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A Note from our Founder, Angie Johnson

After 17 years of Norwegian Wood, I've decided it's time to explore something new,  a long held passion, Real Estate! (which will be no surprise to those who've known me for years) Some of you may have seen on Instagram that we left our commercial studio space April 1st (hilarious yet non intentional timing) and that I've been slowly shifting towards home staging and real estate. This decision was not made lightly, it's something I've contemplated for many years, and actually almost pursued back in 2016. 

I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks to each and every one of you for your loyalty and support over the years. When I think of all the handmade items I've sent out into the world over the years it truly boggles the mind. 

From the early days selling log pillows and fringe necklaces on Etsy and at local Montreal craft fairs, to having our clothing collection in Topshop Oxford Circus and used in so many incredible creative photoshoots over the years, it's been a pleasure. I've put together a little retrospective below, I hope some of you may enjoy a little blast from the past going through the many phases of Norwegian Wood!

We'll continue to have in-stock items available here until they sell out (ie pillows, candles, etc) however we will stop taking orders for headboards and all other made-to-order items on July 15th. Until then we will be fulfilling orders as usual, however we will not be restocking fabrics, so some styles may become unavailable as fabrics run out. 

If you're part of our Trade Program please feel free to reach out with custom requests, as we will be continuing to do custom work to the trade only. 

For any pending orders, ongoing projects, or orders placed before July 15th, everything will be progressing as normal, however please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. We estimate that we'll be able to complete all final orders within our normal 2-3 week production period, however this will depend on how many orders are received and on what timeline. We'll reach out if any orders extend a tiny bit beyond our normal timeline, however we will most likely fulfill everything within our normal schedule. As always, we're available by email to ensure this is a smooth transition and address any concerns you may have. 

Lastly, I'd love for you to follow along and help spread the word about my new venture into real estate. My website is www.AngelaJohnsonHomes.com and I'd love to work with any friends/family you may have in the Los Angeles area. They'll be in good hands!  

Over time Norwegian Wood will be shifting into the home staging portion of my real estate business, and I'll be posting about our design & DIY projects on the @norwegianwoodonline instagram, while the @angelajohnsonhomes instagram will be real estate focused content. 

2007 - Norwegian Wood is Born

On December 26th, 2007 I decided I'd had it with the corporate fashion industry, which I'd been working in since 1999, and opened an Etsy shop called I Heart Norwegian Wood. Three months later the clothing brand I was working for folded, and I found myself doing Norwegian Wood full time.

In the earliest days I thought I needed to cater my offerings to the "Etsy Aesthetic" of the time, since that was the main platform I was selling on. The results were some darn cute stuffed owls, log pillows and reworked vintage blouses. You may have seen these pillows around (made by a variety of sources) however I was the originator of this design, and at the time the first person to be selling them. Etsy had already become a go-to place for brands to come to "find" (ie steal) ideas though, and I soon began seeing log pillows all over the place. It was my first viral product, and the first time I got knocked off! What an honour!

As I got more comfortable selling on Etsy I realized there was room for more than just kitschy cute stuff, and I branched out into more fashion focused items. It's hard to believe but at this time there were limited options for fun patterned leggings, so this became a staple of the shop. Both Courtney Love and Frances Bean were ongoing purchasers of the leggings, and I have no idea if either of them knew they were both buying them. 

I also designed the Fringe Necklace and Elastic Harness at this time, inspired by the rolls of fringe and vintage elastics languishing in the fabric and trim shops of St. Hubert street in Montreal. I think I single handedly went through about 50 years of deadstock elastic with this design, buying up entire rolls. I shot everything on myself with a Canon Powershot Elph, propped up on books and coins because I didn't have a tripod. It was at this time that I first started getting attention from blogs, and even had one of the harnesses featured in the MIA "Bad Girls" video. I still have NO IDEA which stylist pulled it for her, if anyone can solve this mystery please let me know!

2008-2010 - The Blogger Era

With the features on blogs came the connections with bloggers, and countless fun collaborations. As an avid reader of fashion blogs from the beginning I started reaching out to bloggers such at Tavi of Style Rookie, Susie of Stylebubble, Michelle of Kingdom of Style and Rumi of FashionToast (amongst countless others!) Working with these bloggers was so satisfying, their fearless mixing and matching is exactly how I view fashion, and I never got tired of seeing how they would put together outfits using my designs. 

Being featured by these bloggers helped grow my audience and bring the brand to levels it never could have achieved otherwise. The service that these bloggers did to independent designers of the time cannot be overstated. It was a magical, collaborative time where it felt like if a 13 yr old could sit front row at Dior (Tavi4ever) anything could happen. 

During this time I also moved the business out of my apartment and into a studio space in the Mile End area of Montreal that I shared with three friends. It was a great little studio that we very quickly outgrew! 

2010-2015 - The Collections Era

As we outgrew our previous studio space our studio crew of three designers moved into a 5000 sq ft space across the street with a few vintage sellers and a graphic designer, and I started putting together full seasonal fashion collections. My experience in the mainstream fashion industry taught me how to do this, but doing it all on your own is a different thing! Luckily Montreal at the time still had a rather robust manufacturing sector, so I was able to find small local manufacturers to help me out with small runs, allowing me to create full seasonal collections twice a year. I have them posted HERE for anyone who'd like to reminisce.

With the support of a few local Montreal stylists (shout out to Melanie Brisson, my #1 supporter and super talented stylist!) Norwegian Wood was featured in countless editorials at this time, including the above early image of Grimes, styled by Marilis CardinalSeeing the way other creatives interpreted my work was always a total joy to behold! 

