Dezeen Magazine

Yinka Ilori teams up with recovering addicts to create range of colourful chairs

Designer Yinka Ilori worked with volunteers from social enterprise Restoration Station to create this collection of brightly coloured chairs, which were showcased during this year's London Design Festival, before being auctioned off for charity.

London-based Ilori spent over a month conducting workshops with people in addiction recovery, to upcycle discarded chairs that had been donated to the organisation.

After the London Design Festival exhibition, all of the chairs were put up for auction. All money made from the furniture sales went straight back into funding the programme, located in London's Shoreditch.

"The volunteers have all been through different things in life," Ilori told Dezeen. "One thing I was reminded of is that, no matter what you're going through, there's always a way out and there's always help out there."

"It was more what the chair was about to them and not to me," he said.

Known for his use of bright colours and exuberant patterns based on traditional African design, British-Nigerian Yinka Ilori encouraged the volunteers to use colour to tell their own personal narratives.

While many of the chairs echo Ilori's distinctly vibrant style, the workshops were designed to be a total collaboration between the volunteers and the designer himself.

"I made them all choose their own colour palette and then they applied it onto the chair in different patterns," said Ilori. "It was quite an organic process."

"Colour can either evoke a positive or a negative memory, so it was nice that I got the positive memories through the design that was projected onto the chairs," he added. "For me, the project was more about celebration, and about what colour meant to them as individuals."

Once the chairs were completed, they were put on show at the Restoration Station workshop for the duration of London Design Festival. Each of the chairs were then put up for auction – which ended up raising a total of £2,520 for the company.

Ilori also believes the project has helped to raise the profile of Restoration Station, which was founded in 2014 and helps those suffering from addiction and homelessness in east London through skills-based learning, such as furniture restoration.

"Not everyone is aware of Restoration Station but now that it's happened I think people will be going there a lot more," he said.  

"I think everyone who came to London Design Festival and saw the exhibition went away with something positive," he continued. "A lot of the time you go to things and there’s a hidden agenda but this was all for a good cause. It was something that needed to be done."

Speaking to Dezeen after the auction, Ilori said he hopes to continue being involved with community-focused projects.

"As a designer it's easy just to design and sell," he said. "I think its important for designers and artists to give back where they can because they can benefit from it while helping the community and the social enterprise for no extra credit."

"I think we should champion things like this. I wish I had more time with them to do something bigger, but hopefully next year we can do something on a bigger scale."

London Design Festival took place from 16 to 24 September 2017. The week-long programme also saw Camille Walala install a colourful inflatable structure in an inner-city square, and a group of 13 designers present a diverse selection of projects all themed around water.