GOLD RIVER – Tommy Herren had been working in the landscaping industry for some time before the lights came on—both literally and figuratively. “I was working as a general superintendent for a landscaping company and my boss asked me to give a demo of some exterior lighting products,” he recounts. “Prior to that, I hadn’t done any landscape lighting, but when I saw the effect it could have, it opened my eyes to the artistic possibilities. I mean, you’re basically painting with light, with the night sky as your canvas.”
Today, as owner of The Lighting Geek, Tommy says he enjoys “enlightening” others about the art of his trade. “I like training my employees and getting them excited about what we do. The same goes for my clients—they see us working all day in their yards with no idea of what the final product is going to look like, so it’s fun to see their reactions when we turn on the switch. If we don’t get an, ‘Oh, my God!’ there’s something wrong.”
Outside of work, Tommy spends the bulk of his time engaged in artistic pursuits, usually alongside his wife, Coco. “My wife and I are both art enthusiasts, and we enjoy things like photography and glassblowing,” he affirms. “I also do sculpture work and am in the process of writing a book. When I tell people all the activities I’m involved in, they usually don’t believe me!” Tommy and Coco also like scuba diving, indulging in local food and wine, and keeping up with their children and grandchildren, who are spread out from Sacramento to the East Coast.
In regard to his professional career, Tommy says a landscape lighting professional should have not only an artistic eye, but knowledge of landscape design as well. “Frankly, if you can’t name the plants in a landscape, you probably shouldn’t be lighting it. Having a familiarity with plants and trees allows a lighting contractor to look at things from a distinct perspective, which can mean the difference between a mediocre job and a masterful one.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Tommy says he’d take his passion for art to a new level. “I’d definitely invest more energy into my artistic pursuits. Coco and I have a dream of opening an art studio big enough to share with other artists, particularly those who can’t afford spaces of their own. I think it would be very rewarding to help talented people who lack the monetary means to get their work out there.”