Yinka Ilori on telling stories through furniture design

“If the chair you are sitting on could tell your story, would it be a dangerous or good thing?”

Yinka Ilori is a London-based furniture designer who focuses on upcycling found objects into thought-provoking conversation pieces. Acutely aware of the waste in the furniture manufacturing industry, Ilori breathes new life into existing pieces sourced from Ghana, Nigeria and the UK.

It is Ilori’s upbringing in North London and heritage in Nigeria that informs his creative method. Having grown up in the multicultural Essex Road (where a young Yinka enjoyed the lively block parties thrown by his parents), Ilori became inspired by the richness of Nigerian fashion, food and culture.

Now, Ilori is interested in communicating the stories of people in his life through chair designs. Using addition, subtraction and vivid textures, Ilori creates unique furniture pieces that hint at deeper narratives. He explores the way we interact with the furniture in our living spaces and how we perceive their contexts and origins – what human attributes do we assign to inanimate objects around us and why?

“If you knew where that chair came from, would you think differently of the person who made it?” asks Ilori.

The designer’s products are not always functional in the traditional sense, as he is more concerned with the expression of meaning than salability. According to him, the tiniest detail of a chair design, even a blemish, is a mark of life.

“I like to use the chair as a narrative and take bits out of the chair to tell a story. The smallest scratch on a chair can be an important parable or message,” says Ilori.

Social status and hierarchy are also concepts that Ilori explores in the structure of his chairs. Taking the “Oshimaru” chair (meaning ‘rainbow’) for example, Ilori chose to emulate a personal friend’s struggle with sexuality by inverting the backrest of the chair to challenge the concept of comfort and form.

To learn more about Yinka Ilori's take on the tales that furniture can tell, watch this video.

Watch the Interview with Yinka Ilori

More on African Design