Reni Folawiyo had one goal in mind when she opened her renowned luxury concept store, Alára, in Lagos, Nigeria, six years ago. “Alára is a Yoruba word that means ‘wondrous performer, somebody who thrills endlessly,’ ” Folawiyo, an attorney turned lifestyle entrepreneur, explains, “and we wanted to thrill.” Designed by celebrated Ghanaian-British AD100 architect, Sir David Adjaye, the three-story temple to style not only delights, it offers a painstakingly curated mix of fashion, art, and design. Home to both African and Western brands, it’s a place where Jacquemus trousers and Saint Laurent slingbacks mingle effortlessly with Hassan Hajjaj photographs, woven baskets from Burkina Faso, and designer Kenneth Ize’s signature aso oke suits.
It’s little wonder that in its relatively short existence, Alára has earned comparisons to Milan’s 10 Corso Como and London’s Dover Street Market. And as a beacon of bold modernist architecture, its iconic red-sand exterior, inspired by the deserts of North Africa, has become a go-to backdrop for homegrown Instagram-obsessed influencers. “Reni wanted to create something in Africa that would really be a lightning rod about the potential of the continent to produce design excellence,” Adjaye says of Folawiyo, whom he calls a creative force and a kindred spirit. Mission accomplished.
A short drive from Alára, in Lagos’s tony Ikoyi enclave, is another of Folawiyo’s spectacular creations: her family home. Nestled on a quiet side street, far away from the din of honking horns and boisterous street vendors hawking everything from charred plantains to terra-cotta planters, Folawiyo’s sprawling penthouse duplex perches atop an 11-unit boutique apartment complex she and her husband, Tunde, erected. Folawiyo, who calls herself an “unapologetic proponent of the brilliance of Africa and its contemporary language,” chose award-winning Cape Town–based architecture firm SAOTA for this undertaking. She tasked the firm with creating a modern, wide-open expanse with remarkable scale that seamlessly merged indoor and outdoor living. During the three-year build, she pushed architect Stefan Antoni to amp up the wow factor, telling him, “We want more drama! After that, he just went to town.”
Folawiyo’s four-bedroom, nearly 14,000-square-foot residence boasts soaring floor-to-ceiling windows, breathtaking views of surrounding treetops, and an epic terrace (complete with infinity pool) that has achieved near-mythical status in the megacity. “I love to throw parties here,” Folawiyo, a mother of two, says as she strolls alongside the pool’s azure waters. Her daughter, Faridah, an art curator, does as well. “My husband is much quieter than me,” Folawiyo adds. “He always hides in the corner.”