During my trip to Tokyo this winter, I discovered the elegant and awe-inspiring world of Norwegian Icons. Norwegian Icons is an initiative dedicated to telling the world about the best of Norwegian interior design from 1940 to 1975. And spread the word, they do: they are the leading interior design firm in Japan specialising in Nordic interiors, with a showroom in the heart of Shibuya showcasing beautiful Norwegian Mid-Century furniture, design and products. Aside from this, they also promote the culture of drinking good (Norwegian) coffee; they have a cafe and bar right next door called Fuglen which feels like stepping back in time to Norway’s golden age of design.

I spoke with Wakiko Fukuda, interior designer and manager of Norwegian Icons Tokyo about Norwegian design and what makes it special.

What was the motivation behind Norwegian Icons?

Scandinavian design is big in Japan and all over the world but nobody really knows about Norwegian design. We’ve been noticing that people just didn’t know, but there’s a lot of nice design in Norway… And then one day, we received an exhibition catalogue from a famous auction house which was  called Scandinavian Important Design. It was covered with pictures of the Danish, Swedish and Finnish national flags… It was so sad for the Norwegians, you know? So then, we started to communicate about Norwegian design. In this way, we are aiming to put Norway back as a design nation.

How did your passion for Nordic design start?

For myself, I thought it was just fun to show and tell people what they don’t know before.

For Norwegian Icons and its owners, it would be because they are Norwegian and they noticed that Norway had a really good design tradition, earlier than the other (Nordic) nations.

Norway had a really good design tradition, earlier than the other Nordic nations

How would you describe Norwegian design? What makes it different from other Nordic design? We talked briefly about how we both think that Norwegian design is more “rougher” or more “closer to nature” than the other Nordic styles. Can you expound on this?

Indeed, I think basically all Scandinavians share the same kind of design background, so it is very similar to each other. Based on this, if we say differences between Norwegian and the others, it would be “roughness”.

When we had an event together with Carl Hansen & Søn Japan (a Danish furniture company), we put our furnitures together and we saw the subtle difference. There were two chairs, one from us, the other from them. They look alike very much BUT the Danish one has thin, curvy, elegantly shaped legs, while the Norwegian one has thicker, square-shaped legs. And the expression of the chairs were very different. The Norwegian chair had a rougher and more masculine expression.

Norwegian design has a rougher and more masculine expression

What do you think are the main similarities (or differences) between Norwegian and Japanese design?

The values of simplicity and honesty are similar.
But the “roughness” aspect is different from Japan.

Is there a big interest in Norwegian design in Japan? If yes, how did this happen?

Not so big yet, but absolutely, we succeeded in squeezing into the market. We are growing now. 🙂

Norwegian Icons
1-16-8, Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo