• Anniversary, Christmas peace, happiness, and visions for the future

    nirvan richter porträtt

    Conversation with the Founder of Norrgavel

    November 2023

    Throughout 2023, the celebration of Norrgavel's 30th anniversary has been ongoing. Three decades of genuine values and modern furniture classics. A business born out of a need and a strong longing – a company that has always gone against the tide since its inception. Reflections, future visions, conscious consumption, Christmas atmosphere, and happiness are some of the topics discussed in the conversation with the founder and designer, Nirvan Richter. Join us!

    In an airy and carefully renovated space in the Nyhamnen neighborhood, in close proximity to Malmö Central Station, Norrgavel has had its headquarters for a little over a year. In the beautiful two-story brick building, several preserved details remind us of its history as a warehouse. Here, both offices and the workshop are housed, where all furniture prototypes are developed and fine-tuned into finished furniture models before they are ready to be introduced into Norrgavel's range. A process that can sometimes take up to ten years before all the pieces have fallen into place.

    In a large room overlooking a nondescript office building from the 90s, with a glimpse of the bustling railway area near Malmö Central Station, Nirvan Richter has his office. He doesn't quite fit the stereotype of a corporate executive, even though outwardly he is a tall and well-groomed man in his late 60s. But as soon as he starts talking, it becomes clear that his focus is on personal growth rather than increased expansion. However, one doesn't necessarily exclude the other, and for Nirvan, personal development and entrepreneurship have always gone hand in hand. Through his business ventures, he has embraced the opportunities to grow on a personal level and vice versa. A life philosophy that ultimately revolves around scaling back trivialities and being constantly present, here and now. Something that is also highly evident in his design and the overarching attitude Nirvan has towards furniture – they should serve as a backdrop to life.  

    Let's hear what Norrgavel's founder and designer, Nirvan Richter, has to say about everything from celebrating a 30th anniversary to creating Christmas atmosphere – and most importantly, how one can become a happier person.

    During 2023, Norrgavel celebrated its 30th anniversary. What has been the best during these three decades?

    – All the years with Norrgavel have been a flow of small triumphs. The joy of being able to connect so many competent people to this business. Every product added to the range feels like a pregnancy and a birth when it's released. As long as every working day contains this feeling of taking small steps forward, it feels really fun and meaningful to continue.

    Many say that it automatically leads to having to limit one's life when engaging in entrepreneurship. But for me, entrepreneurship has not been in opposition to personal development and spiritual seeking; instead, it has been a great aid. The business activity has acted as a lever to move forward in my existential longing.

    ljusstakar smide och meditationskudde

    What personal qualities have you found most useful during your 30 years with Norrgavel?

    – My stubbornness has been of great benefit. Not giving up just because someone says it's impossible. Consistency is another important thing. It has been incredibly liberating to always be able to fall back on Norrgavel's clear core values.

    My analytical skills are another trait that has come in handy. I'm not a 'Mensa-person', but I've always derived great joy from my analytical abilities. Considering our relatively limited sales, it's unusual to have such a broad range. This sets us apart from other players in the market. The explanation is that we rethink and make the right choices from the start. This applies to sizes, module configurations, and so on – details that are crucial for the assortment structure in this company. My analytical skills have been a great help in that regard.

    Thanks to my sense of presence and longing for simplicity, I have the ability to strip away trivialities. What I devote much of my life to in meditation is also present in design – stripping away trivialities.

    Norrgavel is a blend of what my parents stood for. From my father; simplicity, asceticism, clarity, a longing for the natural cycle. From my mother; a desire for refinement, bourgeois comfort, luxury in the form of the best, and the feeling of being worthy of it. Both of them were brave individuals and rebels in their time. My father left the predetermined life as a worker at the sawmill in Dalarna to study civil engineering in Stockholm. My mother, on the other hand, made the opposite journey from her super-bourgeois upbringing. Instead of studying to become a doctor, she defied her parents' wishes and moved to Stockholm to work as a housekeeper, and later became a home economics teacher.

    Norrgavel advocates for conscious consumption – how does that align with Christmas shopping?

    – Things are often not solely good or bad. We at Norrgavel contribute to consumerism to some extent, as our products are presented in such an attractive manner. However, we are consistent with environmental aspects and with the authenticity of our products. The goal of what we produce is for it to last a long time. To achieve sustainable development, society must gradually steer consumption in a different direction. Conscious consumption is about choosing carefully – preferring fewer, but really good things.

    ljusstakar smide och meditationskudde

    What does Christmas mean to you and how do you create a Christmas atmosphere at home?

    – Christmas is a time of year when one can engage in reflection or come home to oneself. Even for the most secularized people in Sweden, Christmas is a time when one has the opportunity to find peace, even if only for a short while. However, sometimes I feel that there are too high expectations placed on Christmas. After all, it's just one day.  

    One doesn't solely want a superficial decoration Christmas; the most important thing is to find peace. I have structured my life to find techniques that help me achieve this tranquility. Christmas feels like a sanctuary to me. It's okay to let go of control then.  

    I organize and conclude everything related to work before Christmas, so I can just relax. Then I see what happens. It's a deeply restful approach – to have the opportunity to just be here and now.

