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How Our Editors Found 41 Impassioned Noguchi Owners

Photo: Courtesy of the subjects

For our latest installment of In Situ (wherein we ask people with great taste to take a self portrait next to, sitting on, or wearing an item they own and love), we decided to go deep on Noguchi lamps. We chose this topic mostly because the Noguchi website is very spare and it’s hard to figure out from perusing it whether the Akari 120A would feel enormous in your living room or the 35N would be right for above the dining-room table.

We asked senior editor Simone Kitchens and writers Erin Schwartz and Lauren Ro to discuss how the story came together. This conversation first appeared in our newsletter — sign up for even more insights into how The Strategist sausage gets made here.

Simone Kitchens: We have a Noguchi lamp in the Strategist 100. We covered the Noguchi lamp-cord shortage in 2022. I feel like that put the Noguchi in the news a little bit, but they’ve been hot since 1950. And the reporting we did shows that a lot of people have bought them in the past three years, during the pandemic, for various reasons. So we had kind of noticed a boom.

Erin Schwartz: My theory with the Noguchi three-year boom is that people spent so much time indoors during the pandemic. The detail that people are bringing to how they want the lighting to look in their home is higher than it was pre-pandemic — and that bears out in the reporting I did on the best LED bulbs too.

Lauren Ro: I talked to a design publicist who is Japanese, and he was visiting his family in Japan a couple of months ago. And he went to — I guess — the area where the lamps are made, and he said the Noguchi lamps aren’t actually very popular in Japan. Perhaps because they’re used to seeing paper lanterns all the time. But he was saying when he was there, he learned that they can’t keep anything in stock, and it’s mostly international buyers.

SK: I had one on my desk when I was working in the office. And then we got a few for our house, which is an old house. A nice thing about them is they can go in any house — they transcend any genre.

ES: I’m kind of obsessed with it. My most put-together design friends keep buying Noguchi. I have one friend who’s my kind of North Star for what normal-but-fancy people are buying — people who don’t wanna go nuts but want something good and consistent — and they’re a big Noguchi-lamp person.

LR: When it came to finding people to feature in the In Situ, at first I started just looking for people I know. And then I began researching beyond our immediate circle, or the people we encounter every day on our feeds. You know, people who appreciate design, and you think, They might have one.

ES: For example, I had a friend who had a really cute story about his parents giving him a Noguchi lamp. So I messaged him asking, “Do you still have it?”

SK: We looked at where the Noguchi Museum was tagged and tracked people down that way.

ES: By the way, the people at the Noguchi Museum are wonderful stewards of his legacy, and the most intense fact check I’ve ever received has been from them (it had to do with misattribution in a story from 2019).

SK: There were a few people who we weren’t able to get for whatever reason. For example, Glenn Ligon, the artist. I was scrolling deep on his Instagram and there was a Noguchi. So we tracked down his studio manager’s email and tried to get him in the story. But, you know, he wasn’t available.

LR: The people I think are the most interesting ones are the devoted Noguchi heads.

SK: But backing up really quickly, I just wanted to add that the Noguchi site is just a catalogue. There are just hundreds of lamps, and they’re all pretty contextless. It’s multiple variations of a round globe — you’re like, I don’t know what that would look like in my dining room. This feature was an opportunity to take this thing that people admire, this lamp, and put it in people’s spaces. So we can all see, What does this actually look like? Would this look good in a busy corner of a bookshelf, or would it be better in a spare corner of your living room?

LR: And to bookend that story, Simone and I are working on a piece about what could possibly be the next Noguchi.

SK: You know, it’s a natural Strategist reflex to be like, “What’s next?”

LR: The answer seems to be that nothing is as appealing as a Noguchi! But my money’s on a woven lamp.

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How Our Editors Found 41 Impassioned Noguchi Owners