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SOURCE Awards winner: Natalie Goldsmith Drake

Natalie Drake headshot

Designer Natalie Goldsmith Drake became a business owner last year after building an impressive resume with stints at top interior design firms. But Drake has been a star since her time as a student studying interior design at Virginia Tech.

In 2008, Drake won SOURCE Awards recognition for her Wegmans Supermarket Corporate Office lighting design. Her concept for the Wegmans office, located in Washington, D.C., contained a balance of aesthetically pleasing elements:

  • Fixtures were evenly spaced to form a symmetrical ceiling plan.
  • A variety of fixtures were specified to create a blend of ambient light with decorative wall sconces and pendants.
  • Translucent lay-in panels placed in the acoustical ceiling grid added visual interest; the panels also accentuated the unique shape of the dropped ceiling in the reception area.

Drake selected high-performance light fixtures in order to reduce energy costs and make the space more sustainable. In addition, the design provided ample natural light, allowing employees to turn off some lights during the day to conserve energy. Occupancy sensors also helped create a simple, sustainable workspace.

“With the tough competition among design students, earning a SOURCE Award for my lighting design gave me added motivation to build a future career in design,” said Drake.

Following graduation, Drake became an interior designer. “I always enjoy building a space to be an extension of my client’s personality,” she said. “Our living and work environments are important because we spend most of our time there, and I’m committed to creating spaces that people can feel comfortable in and enjoy.”

Early in her career, Drake spent three years at Jeffrey Beers International, where she focused on hospitality spaces such as large hotels and restaurants. During her time at Jeffrey Beers, she designed custom light fixtures for hotel lobbies and learned how to customize lighting to fit the unique aesthetic and functional requirements of hospitality spaces.

As a young business owner with a distinguished track record, Drake has seen firsthand how lighting can transform a space. "Without proper lighting layered throughout a room, a space will feel unfinished," she said. "It's important to consider elements like accent lighting and the distribution of light. It's easy to leave lighting decisions until the last second, but I make it a goal to address lighting throughout the entire development of the design."

“Lighting is an important layer of design that evokes a certain mood in every space. For example, a dimmed chandelier adds a feeling of relaxation, while the right mixture of surface mounted and recessed lighting in an office will feel energizing.”

With six years of professional experience under her belt, Drake is seeing several notable trends, particularly in residential lighting. “Industrial metallic finishes are extremely trendy – brass, copper and black metals are all commonly found in today’s residences,” she said. “More than ever, it’s important to ensure the aesthetic of the light fixture fits the style of the room. In the past, lighting was almost an afterthought. But now, lighting design is a crucial part of the conversation.

“LED lighting is also gaining ground. When I was in school, everyone focused on CFLs, particularly in the residential space. But LEDs offer a broad range of benefits, and as they continue to become more affordable, their usage will continue to rise.”

As for Drake, she looks forward to building her own interior design and home organization business. “I’m heavily focused on marketing my brand and building my client base, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

The SOURCE Awards competition, established in 1977, focuses on furthering the understanding, knowledge and function of lighting as a primary element in design. Designed to recognize and honor the bright future of the lighting design industry, the awards are part of Eaton’s commitment to building the pipeline of lighting design talent. 

The SOURCE Awards are open to students who use Eaton’s lighting fixtures and controls products in a conceptual interior or exterior lighting design. University students studying architecture, design, engineering or related disciplines are invited to enter. Enter Now

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