Titi Ogufere: Design is in my DNA

Titi Ogufere

Titi Ogufere is the current President of the Interior Designers Association of Nigeria (IDAN). She is the CEO/ Creative Director of Essential Interiors Consultancy and Publisher of Essential Interiors Magazine; Essential Traveller the inflight magazine for Aero contractors and Essential Woman a magazine for women in business. With the magazines well established, she founded the Interior Design Excellence Award (IDEA) and Made by Design, the luxury home and hospitality fair. As a true leader in the Design community in Africa, Titi was invited as an Ex- Officio Executive Committee member of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI); the world body for the Interiors Profession and has served on the board for five years. In this interview with GuardianWoman she spoke about the recently held International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI) World Design Congress and 28th General Assembly in Lagos, while also taking readers into the world of Interior Design

Let’s get to know you more; your educational background, growing up, family etc.
Growing up for me was quite eventful, and family is everything! I studied Interior Design and Events management and PR from Dublin Business School. I went further to obtain a Certificate in Editorial Design from London College of Arts

How about your career progression?
I started my career in 2001 in Design Option where I worked for a year. In 2002 I started Essential Interiors as a furniture-making company. I was encouraged by a good friend of mine to go to school to study Interior Design at that time I was looking to go the Florence Academy of Design. By 2004 fate took me to Dublin where I eventually gained my qualification as an Interior Designer. Incidentally, I had my company still operational in Lagos and came back from time to time to work on projects until I returned back finally to Lagos in 2017.

Why are you so passionate about Interiors? Why did you decide to go and study Interior Design?
As long as I can remember I have had a passion and drive for art and design. From my early days at school, followed on as I graduated and insisted that I wanted to work in a furniture manufacturing company. I believe I was created to be an Interior Designer. Design is in my DNA. I find myself in my element whenever I engage in anything that has to do with design.

Tell us briefly what it entails contrary to common perception
Interior design is a profession just like architecture and it’s a very technical profession because it has to do with the health safety and wellbeing of a space. It’s a problem for design to be funneled into the “cool” and “hip” and “trendy.” There’s that side to it, but in every aspect there are far more pertinent conversations to be had. ‘’Trendiness’’ in such a myopic context takes away from excellence. For example, there are people out there who believe that interdisciplinary design is important. . .For me, architects are architects and designers are designers, and there is a difference. If we decide that titles don’t matter, why do we have them? Design is pervasive; nothing in the world today is not designed. The public does not know what good design is. It needs experts to execute design in smart ways, so we can accomplish great design.

Is the sector really developed in this country? If not, how can government assist to develop it?
We still have a long way to go, but we’ve started the journey. Education is a key factor in the development of the industry and I’m happy to say that the University of Lagos will be setting up the first-degree program starting September 2018. We are also working on a licensing system for professional Interior Designers. We need government to help us in regulating Interior Design because we have a lot of unqualified artisans and wannabe designers in the industry who love the industry but should not be authorized to practice without going through the right channels and upholding the ethics of the industry. I’ve had my hands burnt a few times. Lastly we need health and safety Laws for Interior Design, I heard of a very sad incident where a lady got electrocuted because the landlord cut corners. In most schools health and safety is integrated in the curriculum for the four-year course.

Tell us more about IDAN. Has it been able to achieve its objectives?
In 2006, I had the vision and shared it with Ekua Abudu who, owing to her experience with associations, showed me how to start. Subsequently, I approached other industry leaders such as Muni Shonibare who was the first president of IDAN, Anselm Tabansi the next president, Moni Fagbemi, Sarah Daniels and Debola Omooba, the rest is history. Another significant contributor to the successful establishment of the association is Oliver Enwonwu who with his experience with NGO’s helped with most of the initial setup.
As the national body for the Interior Design profession, IDAN represents members which largely consist of fully qualified interior designers, interior decorators, suppliers of interior design products and finishing companies. The national body has executives in Lagos and Abuja with the headquarters in Lagos and the regional branches in Abuja and Port Harcourt.

What was the import of the recently held ACDF conference and exhibition in Lagos? What success was recorded at the event?
Nigeria won the bid to host the IFI congress and General Assembly. IFI is considered the ‘UN of Interiors” the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers, which was founded in 1963 as the sole global body for the Interior design industry. IFI, strategically located close to the UN in New York City, represents and reaches out to some 120 nations. Nigeria was privileged to have hosted the world last week. The opening ceremony of this epic event was the African Culture and Design Festival. ACDF was a celebration of Traditional African Art, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design. The exhibition themed “This is Africa” featured renowned African Artists and Designers. It explored the artistic history of the continent and charted the future of design. During the early 1900s, the aesthetics of Traditional African Sculpture became a powerful influence among European Artists who formed an avant-garde movement in the development of Modern Art. Artists like Picasso knew nothing of the original meaning and function of African Art and Sculptures but drew their inspiration from what they saw. Today we see Designers like Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier and other world-renowned Artists and Designers still drawing inspiration from Africa. “This is Africa” displayed our creativity to world design leaders and our African Design on the map showcasing our true identity.

How would you describe an environment with good interior ambience, its qualities? What does a beautiful interior do to the senses?
It is largely visceral, to be perfectly honest. If my brain tells me that a new design should resonate with me, but I’m unmoved, then I always go with my guts. Good design must be functional, it should not just be beautiful but it must work. A beautiful interior that works affects the way we behave and live.

Kindly classify different types of interiors for us
There is Modern, Contemporary, Minimalist, Industrial, Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian and Traditional interior design.

What’s your personal taste/choice of interior? What titillates you and what puts you off when you enter any environment?
My preference is contemporary design, but I dislike a badly-designed space.

What category of clients do you cater to? Can you mention some of your best works? 
Essential Interiors has worked across a wide range of disciplines creating everything from various interior commissions, signature bespoke pieces, exhibition design, private and commercial projects, to lighting and installation, for an exclusive list of highly select clients. We work with one of Nigeria’s foremost architectural firms on projects from hospitality to residential.

When you’re not busy designing interiors, what else do you do? What’s relaxation for you?
I love everything design from designing magazines and books to designing furniture but when I’m not doing that I enjoy spending time with my daughter and trying out good food.

Any role models in the industry?
I admire Ekua Abudu and Muni Shonibare for their integrity, strength of character and consistency.

You’ve been a pioneer in the sector, breaking new grounds and expanding your frontiers. What’s your advice for young professional women?
Never say never, keep trying, nothing is impossible, always try…always believe!



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