Lighting company Nuura is a shiny newcomer based on several years of work and decades of experience. We had a chat with Creative Director and co-founder Sofie Refer, who says that every great design wants to convey a message.
NUURA IS A DANISH LIGHTING DESIGN COMPANY based in Copenhagen. It was founded by Sofie Refer, Nadia Lassen and Peter Østerberg in 2017, and the first collections were launched in 2018.
Nuura’s Creative director Sofie Refer is a renowned Danish lighting designer. Refer’s first design, Bulb pendant, was already in production when she was still studying at the Danish Academy of Arts and Design. We talked to Sofie Refer about Nuura’s success and her design philosophy. She also gave us some tips on what to do in her home city, Copenhagen.
Sofie Refer, what is the story behind Nuura and its instant success?
“We are a group of people from different fields in the Danish design industry. We were in the good position of having the time and the opportunity to start a new project. Before the launch, I worked for over two and half years on the designs, reflecting on my previous work as well as thinking about what I would like to do and what we would like to give to the world as a company. When you are younger, you just start doing – which is of course also good because that’s how you learn. But this time I had time to think and reflect.
We decided right at the beginning that we wanted to have a beautiful launch and enter the market in a beautiful light. We had four collections consisting of 26 lamps. The launch in 2018 was very exciting, since it had all been a bit of a secret and we had worked so hard and waited for a long time. Nuura was received very well, which makes us want to work even harder.”
“We want to create lighting collections that reflect the joy you find in nature.”
And what is the design philosophy behind Nuura’s lighting designs?
“We want to create collections that reflect the joy you find in nature. Light has a big impact on our wellbeing and that, to me, makes light the most important thing in the world. I really want to honor light. I want to challenge myself to also express the importance of light in my designs – we want to enlighten. For me, chandeliers are a beautiful symbol of generosity, a piece of art. That is why I always design a family of products around a chandelier.
Even with my first company, I was always working with a chandelier as a starting point. Back then I was not aware why, but when I would enter a room with a chandelier, I would feel joy. I challenged myself to reinterpret the classic chandelier so that it represents my values: simplicity and respect for the materials.”
Nuura products are always a collection of light designs. Why is that?
“The main idea is that a collection of lamps gives you interesting possibilities to decorate a room. I like repetitions a lot. There are repetitions everywhere in the nature, and they just bring certain calmness to a room, connecting things. Of course, variety is important too, and each product has its own character. It is like sitting in a room with your family – everyone is little bit different but still part of the same family.
For me, design is a language: if an interior is full of different design expressions and shapes, I find it disturbing. If I buy a lamp, I always buy more than one. For me it is also a symbol of generosity. I’d rather have twenty tulips than just one.
We also want our lamps to be available for everyone. Someone could for example see one of our chandeliers in a hotel and like it, but would only like to buy a single pendant. With us they can do that, since there is a whole collection around the chandelier.”
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What is it in designing lighting that interests you?
“I design lighting because light affects me a lot. A few years ago I started reading up on all the new studies on how light affects us, and it gave me a deeper understanding on why I was working with lighting. There is a saying: ’What is in your way is your way’. I was touched as I looked back – I realized that I am a person who is very sensitive to light, and in the winter I crave for it.
For me designing lighting is like communicating with light. I am longing for something and expressing it. If someone else finds and likes what I’ve designed, it means I’m not alone.”
What makes a great lighting design?
“Back when I started I was mostly interested in aesthetics. Aesthetics are important too, but so is the quality of light. For example, with Nuura’s Blossi collection I worked with indirect light. We created a special led disc with the right color temperature as our starting point. It is truly a great opportunity for a lighting designer to be able to decide all of this. When designing the Blossi collection, I was inspired by the season of autumn – the moments when you still see light reflected in the golden leaves but know the winter is coming soon. I wanted to create a lamp design that reflects this so I could enjoy the golden autumn light also in the winter.
When you see a good design, you know the person behind it has something to say. You can see someone really cares for it. The design needs to come from compassion and love.”
“When designing the Blossi collection, I was inspired by autumn – the moments when you still see light reflected in the golden leaves but know the winter is coming soon.”
There are many great Danish lighting designs. Which is your favourite?
“If I look at designers from earlier periods, the Artichoke pendant by Poul Henningsen is very, very beautiful and successful in many ways. It reflects something from the nature, it is both simple and complex, and it spreads out the light in a beautiful way. It is one of my favourite designs from another Danish master.”
What is best in Copenhagen right now?
“I always take my visitors on a canal tour. Copenhagen is a relatively small city, but I think we have very fine architecture, which is best seen from the sea.
My favourite place is the area around Kongens Nytorv, which is also near the waterfront – Denmark is a small country with the benefit of having sea all around us! I just feel very free when in this area. It has beautiful buildings, a wide square and a sort of an international feel to it. When I want to get inspired or need to think, this is one of my favourite places to go.”
Text: Taina Ahtela Images and portraits: Nuura