NA meets: The new design brand Northern

Northern Lighting was established by Ove Rogne in 2005. Starting with a single item, their Snowball lamp, the Oslo-based company’s ideas and collection has grown and grown since its establishment. After 12 years as Northern Lighting, they have now launched a new lifestyle brand called Northern. We had a chat with their founder Ove Rogne about Northern Lighting, the formation of Northern, Nordic and Norwegian design and the philosophy and ethos behind their work.

 

Where did it all start for Northern Lighting and how did it come about?

It actually started with four young guys on a veranda in Oslo back in 2005. We had a lot of positive ideas and thoughts on how to make a new Norway-based lighting and lifestyle brand. We felt passionate about challenging an industry that was rich in potential and ready for new horizons. Also, in Norway there was at the time no real design-oriented competitive lighting companies.

Lighting for us is all about making the good mood, making objects of beauty, adding the right atmosphere in any space, and of course the right illumination. It was time, we thought, for a new Norwegian lighting brand that could combine all of those things. So, we sold the apartments, invested our savings, walked away from our full-time jobs – three management consultants and an award-winning chef – and dared to dream big.

Northern Lighting was launched with the classical Snowball lamp as our first lamp. It was hard in the beginning, we went from store to store with this one lamp, but it slowly grew into a now worldwide selling brand with a good foothold in the affordable luxury segment of lighting on more than 50 countries around the world.

Styling: Per Olav Sølvberg. Photo: Chris Tonnesen

How long had you been thinking about launching Northern and moving into furniture design?

Northern Lighting has always been more than illumination, pushing the boundaries of shape, form and materials was a part of our DNA. Designing furniture and interior accessories was a natural next step and a fit for what we were already doing. We basically make objects for the interior. Northern was launched with a wide variety of furniture and accessorise designs along with several new lighting products.

It sounds like the process of establishing the new brand was a long one – was it a difficult process or just something that needed time and dedication?

Yes, it was a long process. You can’t make a new furniture and a lifestyle brand in seven days! There was a lot of challenges which need both time, making the right decisions, a lot of focus and dedication. The new brand was developed with creative direction from designers Morten Skjærpe Knarrum and Jonas Norheim, the duo behind the Morten & Jonas design studio from Norway. For two years, the designers worked collaboratively with me to establish a new brand characterised by a bold interpretation of classic forms and a determination to innovate with natural materials. Morten & Jonas established a creative team that includes 16 designers from seven different countries.

The last two years before the launch in February 2018 in Stockholm during the Stockholm Furniture Fair, we spent a lot of time discussing the mood we wanted to convey, and identifying the colours, materials and traditions at the heart of Nordic design. Bold shapes, combined with beauty, functionality, simplicity, natural materials and genuine craftsmanship are key features for what we present, which are also some of the elements that are already to some extend key characteristics of Nordic design.

When transforming into a complete lifestyle brand this year we wanted to move Nordic design further, challenging some of the existing archetypes and perceptions of good Nordic products when making the new collection. Bring in some more darkness, some new warm colours, and hopefully some unexpected and interesting new variations of shapes and functions. Still keeping the basic Nordic foundation, heritage and characteristics intact.

And we further decided to make products that entail a kind of understated luxury. The luxury lies in the fact that these are good objects of good quality and with high comfort. At the same time, they should be simple, down to earth and have a good functionality. And we definitely are Nordic as a brand – both in spirit and more practically in terms of our physical company main office location up in Oslo.

Photo: Chris Tonnesen.

 

What did you learn from 12 years as Northern lighting and has that helped you with the new furniture collection?

Attention to details. Making objects that are different from other brands and producers. And to present objects that we as a team really like.

Of course, aesthetics is one thing but how crucial are the materials you use in your works?

We strive to combine beauty with functionality and prefer natural materials and genuine craftsmanship. Craftsmanship and materials are really important elements for us, and so is quality, and these elements are all interlinked often.

The chair Oaki is an example of using natural material in a innovate and hopefully unexpected way. The rear legs give the chair an unexpected detail. They are angled backwards from the seat, meeting the floor behind the chair rather than underneath it. They create a sense of movement, making the chair come alive as it appears to take a step backwards. Crafted in solid oak, with smoked oak or oiled oak finishes to choose from, Oaki is rich in detail, and loaded with character. And sustainable in every aspect and a chair that grows even more beautiful when used and torn by time.

Photo: Chris Tonnesen.

Why did you choose to work with these designers – was there a common theme or was a diversity and variety of minds a factor?

Designers are central for us, and the core essence of our brand – what we like to call a design hub. When we launched Northern, we handpicked and established a team of talented designers. The result includes 16 designers from seven different countries. These were designers that we know of and that we thought would be the right ones to make nice objects, and that are a good mix of established ones and some more up and coming rookies. People that we thought could dare to challenge the status quo as well, resulting in a wide range of shapes, materials and production techniques, still unified into a total collection in sum.

What do you think the rest of the world can learn from Norwegian design?

Making sustainable, solid, durable objects that are down to earth non-flashy, and that combine beauty with good functionality.

What designs and designers from Norway over the past 50 years do you think deserve more recognition?

The wide range of designs from Birger Dahl, Nora Gulbrandsen and of course our own Morten&Jonas.

Northern will be showcasing their work at the Design Junction during London Design Festival from 20 – 23 September. Find more information below:

https://www.thedesignjunction.co.uk/en/directory.html

https://northern.no/no/

Interested in Norwegian design? Read more here:

How Norwegian children inspired some of Scandinavia’s most innovative designs

Design for One And All

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