• Pure Content & Vital Insights


    September, 2019

    Norrgavel's founder and designer Nirvan Richter has devoted considerable time since his student days to pondering what makes us feel good and how we can integrate circular thinking into interior design. Meet Nirvan Richter as he talks about pure content and the importance of highlighting photosynthesis in interior design. Here, he shares thoughts and reflections on the necessity and joy of surrounding ourselves with furniture and interior details made of natural materials. We shine the spotlight on the "other leg" in Norrgavel's values - the ecological.

    How is the indoor environment affected by the material choices in Norrgavel's furniture?

              – In my thesis after completing my architecture studies, I spent four years investigating why I felt more comfortable in old houses than in new ones. Why didn't I want to work in the environment that prevailed then? What qualities of a house made me feel good? I concluded that the effects of choosing an environment with natural materials create a completely different indoor climate.

    When working with natural materials and open surface treatments - hygroscopic materials - it contributes to a pleasant indoor environment. Natural materials smell different. The sounds are different in natural materials. At Norrgavel, we say that natural materials are alive; they change and are therefore not lifeless. They often require a different approach for us to thrive with them. For example, you have to fluff up cushions made of natural materials and take care of painted surfaces so that they don't wear out too quickly. You need to be more alert and observant - there is quicker feedback with natural materials. It is easier to connect deeply with oneself in natural environments, as they exhibit qualities similar to our own cycle - birth, breath, skin, aging. In Zen Buddhism, one excels in working with the physical environment to sharpen the mind and thus achieve greater satisfaction here and now. There is no need to travel around the world; everything is within ourselves... We can find satisfaction inwardly instead of outwardly.

    There's a difference between a Las Vegas environment and a zen bath - anyone can probably feel that difference in quality.

    What sets a Norrgavel piece of furniture apart is its consistent use of pure natural materials such as solid wood frame, rubber webbing, natural latex, and waterfowl feathers, oak legs, and upholstery in 100% linen – instead of synthetic padding, polyester upholstery, plastic lacquers, and textiles with various types of chemicals and flame retardants?    

           –In terms of materials, at Norrgavel, we manage to mostly stick to circular materials that regenerate within a human lifespan through photosynthesis. What we still struggle with is our use of fossil sources in energy and transportation. You could throw a Norrgavel sofa into a lake without causing long-lasting damage to nature. That's a huge difference! Any other sofa on the market will take thousands of years to break down and will contribute even more microplastics to the food chains.

    We need to incorporate the level of circular thinking - it was something completely natural for people until just a generation ago when it came to materials. People understood that they couldn't treat nature in that way. Back then, there were no garbage stations. The waste products created on a farm had to return to nature somehow. It's us who have lived in a romantic bubble, some kind of hubris, where we think we have control over nature. But we don't stand a chance against nature.

    How can interior design be important when the world looks as it does? ("How can interior design be important when the world looks as it does?" is also the title of a book which was published in 2005 and is about Nirvan Richter and the first ten years of Norrgavel.)

    – Interior design is actually completely irrelevant. If you build your life solely on interior design, you are completely on the wrong track. But if you find important things in life, then interior design becomes important too - interior design can be a gateway to what is truly important. When it comes to interior design and Norrgavel, it's not for nothing that we worked out a set of values from the start - from which it could feel meaningful to conduct a business. If we don't act in harmony with our values, things lose their meaning.

    Interior design is incredibly important to many but currently nurtures a trend based on linear thinking. It doesn't work! When design professionals promote a mindset in humanity to constantly be updated and modern, it leads to something destructive. In this way, interior design is extremely important, as interior design is also an existential question. Depending on one's worldview... Personally, I have had a very hard time finding a place in the design world over the years. Sloppily expressed, one could say that the design world is superficial, but it's foolish to use those terms. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that for a embarrassingly long time, we have turned a blind eye to realities.

    One can indeed have a good and relatively comfortable life even if one aligns with the conditions of life on this planet. Without romanticizing it, it worked well for a long part of the 20th century. After that, it went completely haywire. I pondered on how I could best influence things in a different direction and decided not to work as an architect but instead chose to work with the knowledge I have and to work responsibly but on a smaller scale. That is, to work with the materials found in nature and that can return to nature. The opposite of synthetic materials that cause irreversible processes. Waste products from plastic materials are spreading in nature - and nature cannot break them down. Our oceans soon contain more plastic than fish. What have we done on this planet? At Norrgavel, we stick to materials created with the help of photosynthesis. Natural materials = circular materials. It takes about 100 years for a tree to grow, while we have always been extremely conservative with, for example, stone which takes far too long to be recreated in nature. In the material aspect, we have not intervened and disturbed the other systems.


