Yinka Ilori on colour and narrative.
Play • 52 min

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

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