Yinka Ilori could be the busiest man we know. The London-born furniture maker’s name features on this year’s London Design Festival schedule more times than we can count, and, with a playful portfolio of tongue-in-cheek, colour-clashing work quick to put a smile of the most cynical of faces, Yinka has earned yards of press coverage and even a recent name check from Sir David Adjaye.
So where did the young designer’s fascination for furniture begin? “Before I got into furniture design, I wanted to become a fine artist,” Yinka tells It’s Nice That. “When I finished college I decided that I wanted to explore all areas of art and design so I ended up taking a BTEC course in Art and Design which eventually lead me to embark on a Furniture and Product Design Degree – it was on that course where I found my love for furniture and how important storytelling was going to become for me.”
Yinka has been described as an “up-cycler” in the past, but in reality, the designer is something far more profound: a storyteller. Family is everything to Yinka, and tales from his Nigerian heritage are sewn and painted into his chairs in colours, patterns, textiles and motifs. “Growing up in a Nigerian household, all of these elements were pivotal to me, my family and my culture,” he says. “During this period of time it was clear to me that I had two cultures, one being British and the other Nigerian. Both of which I loved being a part of – I wanted to merge and share these beautiful cultures with people through my work as that was the strongest tool for me to do so.”
“To my family, they are one of life’s best teachers and the stories they tell me always form the basis of new ideas.”
This LDF, Yinka will be showcasing four new projects. “I have a project with Citizen M called Estate Playground, it looks at the beauty of estate playgrounds and the vital part they play, growing up mine made me understand the importance of community, love, togetherness and unity. Another project that I have is with The Africa Centre, it’s called A Large Chair Does Not Make a King, this project is an immersive installation that encourages people to leave their ego at the door and open their minds and hearts to the importance of humanity and the parts we all play.”
“The third is a collaboration with Restoration Station, a social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity. The volunteers and myself have been working on a furniture collection that will be sold at auction during LDF. On the 21st I am hosting a design salon at NOW Gallery looking at ‘how collaboration and culture can influence new ideas in design’. We have a great list of speakers and live music by Ojerime.” We can’t wait.