    When it comes to Christmas decorations, I wonder why there needs to be so much? Just putting up a few Advent stars and maybe a Christmas tree should suffice. At our home, we instead have spruce branches in a tall vase. It has to be simple. Some hyacinths and Christmas beer, you really don't need much – not out of laziness or insignificance. But we need to become more moderate without engaging in denial. Because it's also important to maintain the joy around Christmas. Both joyful and sustainable at the same time.

    Let go of thoughts about a dream Christmas and be present with what is. That's when you find the golden nuggets in everything. It's the essence of mindfulness – the idea of being here and now, all the time.

    The dream Christmas is just a dream. Dreams are the opposite of what I try to convey in everything I say. Commercialism is about feeding and nurturing all these dreams, but it's destructive and encourages the idea that life should be a little different all the time.

    Happiness – what does it mean to you?

    – It's one of the most important questions. We humans are happiness-driven even though life naturally consists of both 'happiness' and 'unhappiness,' but it's about balancing it. That being said, happiness is still very important, because we are so happiness-driven. But we are also failures at happiness. Or rather, losers at happiness, because generally, we don't have it figured out. It's in this context that we need to take a closer look at our materialistic approach, because it makes us miss out on something. We never have enough, always thinking we need more. You could say we fail to formulate what happiness is. The worst thing about this consumerism is that we don't get in touch with the tool for what is real and lasting happiness. We're destroying our planet at a rapid pace, but it's almost even more serious that we're also being robbed of happiness during our short time on Earth.

    Happiness is a non-substantial state within ourselves. Unfortunately, we are programmed to try to reach happiness through external gratifications. Travel, new things, new impressions – constantly we are fed with external things that give us temporary happiness. Very few in our culture are in touch with the potential that exists in all human existence, in reaching happiness within oneself.

    ljusstakar smide och meditationskudde

    What we are really seeking is not that exquisite vintage wine or the perfect partner, but what we are truly seeking is a sensation within our own being. Something that we can fleetingly touch by collecting these superficial impulses. But by shifting the focus directly to what these impulses evoke within us, we can realize that happiness and potential lie within ourselves. It feels like many come into contact with this potential far too late in life. That's one of the reasons why I dedicate so much time to meditation and go on retreats. It's about stripping away, stripping away, stripping away... Finding serene levels within being.  

    My personal advice for becoming happier is to take risks and meditate. By risks, I don't mean bungee jumping or speeding on the highway. Instead, it's about opening a Norrgavel store on Birger Jarlsgatan, even if you can't afford it. Of course, it's important to take risks without losing judgment. Daring to step outside your comfort zone is associated with risk. And meditating isn't just something you sit and do, It's ultimately a non-doing. It's about opening up to a different level of being by being extremely present here and now. Conscious presence, mindfulness, is a prerequisite for meditation, but talking about meditation from an intellectual perspective is quite meaningless. Meditation is about stripping away everything that isn't meditation. Going beyond all identifications. Then, small gaps in the machinery of thought can arise where one falls into some form of meditative state. With practice, one can gradually carry this state into more and more of what one does. For example, in one's work, during Christmas...

    For me, emptiness is the best description of deep presence. An emptiness that contains everything. Absolutely everything.

    What are you most proud of?

    – In many ways, I have lived an authentic life. I have taken myself seriously in that way. I have faced the challenges that have come my way, and I have not been spared from truly tough challenges. You have to be naked and vulnerable. You need to take risks and challenge your fears. But you also need to practice the ability to do it at the right pace so that you don't harm yourself, otherwise, you can end up losing your mind. It's important to always make sure to have support around you. That is, to have someone in the background who can catch you if it all falls apart completely. One should have respect for the human psyche. It's easy to end up in uncontrollable situations, and therefore it's important to have people around who ensure that you are grounded.

    Finally, what are the future visions for Norrgavel?

    – We continue to work on becoming even better at what we are already good at and to communicate the foundation of Norrgavel. To become even clearer about what we stand for. It's closely linked to happiness. My vision is that we become even more thorough; in our communication about why we do what we do, how we treat our customers, in the work with our products, consistently striving not to overcomplicate things.

    Everyone can find something within themselves that resonates with what we express in our core values.


    » Nirvan Richter was born as Erik Johansson in 1954, but at the age of 20, he, along with his two siblings, adopted the name Richter after his Danish grandmother.

    » After discovering the power of meditation in the mid-90s, Nirvan Richter wanted to manifest his newfound life insights. Following guidance from an Indian meditation center in 1999, he changed his given name from Erik to Anand Nirvan (which means 'liberation through bliss').

    » Nirvan Richter grew up in the suburban area of Örby outside Stockholm. He attended Adolf Fredriks music classes and graduated from the natural science program in high school with a final grade of 4.7. He had the second lowest grades in the class. Out of his 16 classmates, 11 became doctors.

    » After completing his architectural studies at KTH in Stockholm, Nirvan Richter chose to deepen his knowledge in furniture making and studied at Carl Malmsten's School.

    » The company name Norrgavel was established in the early 1990s. The Richter family had moved into a townhouse in Lund and started a business that would become the company Norrgavel, in the courtyard house next door. Nirvan Richter contemplated what his company should be called and during a phone call, he was advised to choose a name related to the location of the company. 'What should it be, there's only a pile of north-facing planks here!' he exclaimed, and so it was decided – the name was nailed down.

    » The biggest and most revolutionary insight in Nirvan Richter's life came in the mid-1990s during his education in therapy and meditation when a meditation master told him that he only needed to focus on two things in life: Meditate and take risks.