Thirty-one years ago, while looking for light fixtures to replace the Home Depot ones that came with our Victorian house, and the flickering fluorescent ones that came with my husband’s new office in New Jersey, I happened upon the best possible source in the tri-state area, Patdo Light Studio. Commuting to Port Chester in those days was a breeze.
After days of poring through dozens of heavy-duty catalogues, I realized that I couldn’t balance that task with raising children and preparing the occasional home-cooked meal. So, I asked one of the helpful staffers if I could speak with the owner. “Mari-Lou” was always busy, and everyone was waiting to see her, even catch a glimpse of her.
In those days, you didn’t make online appointments, but people answered phones, so I called and was informed that Mari-Lou Nania had an opening in two weeks’ time. It was a life-changing appointment. I like to think we bonded because we were both women with strong opinions and little patience for small talk.
Two offices, several city apartments, and five area homes later, I feel very much at home in the Regent Street studio. Last week, I finally met Mari-Lou’s partner, Gary Novasel. Where has he been all these years? In the back, creating lighting designs, testing increasingly tiny wall washers and spotlights.
Mari-Lou’s parents, Robert and Mariann Durso, who started the business a half-century ago, introduced her to Gary, who had a lighting design business in Westport, Conn. “They were hoping that I would one day take over the business and knew from experience that it was too much for one person to run.” She added with a laugh, “I was quickly making my way up the hotel management ladder at the time, and they knew if they didn’t grab me then, I wasn’t coming.”
Robert and Mariann were visionaries, said their daughter proudly. “Patdo was the only showroom in the area, and they were selling high-end lighting, working on big projects.”
What distinguishes Patdo, remarked Gary, “is that for us and our clients, lighting is not a commodity but a design tool. Many of our clients have never worked with a lighting designer before they come to us. We show them how lighting creates drama and mood.”
He continued, “There is always a back story because we determine where the joists are and which way the beams run, and which lights need to be on dimmers, before presenting them with a plan. Everyone loves going into the Light Lab. It’s an educational process. In the end, the care and quality we offer is what has attracted home and business owners from the start.”
On walk-throughs of existing homes, Mari-Lou says she is “the fixer who recommends they change the bulbs and take out the old-fashioned high-hats before they order anything new.” She’ll redline their renovation plans. Before a client comes to the studio, she’ll have selected a variety of fixtures. “I’m a big believer in layers of lighting.”
As technology gets more and more remarkable, Gary says he can light up dental molding with a fixture that you’ll never notice because it’s so small. Mari-Lou contends that the best way to light a big room is with the latest of recessed lighting and a decorative fixture, whether classical or rings that look like planets in the night sky.
After 50 years, Patdo has thousands of manufacturers they work with and an ever-changing showroom. When you walk in, remember to look up.