Interview and Photographs by Justin Chung

Diana Ryu, Namu Home Goods

Los Angeles, CA

I got to meet Diana Ryu – founder of Namu Home Goods–through a mutual friend. We met for coffee, and found we had even more mutual friends. It’s a good sign when we know and admire the same remarkably creative people. Before starting Namu Home Goods, Diana worked as a writer and editor for beauty and lifestyle brands, and lastly as Chief of Staff at goop. Diana started Namu Home Goods in 2021, just five short months ago, to celebrate and showcase heritage woodwork to be passed down for generations.

Here's some photographs from a visit with Diana:


How did you go about finding the artisans that you’ve been partnering with?

When I started Namu Home Goods, I was initially going to source vintage woodwork – like mid-century Danish woodwork – but, as I spent weeks sourcing, I felt that it wasn’t quite “me”. I was fortunate enough to stumble across a Korean woodworking magazine called Wood Planet that’s been in publication for 10 years and has a dedicated following. I read the magazine and searched the people who followed the magazine and found a much different, art-forward kind of woodwork. The type of woodwork from Korea is different from anything you’d find in the States. The trees are different, the weather is different, and geographically, the country is much smaller so the trees are smaller too. That means wood is a precious medium and is treated as such. The final product is considered, refined, and truly art and felt like a re-education of my mother culture.
Each piece is uniquely different and has so much character. How do you go about your curation process?

The core of the Namu Home Goods ethos is to let go of control and let nature lead. It’s what the trees teach us: put down your ego, surrender to the beauty of nature, and have reverence for the steadfastness of trees in the midst of change. These are the cycles that will continue on as civilizations rise and fall. Many of the Namu Home Goods artists believe the more trauma the tree has witnessed, the more beautiful its grain, patterns and holes. I found that to be a deeply human story as well. I think there is this idea of perfection in the western world that becomes exhausting to be a part of, and when I look at the pieces curated for Namu Home Goods, it’s less about perfection, and more about celebrating what already exists. That’s the jumping off point for curating the pieces.
You mentioned that you were at Goop previously. What has that experience taught you as you continue to build Namu?

Working at goop was one of the greatest learning experiences of my working career. I got to watch a company scale from a tiny start-up to a large, complex company in just 4 years. I recognized how complexities could actually be beneficial. If it’s not complicated, you’re not doing something new, unwritten, and changing the conversation in culture.

One of the most impactful lessons I learned is about agility. In any business, you’ve got to change and pivot along with the culture. That’s been a great mentality to have when starting Namu Home Goods. Right now, we are “heritage woodwork to be passed down for generations”, but it’s not all we will be. We’ll continue to grow and change as long as we stay under the ethos of surrendering to the beauty of nature, and telling the stories of creative Asian bodies.
What was one of the biggest challenges you faced so far in working with Namu Home Goods?

In about 5 months of business, I haven’t experienced a massive challenge just yet. I’m still deep in the honeymoon phase where I am having an immense amount of fun collaborating with other creatives, ideating on big ideas with no parameters, and having agency over my life. I worked in a corporate setting or start-ups for almost 15 years and attained an immeasurable amount of knowledge, but I didn’t own my time. I get to live out the fantasy of waking up and doing whatever it is I believe will move my life and business forward. It’s a freedom I’d never felt before, and one that I hope everyone can experience. ●