During this time I was also lucky enough to win the Fashion POP competition (part of the POP Montreal music festival in Montreal) as well as have various collections picked up by Free People, Anthropologie and Topshop Oxford Circus. Another studio move happened during this time when our old studio building was sold, a downsize in overall space, but it turned out to be my all time favourite studio space, shared with various makers and artists over the years, and i believe the same lease is still being passed down amongst a group of Montreal artists. 

See the full Collections archive HERE

2015-2018 - The Pillows & Planters Era

In 2013 I met my (now) husband in Montreal, who happened to be American, and who happened to get a job offer in Northern California in 2015. We decided to get married and make the move. Moving an entire fashion business to another country is no easy feat, so I decided to scale things way back and make a shift into home decor and go back to working from home (albeit a house this time instead of an apartment) Having sold almost all my equipment I was left with one vintage sewing machine, so I said to myself "what can you make with just one machine" and I decided pillows made with the most special fabrics possible was the answer. I also had custom zippers made in gold, rose gold and matte black and installed them in a visible way, helping my pillows stand out from many others on the market. 

At the time African textiles (specifically mudcloth, indigo dye and baule) were becoming popular, and lucky for me many of the suppliers were right here in California. I dove in head first and loved exploring the home decor styling aspect of this new direction. 

At this time I was also exploring the manufacturing possibilities in California, which seemed limitless compared to what had been possible in Montreal. I started producing the brass and powder coated metal plant hangers at this time after finding a fantastic LA based factory that manufactures lampshade frames. Meg White (of the White Stripes) once bought a whole grouping of them along with plant print pillows, I like to think of them all together in a sunroom (their apparent intended location)

Around this time we made the move from a town north of San Francisco to Los Angeles, and the manufacturing/supplier options in LA opened up possibilities even further! 

Instagram was exploding at this point in time, and I was lucky enough to join a group of fantastic women who were creating beautiful images and supporting each other in our creative goals. I'm still friends with many of them to this day, and it's where I met Tanya from House of Six Interiors who first commissioned me to create a custom headboard for her. 

2018-2024 - The Headboards Era

The first strap headboard was created as a custom order for my friend Tanya from House of Six Interiors , and it was such a hit that I started making them in every fabric and leather under the sun. I realized that there was a real need in the market for a lightweight, easy to install headboard, so I started making other hanging headboard designs as well. At this time I had set up a studio in the garage of the house we bought in Los Angeles, and was sewing all the headboards myself.

Then Covid hit, and things got pretty crazy for awhile. I had just started getting help sewing the leather headboards, and there was definitely a period of time where my helper and myself turned into a mini face mask factory.  Everyone being stuck at home suddenly meant that everyone wanted to makeover their spaces, and they could only shop online. Many furniture retailers who order their goods from overseas had 10-20 week shipping delays, which meant that we stood out as a local manufacturer who could get products out to people much more quickly (2-3 weeks has been our standard production time for years) so we became very busy. 

During this time I did the opposite of everyone else, and started working AWAY from home by expanding into a shared studio space with the person who was helping me sew. That situation unfortunately did not end well, with a discovery of theft by the person I was sharing the space with. I quickly pivoted into a space of my own in La Crescenta, which many of you saw me renovate from 2021-2022. I loved that 1940s hillside space to bits, but I was starting to feel a real sense of monotony, pressure and a deep drive to try something completely different.  

2024 - The Real Estate Era

In the summer of 2023 I had a revelation: I was officially done with manufacturing and retail. Anyone who has done it can confirm how difficult it is to run a small retail business. Running a small retail business where you also manufacture everything you sell is infinitely harder.  The prices for materials, shipping, web hosting, insurance etc. are constantly on the rise, while competition from massive corporations keeps pushing prices (and quality) of most consumer goods down. To be frank, it was bumming me out, and I didn't see the situation improving. 

When I sat down to analyze what I'd like to spend time doing in the next phase of my life I wanted to choose wisely, so I tried to nail down some key values:

- Something that would draw on everything I'd learned with Norwegian Wood (business, creativity, styling, photography, marketing, websites, social media)

- Something that would be different every day

- Something that would allow me to be around other people more, and meet new people constantly

- Something with a flexible schedule, so I could also spend time travelling and working on my art

As cheesy as it sounds, it finally came to me in a dream. I literally woke up one morning and said "oh, it's obviously real estate, what was I thinking". Los Angeles seemed like the ideal place to make this happen, and after 7 years living here, I feel like I know enough about the city to get started. 

Anyone who follows me on social media or knows me in person knows I have a deep love of houses and home renos, so I also felt like my knowledge of home construction/renovation could be a great asset to my clients. 

The decision was made. The next step was schooling. I dove right in, starting coursework in September & taking the exam in January.  The exam was difficult, but with serious studying I passed on the first try, and joined Keller Williams Exclusive Properties in Simi Valley in March, moving out of my commercial space April 1st. 

Since then I've been staging homes and learning as much as possible about the industry while still running Norwegian Wood from home. Juggling both things was always a temporary plan though, and now it's time to fully commit to this new path. 

If you want to learn more about what I offer as an agent check out my website at www.AngelaJohnsonHomes.com

It's been a 17 year journey, and I couldn't have done it alone. There are countless people and stories who are not mentioned here, there wouldn't be enough room on one website to encapsulate it all. You all know who you are,  and I couldn't have done it without you! I have no doubt the path into Real Estate will be just as hard as everything that came before it. Shifting away from Norwegian Wood has been a difficult, long, heart tugging process, but I'm excited about what's to come next!