New This Month

Inside the Home of Light Designer Michelle Steinback

Portland, Oregon, native Michelle Steinback is igniting the design world with her light fixtures, which combine modern shapes with classic details. She’s struck the same balance in her midcentury home, a haven filled with vintage finds and handmade pieces from friends. Add Steinback’s illuminations and her three happy kids to the mix, and the place glows with life.

Advertisement
Advertisement

When Michelle Steinback started her lighting company three years ago, she drafted a personal mission statement and pinned it to her studio wall. “I have always been unswervingly true to myself,” a part of it read. “Keep doing that; just don’t be insensitive to others along the way.” Those words propelled Steinback as she built her collection of stylish and extremely popular sconces, pendants, and lamps. They also speak to the rebirth, both personal and professional, that she experienced along the way.

 

Steinback, 40, has design sense in her DNA. “My great-grandmother was a painter, and my grandfather was an inventor,” she says. “My dad was a musician and small-business owner. My mom was a fabric buyer, and we had a dedicated crafts room.” The first in her family to go to college, Steinback majored in art history at Whittier College in California, which led to a year abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Copenhagen, Denmark -- two places that enormously influenced her aesthetic. “The idea of reacting against ornamentation spoke to me,” she explains. “So did the Bauhaus mission of designing for everyday people.”

 

After college, Steinback earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture and got a job at an urban-planning firm back in Portland. She eventually moved to a local home-goods company, where she spent 10 years rising to the position of vice president and director of lighting and marketing. While there, she married her college boyfriend and had three children. In December 2012, desperate for more space, she and her husband looked at a dilapidated midcentury house in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego that a wealthy Manhattanite had left abandoned for 20 years. “It was a wreck,” Steinback says. “It smelled like mold and mice. But it backed up to the Tryon Creek State park, and the back of the house was all glass.”

 

Soon after they purchased the home, Steinback’s world imploded. In January 2013, the day after the closing, she got laid off. Two months later, during the demolition stage of her renovation and with a nursing baby and two little boys underfoot, her marriage fell apart. Strapped for cash and reeling from stress, she continued the work, which included ordering 35 European sconces on eBay to light her basement. When they didn’t fit properly, Steinback had an epiphany: “I realized I knew how to make my own, and I could sell them,” she says. With the money reserved for her kitchen renovation, she started making lamps at night while her kids slept. She named her fledgling company Cedar & Moss, after the foliage in her lush backyard.

 

When Steinback launched in November of that year, her line instantly took off. Since then, she’s grown her staff to 11 (“I hired all women at first, because they worked in my home, and I wanted to feel comfortable,” she says), partnered with the Williams-Sonoma-owned company Rejuvenation, and bought a separate work space. Today, she’s less concerned about survival -- her clients include restaurants and boutique hotels around the world -- and more focused on paying her good fortune forward. “I was so shattered, and the universe was there for me,” she says of her amazing rebound. “Sometimes the bad things that happen to you turn out to be the best things. Now I want to nurture and empower others.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Natural Setting

Steinback's home borders Oregon's Tryon Creek State Natural Area.

  • Family in the Trees
    Family in the Trees

    Steinback and her brood -- Dak, 10; Sunshine, 4; and King, 8 -- relax on the deck behind their home.

  • Endless Fun
    Endless Fun

    King is ready for takeoff. 

  • Unlimited Exploration
    Unlimited Exploration

    Sunshine loves to splash around in the stream behind the house.

  • King of the Woods
    King of the Woods

    King soars on a 50-foot rope swing in the backyard.

  • Family in the Trees
    Family in the Trees

    Steinback and her brood -- Dak, 10; Sunshine, 4; and King, 8 -- relax on the deck behind their home.

  • Unlimited Exploration
    Unlimited Exploration

    Sunshine loves to splash around in the stream behind the house.

  • Endless Fun
    Endless Fun

    King is ready for takeoff. 

  • King of the Woods
    King of the Woods

    King soars on a 50-foot rope swing in the backyard.

Front Door

Pop of Color

When Steinback bought the house, she stripped gray paint off the front door to restore the original bright-orange entrance.

Dining Room

Modern Love

To transform her 1964 Eichler-style house from dreary to airy, Steinback removed low tile ceilings to expose cedar beams, gutted the bathrooms and basement, replaced the floors, and renovated the kitchen. An Eero Saarinen Tulip table anchors her dining area. The textile artwork is vintage, and the glass pieces were made by her friends, the glass artists Andi Kovel and Justin Parker, of Esque Studio.

 

Cedar & Moss Tilt Regular sconce, in Brass, $95, cedarandmoss.com. Cedar & Moss for Rejuvenation floor lamp, in Brushed Satin, $449, rejuvenation.com. Esque Studio Waterdrop jug, from $360, esque-studio.com. Tom Kelley Salt chairs, $129 each, dwr.com. Cedar & Moss Alder pendant lights, in Opal and Brass, from $349 each, cedarandmoss.com.

For lighting any space, Steinback believes...

The key is layers -- that means overhead, wall, and table lights, as well as dimmers. You need lots of options for different moods.

Kitchen

Cook's Corner

Thanks to savvy budgeting and bartering, Steinback spent only $6,000 on her kitchen reno. After she’d traded lights for two friends’ labor, she and they painted the cabinets white and restored the doors, built the island, and installed shelves and IKEA butcher-block countertops. Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner hug the table.

 

Cedar & Moss Alto sconces, $189 each, and Alto Rod pendants with 12-inch globes, from $229 each, cedarand moss.com. Sawkille tall stools, in Bleached Maple, $850 each, sawkille.com.

 

Get All Our Kitchen Design Ideas

Home Office

Bright Ideas

A Paul Cadovius “Cado” wall unit in her home office serves as Steinback’s sketching and design station; the floor lamp, chair, and mirror are vintage. “I work in this space almost every night after the children go to bed -- typically until the wee hours,” she says. “I love the quiet and serenity of late nights.”

Bedroom

Easy Earthy Tones

Steinback’s bedroom is filled with pieces she’s collected: The throw on the bed is from an estate sale, the carpet is from Portland vintage Moroccan-rug shop Kat + Maouche, and the chair cushion is covered in Schumacher Queen of Spain fabric -- a pattern Mick Jagger once had on his walls. She framed antique weavings for artwork, and the lamp on her nightstand is a prototype for her line.

 

The Trick to Decorating with Whites and Neutrals

Basement

The Design Library

“The biggest perk of having my own studio is the flexibility I have to spend more time with my children,” Steinback says. “At home, we love to play chess, draw, or be outside together.” Steinback has designated a room in her basement as a “design library,” where she stores inspiring vintage fixtures along with works in progress.

 

Learn More About Customizing Bookshelves

Patio

Woodsy Welcome

Steinback bought her patio furniture on Craigslist, and added black IKEA cushions and pillows she made from African and batik textiles found at estate sales. The rug is also from Kat + Maouche. “I have really good vintage luck!” she says. The string lights in the trees are from Target.

 

Get More Patio Ideas

Comments

Be the first to comment!

Advertisement
Advertisement