Making custom furniture accessible for everyone
My desire to change the luxury furniture industry was the motivation behind creating Norse Interiors. You usually have to spend a lot of money or time to get custom furniture, but I wanted to make it available for regular people. IKEA has a tremendous amount of good furniture as a base, so I make parts to customize their furniture, such as doors, tops, side panels, legs, and knobs, to transform a few of their most beloved storage units. How it works is customers buy the frame from IKEA and then get fronts and accessories from us. In the best of worlds, the customers already have the piece at home, and instead of throwing it out, they buy upgrading components from us to give it a makeover and keep the furniture longer. Our products are custom, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and US-made.
Founder and CEO of Norse Interiors, Lotta Lundaas
Bringing the Scandinivan design ethos to New York
When I moved to the U.S. from Sweden in 2013, I was frustrated with the cookie-cutter styles I saw in big-name furniture stores, but anything unique and high-quality was far out of my price range. I returned to the familiar: IKEA. It was affordable and durable, and I knew I could redesign its simple pieces with new hardware or accents. Soon, I was inspired to take things further.
As I volunteered to decorate the new office at a former job, I resorted to IKEA again. I realized there was an opportunity to work with American artisans and bring timeless, Scandinavian design to the furniture market at a reasonable price.
At Norse Interiors, you’ll find luxurious, custom-made replacement pieces to turn IKEA furniture storage into bespoke works of art. You customize the color and design of sturdy, American-made pieces and fit them over existing IKEA sideboards, media consoles, dressers, and nightstands at home. Retrofitting an IKEA system with Norse means you upcycle durable, inexpensive foundations to create personalized furniture that’s stunning, sustainable, and DIY has never looked better. We also provide an abundance of IKEA hacking inspiration, design advice, how-tos, and more for interior enthusiasts on our blog.
I’m originally from the North of Sweden, and I came to the U.S. in 2013 and fell in love with New York. I have furniture-making and entrepreneurship running through my veins; my grandfather was a carpenter, and my father is a serial entrepreneur and very handy. I inherited their DIY ethos and am passionate about beautiful, Scandinavian design. I’ve always loved IKEA; it’s super modular and affordable, and their commitment to sustainability is admirable. I’ve used IKEA in many different stages of my life, and I have always tried making them more personal and less cookie-cutter, so one day, I knew I could turn this into a business.
We stay true to our roots with simple lines that characterize Scandinavian design. A trademark for Scandinavian design is to combine form and function; an item shouldn’t just look pretty, but it should also have a practical purpose in the home, which has been our guiding light through the design process. Scandinavian design should look effortless, dominated by simplicity and a natural palette. A Scandi home typically features a minimalistic and functional design, designed to create a sense of warmth and coziness. All of our collections honor that aesthetic by being clean-lined with a sense of simplicity, elegance, and functionality.
The impact on the furniture market in an economic downturn
The pandemic is still causing disruptions in the supply chains, and 2020 and 2021 were challenging because we had to fight to get our hands on raw materials. The increased demand made us thrive during 2021, in particular, – probably due to people staying home more and converting parts of their homes to home office spaces. We were able to keep our lead time of two weeks – we make everything within two weeks of the customer placing the order- but the furniture industry as a whole was struggling with long delays in production and delivery of goods.
This year has started a little differently – we are experiencing a softer market as people have less money to spend. I think that an economic downturn will impact the furniture market in several ways. With less disposable income, people are less likely to make big-ticket purchases such as expensive furniture, decreasing sales, and revenue for furniture manufacturers and retailers. Additionally, during an economic downturn, businesses will need to lower their burn rate and cut back on spending, which leads to a decrease in demand for office furniture. All of this will impact manufacturing companies, who will have to cut back on production and labor, decreasing the furniture supply and increasing prices.
We’re entering a new era of “pre-loved”
I do believe it’s possible to thrive in the current economic climate, though, if you’re in the “right” space. The concept of buying “pre-loved” (secondhand) is booming, and I think companies whose values and business strategies coincide with this have an excellent chance to grow. Many people choose to buy pre-loved furniture for a variety of reasons such as cost savings, environmental concerns, and a desire to add unique pieces to their home decor. Some people also like the idea of giving new life to older items. The growing climate anxiety is making people prioritize sustainability when shopping. People care more and more about sustainability and that what they buy is made with the planet and fair trade in mind.
Many of our customers are inquiring more about how and where we make our products, and more people are choosing to give an old starter furniture a makeover instead of buying a whole new piece. With the DIY movement that has become so popular, people aren’t afraid to reimagine furniture’s purpose. You don’t need to replace all the parts to make them your own. There is also an increased interest in interior design and expressing personal style through home décor. People, and millennials in particular, are looking for unique pieces without breaking the bank. By personalizing IKEA, custom furniture is fast, accessible, and sustainable.
Everyone should be an entrepreneur at least once in their lifetime
(Advice to others about business)
Before launching your business, it’s essential to conduct thorough market research to understand the competitive landscape, consumer trends, and opportunities in the furniture market. You need to either find a gap in the market or find something existing that you can do much better. Identify your target customer, differentiate your products and services, and develop a solid business plan before you take a step further.
When it comes to items for people’s homes, like furniture, I think it’s important to focus on the quality of both the products and the customer service. This will help you build a reputation for excellence and ensure that customers are satisfied with their purchases. It will also help you build customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth (= “free” marketing).
To reach your target audience, develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes various channels such as social media, email marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing, and trade programs. Building relationships with other businesses in the industry can help you learn from others and collaborate on projects. It can also open up new opportunities and help you grow your business.
Spend time, early on, on building your social media following. Like word-of-mouth, this is “free marketing” and one of the best ways to get close to your customer and foster two-way communication. Your followers’ engagement decides how many people will be shown your content. Currently, Norse has amassed around 100k followers across all platforms, and it has taken significant effort over the past few years to reach this level. Some quick tips on achieving that are to carefully consider which platforms to focus on based on the content you plan to share, stay true to your brand’s fundamental principles, and ensure that the same message is conveyed across all channels. Also, don’t rely solely on manual labor when there are excellent tools available to plan, schedule posts, and analyze your performance.
Finally, the economic environment is constantly changing, and as an entrepreneur you must be agile and be prepared to make hard decisions fast, ideally using extensive data and analytics, to create a competitive advantage. Being an entrepreneur is tough, and you need resilience to make it and also enjoy it. I love it. It’s thrilling and a learning experience that I wish everyone to have at some point in their life if they have an opportunity.
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