Cedar & Moss's Modern Lighting

Bright ideas for the contemporary home from the former vice president of Schoolhouse Electric

By Zach Dundas March 3, 2014 Published in the March 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

The Alto Pendant

When she quit as Schoolhouse Electric’s vice president for design and marketing last spring, Michelle Steinback had no plans to launch a lighting company. She wanted a break—and anyway, she’d studied landscape architecture, and considered starting “a modernist Smith & Hawken.”

Then the 38-year-old bought a dilapidated midcentury house next to verdant Tryon Creek State Park. One small problem (beyond the mice): the renovation left her basement with no lighting. So Steinback began creating her own, swapping Schoolhouse’s Americana for Euro-accented modernism. 

“There’s something very informative about designing for a specific project,” she says. “Under other circumstances, you might start with the big-statement chandelier. I had to design the small stuff first.”

In November, that DIY project became Cedar & Moss, named for her home’s sylvan view. Design and fabrication happen in her basement. Despite the homespun scale, the company found a clientele eager for restrained lines and handcrafted textures, and Steinback hired her first part-time employees in January.

“I’m overwhelmed by how many lights we have to build,” she says. “I really believe we can grow but still have flexibility and balance. And we can always pull a table out on the deck and work in the forest.”

The Isle Sconce

The Alto Pendant (from $199) 

“This is a remake of a purist midcentury-modern design, based originally on a Bauhaus light. You can find it out there, but no one makes it as cleanly. I bought two vintage lights and picked out the best parts, then had them remade in brass. The glass wouldn’t have been clear historically, except maybe in the mid-’60s.”

The Tilt Regular


“My grandmother bought me a midcentury design book as a housewarming gift,” Steinback says. “And I collect midcentury pottery. I wanted to wed that angular look with sinuous curves.” 


“I got rid of a drop ceiling in my basement to expose a beautiful cedar beam. I needed something that would be simple enough to work in repetition but still provide a lot of light.”

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