Homegirl London finds upcycled furniture with hidden meanings. Yinka Ilori is a designer concentrating on reviving retro chairs for a new lease of life. He scours the second hand and vintage stores of London seeking out unloved wooden chairs which he thoughtfully restores. Yinka transforms these pieces using Nigerian parables for creative inspiration. These are words of wisdom with hidden meanings which he expresses through his designs. He often upholsters using typical Nigerian fabrics which were given to him by his mother. Let’s look at some of his imaginative upcycled furniture creations and the hidden meaning behind their transformation.
Upcycled furniture – retro chairs
The Osumare chair means rainbow in English. The parable inspiration is – what is acceptable in one place is an abomination in another. This is demonstrated by taking the back rest and rotating it upside down. The fabric used is Nigerian Ankara from Lagos on the seat. The chair is constructed from Birch Ply which has been sprayed in orange lacquered gloss. Yinka purchased this seat from a charity shop in North London. The measurements are 55cm high, 45cm wide and 45cm long – £555.
The Oba chair is based on the saying – whoever plans on acquiring an expensive cloth will keep it to him only or keep your lofty dreams to yourself. This retro G-Plan beauty was discovered at a second hand shop in Tottenham. The covering is a traditional Nigerian hand woven fabric called Aso-Oke which is used for weddings and royalty. It’s mostly associated with Ondo, the Nigerian state that Yinka’s mother is from. The chair is called Oba because it is a chair for a king. One of the legs has been painted yellow to highlight the superiority against the other chair legs. The measurements are 90cm high, 40cm wide and 45cm in length.
The Ijoko Agba means big man’s chair in English. This piece was found in a vintage shop in North London. It has been inspired by a Nigerian parable – if a man knows for sure what his destined path to success is, he will hustle less. The seat has been upholstered in Nigerian Ankara fabric from Lagos which was purchased in Dalston, London. Yinka told me that the fabric on the backrest was kept as originally found. This combination of fabrics references how Nigerians in the diaspora used African print fabrics to showcase their identity. The ash wood has been spray painted with a white gloss lacquer. The measurements are 85cm high, 55cm wide and 60cm in length – £519.
Ijoko Agba Chair
Upcycled furniture – about the designer
Yinka Ilori studied furniture and product design at the London Metropolitan University. It was here that he was introduced to the furniture designer Martino Gamper by a teacher. Yinka was impressed that Martino had upcycled a hundred chairs in a hundred days. His teacher briefed the students to find two old chairs and upcycle them which is how Yinka was bitten by the bug.
After university Yinka had an internship with Lee Broom which gave him a valuable insight into the commercial world of interiors and design. He was lucky to receive a grant from The Princes Trust which helped to kick start his career in furniture design. At the moment he specialises in upcycling vintage chairs with Nigerian fabrics.
Upcycled furniture – where to buy
You can buy these truly original and one of a kind pieces form Yinka’s website www.yinkailori.com.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Courtesy of Yinka Ilori and by Perrick Mouton. Thanks: Yinka Ilori.