Yinka Ilori started his practice from his parents’ back garden in 2011, after receiving a £3000 loan from the Prince’s Trust. Initially, the designer made his name by creating a string of chairs, notable for their strong use of colour that came from his Nigerian heritage, and a profound sense of narrative – the pieces were often based on the stories of old school friends and parables his parents told him as a child.
However, after creating his eponymous studio in 2017, the scale of his work started to change. Happy Street is a permanent installation in a Battersea underpass, for instance, while The Colour Palace – a timber pavilion inspired by markets in Lagos – was installed in the grounds of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2019. More recently his public art installation, in support of the NHS, at London’s Blackfriars brought joy at a moment when it was desperately needed. Written in bright pink letters it said simply: ‘Better Days Are Coming, I promise.’
According to architect Sir David Adjaye: ‘His furniture transcends just function and product and acts as a device for cultural memory.’ Yinka was awarded an MBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.
In this episode we talk about: launching his new homeware collection during lockdown; discovering he was part of a new design movement on Dezeen; feeling he had to change his design language to fit in, before discovering his own voice; using chairs to tell stories; the power of colour; and why his work has got bigger. And, trust me, there’s lots more besides.
You can find out more about Yinka's work here
And you can sign up to my newsletter here