Yinka Ilori on colour and narrative

10.02.21. Internet

Yinka Ilori started his practice from his parent’s 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, pictured above – 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 letters pink 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 there’s lots more besides.

Find out more about Yinka Ilori

If Chairs Could Talk was a collection of hacked chairs Ilori created in 2015. They told the stories of his boyhood friends in London. Image: Veerie Evens

Happy Street transformed a dark space, beneath a railway bridge in Wandsworth. Image: Luke O’Donovan

Knit! was an installation Ilori designed for the showroom of Danish textile company, Kvadrat. Image: Luke Evans

Playland was an immersive experience commissioned by Pinterest as part of the Cannes Lion festival in 2019. Image courtesy of the designer