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‘We will ensure interior designers receive maximum benefits’

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Tola Akerele

Tola Akerele

Nigerian architects and other design professionals are making their marks in the interior design industry. In few weeks time, their umbrella body – Interior Design Association of Nigeria (IDAN) would be showcasing their innovative products and skills to the public in an Interior and Product Design Expo (GUIDE). The chairperson of this year’s forum, TOLA AKERELE of iDesign spoke to CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on the fourth edition of the forum, how the group is advancing the interior design profession; and members are producing designs that are not only aesthetically stunning but actually work for the client.

Could you explain the philosophies of IDAN, the Interior Design Association of Nigeria?

The Interior Design Association of Nigeria is a union of designers and building industry representatives committed to interior design. This platform was established to address the major problems that exist in the interior design industry in Nigeria, which includes a lack of professionalism in the practice, poor statutes governing the interior design industry and a lack of comprehensive professional training in interior design.

Over the years, IDAN has provided support, networking, services and information to industry professionals, which in turn has improved their design practice. On matters regarding statues and regulation, a membership with IDAN indicates your status as a qualified, experienced and an ethical practicing professional in interior design in Nigeria.

IDAN strives to advance the interior design profession and in the process demonstrate and celebrate the power of design to positively change people’s lives. IDAN has done this by organizing exhibitions, seminars and also by creating a database where all interior designers and suppliers to the industry can be furnished with a wealth of contacts that links colleagues from many industry areas.

How does IDAN set a new benchmark or standard for the interior design industry?

IDAN has worked hard to empower its members and to lobby the government on certain aspects of the industry. Recently, we have done some reorganization of the association to make sure members are receiving maximum benefits. We ‘re working with the Department of Architecture, University of Lagos (UNILAG) on a curriculum for a Diploma programme in Interior Design that will take off in September.

Can you evaluate the interior design industry in Nigeria?

It a relatively small industry but it definitely growing. There are new entrants coming in which include suppliers to the industry. We are still trying to educate on what interior design is as there are still many misconceptions about it. Interior Design is often confused with interior decoration, which is just a part of interior design. Events such as the GUIDE expo really help in understanding interior design. We are getting there.

People are beginning to understand the need to have trained professionals when designing interior space and getting the best use of it. However, we still find that sometimes furniture suppliers and architects will do the work of the interior designer. Definitely, it is a growing industry with a huge potential.

What do you think is a way to move the industry forward?

The GUIDE – Interior and Product Design Expo is one of the great ways to move the industry forward. It is a forum where suppliers to the industry and interior designers can exhibit their goods and skills. In addition to that we also do seminars on how to manage interior spaces, colours theory, fee proposal and how to win clients as well as how to sell and maximize space if you’re a property developer. This type of platform is good for the public to know about the industry and what we are doing.

The GUIDE expo is in its fourth year, what have you achieved through the forum?

I think through the GUIDE, people are getting to understand and know more about the industry. The theme of this year’s forum is “home grown, home inspired” and holding early July at the Landmark Event Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. One of the things on our mind is how to make the industry better by transferring skills. The Italians are coming here to sell their products to us, we are saying, why not come here and train our own people.

We are really trying to grow the industry and encourage local talent, though it’s not exclusively for home made products (as the industry is still young and most times relies on exports). We are also offering a design clinic, where people will bring their drawings and photos and we advise them on what to do by way of free consultation.

What inspired you to become an interior designer?

My background is in finance. When I returned to Nigeria in 2003, I set up Bogobiri House an African inspired hotel. I really loved the design process and working with local artisans to produce a truly unique space, from there in 2006, I set up a Moroccan style restaurant. These two projects showcased my design ethos and from there I started getting requests for me to design for residential and commercial clients. I retrained formally at Parsons school of design in 2006. That’s how I got into interior design.

Who are the biggest inspirations for your career?

My favourite designers are Piet Boon and Ilse Crawford. Piet Boon uses natural materials but in contemporary way. His style is very balanced and that is something that’s very important when designing spaces. It is an important ethos. I also get a lot of inspiration from traveling; I do like to attend exhibitions around the world when I am able to be aware of global trends. Culture and local art is also a great source of inspiration in my various projects.

What do you love most about the industry?

It is a fantastic industry with vast opportunities because it is a growing market. Interior design in Nigeria is relatively young. We have opportunities to do great things and define design from our own perspective. The architectural landscape is growing and becoming increasingly more dynamic, we plug into this and in turn create beautiful interiors.

What do you enjoy most about your job, your career?

I really enjoy meeting clients and developing concepts that meet their needs. It’s great to see a concept come to life. Designing a space is also ensuring that the space is functional and aesthetically stunning. I derive joy from the satisfaction and delight of our clients on the projects we have completed for them. I also enjoy writing on design and how to create spaces that inspire and work.


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