitchenCan you give some examples of innovative lighting solutions for specific rooms?

In a kitchen:


A pair of pendants over the island has replaced the old standby of three pendants. LED under-cabinet lighting has all but eliminated the heat associated with halogen fixtures — so no more melted chocolate in the cupboard!

In a bedroom:

We’re seeing a trend towards one decorative pendant or surface-mounted fixture in the center of the bedroom, coupled with recessed lighting in the corners that can accentuate art, provide task light or brighten up otherwise dark areas.

In a library, or room with an art collection:

One fantastic benefit of LED lighting is that it has no harmful UV light rays, so we are specifying LED recessed and traditional picture lights in spaces with art collections. Libraries are often finished in dark colors and materials that absorb light, so it’s always important to remember this and use more fixtures than you would in a pale-colored space.


How do homeowners balance different sources of light in each room for the best effect?diner-barn2

A successful lighting design incorporates three “layers” of light. We start with general ambient light that comes from decorative fixtures such as sconces, pendants, surface mounts, chandeliers, and lamps; this provides the space with an overall, soft glow. Next we add task lighting, which offers higher levels of light focused on work surfaces. Finally, we add accent lighting, which brings dramatic “punches” of focused light to art, furniture, surface materials or architectural features. Installing each lighting layer on its own dimmers allows for creating multiple moods and functions in a space.


How does your “Light Lab” take the guesswork out of the design process?

Our Light Lab is the only local facility of its kind. We have over 40 LED recessed fixtures, as well as under-cabinet mounts, linear lighting strips and LED bulbs on display. Our intent was to allow clients to see, compare and select the LED color (warm-white like incandescent or crisp-white like halogen) that they prefer. We have artwork in the Lab and clients are amazed at how different the art looks under different lights. After they choose their preferred color, we show them the different lighting effects created by fixed down lights, adjustable (tilting) accent lights and wall washers. Then they can explore different sizes, shapes (square, round, rectangular or linear), and finishes (white, black, gold, silver, or bronze). They can also see how elegant the flangeless fixtures appear when compared to flanged fixtures. Clients are encouraged to bring in samples of their interior finishes to see how different colors of light will affect them.


What happens when clients renovate their homes – how do you upgrade or retrofit light fixtures?

There are special recessed lights called “remodeler” fixtures designed to be installed into existing ceilings. These can be high quality LED, square or round, flanged or flangeless. There are also retrofit light bulbs available for both screw-in bulbs and low voltage bi-pin bulbs so you can upgrade your existing incandescent or halogen fixtures to LED. However not every LED will dim properly with your existing switch, so dimmers may have to be replaced. In addition, not all LEDs are alike — they vary in quality of light, longevity, color and dimmability. So you have to check carefully before making changes.


pool-landscapeHow can environmentally conscious customers introduce “green” lighting to reduce their carbon footprint? 

Today, good quality recessed LED lighting provides an excellent energy conscious alternative to incandescent and halogen lights of the past. With energy savings of nearly 80% and a lifespan of 50,000 hours (compared with 1,500 hours for a typical incandescent bulb and 3,000 for a typical halogen bulb) LEDs are clearly the way of the future. And now we are starting to see a lot of decorative fixtures using LEDs, which has resulted in surprising shapes not previously available with the older bulbs.


Looking ahead to spring, are there any new wrinkles in landscape lighting?

LED technology has also taken over the world of landscape lighting. The color of individual LEDs can be selected on a plant-by-plant basis, making it easy to enhance the lush beauty of evergreens with cooler colors and bring out the vibrancy of fall plants with warmer tones. As a plus, you’ll never need to change light bulbs again!