    In that way, one can make a difference even when it comes to interior design. Some trends are not responsible. A romantic dream that has been circulating for at least 100 years is the dream of the synthetic (i.e., materials derived from crude oil). What humanity is beginning to realize now are the consequences of romantic thinking and that it cannot continue like this. When considering these dimensions, it is silly not to bother fluffing a sofa cushion made of natural materials.

    Back in the 1970s, I started thinking about ecology because of nuclear power. At that time, very little was written about ecology, and absolutely nothing about ecology in the pink pages. It wasn't that the issues weren't known, but traditional media were slow on it, especially concerning the connection between business and ecology. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of the environmental organization 'The Natural Step,' worked on these issues from a broader perspective – how natural resources and culture can interact. So I checked with him if it was relevant to stick to natural materials, and he thought it was a wise direction.

    The three-part value base that Norrgavel has had from the start is starting to come together now – the circle is closing. The second part, the ecological one, requires a change of existential nature, which in turn leads to a different view of humanism, the first part. Many years ago, I went on a meditation retreat called 'not until you die.' It's also in the title of Roy Scranton's book 'Learning to Die in the Anthropocene' (see fact box), which is about facing the new challenges of climate change as creatively as possible. Not until we dare to release our identification with ourselves, with personality, possessions, etc., will we be able to live a different life. A life where we are no longer unilaterally governed by external needs satisfaction. As a consequence of ecology, one needs to start thinking about existential questions that ultimately open up for a more loving existence.

    Are consumers so well-informed and aware that they ask questions about and demand the content of furniture?

              – Definitely, one can observe a significant change that has occurred gradually over the past ten years. Currently, we have increased awareness thanks to the 'Greta effect.' It is linked to the younger generation. Everything about Greta Thunberg is good, but it's quite amazing that the things she says are not new. In my thesis written 40 years ago, I highlight these very issues. And I, in turn, had received it from someone else... Younger generations dare to see things as they are. But it's not the level of change that's needed. A completely different level of insight is required, on a deeper level. The destructive age we now live in - the Anthropocene - requires a radically new vision for humanity.

    Finally, is it important for you to inspire people around you to live a more sustainable and existentially fulfilled life?   

           – During the short time we are here, it is important for me to do what I can to ensure that life on the planet can continue as intended. I want to do my part to raise awareness, both my own and others'. What can I do to spread understanding and try to stop a destructive trajectory? It's about finding solutions from a different level.

    I want to live a simple life and not trip myself up. A simple life may sound paradoxical, but it's about 'daring to die.' People approaching physical death as they age often find a sense of tranquility. Is there a way to achieve that state before one's deathbed? I want to attain those insights. Following that path triggers a self-generating process. As one releases their own identity, the potential for love within oneself grows. It's something that happens naturally. As the ego diminishes, the capacity for love expands.

    Norrgavels entire value foundation can be read here.


    The global warming is not just a contemporary version of an ancient doomsday myth. It's not hysteria. Global warming is a fact. And we've probably passed the point where we could have done something about it. For climate scientists, politicians, and people in the security industry, the question isn't whether global warming exists or not, or how to prevent it, but how to adapt to a life in the heated, unstable world we've created. This new world has a name: the Anthropocene. The word comes from classical Greek. Every epoch in the recent geological period (Cenozoic) has been given the ending -cene from kainos, meaning "new". Anthropos means "human".
    The idea behind the term "Anthropocene" is that we have entered a new epoch in Earth's geological history, characterized by the human species beginning to play the role of a geological force. Biologist Eugene F. Stoermer and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term in 2000, and it has become increasingly accepted as evidence has mounted that the changes brought about by global warming will not only affect the Earth's climate and biodiversity, but its geological structure itself, and not just for a few hundred years but for thousands of years.
    Learning to die means learning to let go of the ego, the idea of oneself, the future, certainty, what one has invested in, the pursuit of pleasure, something lasting, stability. Learning to let go of hope. Learning to let go of death...


    During 99.9 percent of humanity's two hundred thousand years on Earth, almost all of our energy came from photosynthesis. Most of our fuel came from the plant kingdom, either by consuming it directly, or through the animals we used or hunted, or through biomass like wood, utilizing some energy from water and air through technologies like windmills and sail. Industrial coal changed everything. Over the past two hundred years – a tenth of a percent of human existence – most of our energy has not come directly from photosynthesis, but from stored coal energy in the form of fossil fuels. By transferring millions of tons of carbon from the Earth to the atmosphere, we have caused fundamental changes in the Earth's climate, biosphere, and geology. These changes have disrupted the climate patterns regulated by the Earth's orbit around the sun and will continue to disrupt them for thousands of years.

    Source: "Learning to Die in the Anthropocene" by Roy Scranton