cmDesign Atelier, Nigeria: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021

Fowóralé house transports us to a pristine Nigerian beach, and the work of cmDesign Atelier and its founder Tosin Oshinowo, who joins the ranks of the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021 

Sharp white holiday villa in Nigeria
(Image credit: David Timibra)

Bartlett and AA-trained architect Tosin Oshinowo set up cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A) in Lagos in 2012 and has been exploring a design language that blends clean modernist architecture and Nigerian and African culture ever since. One of her newest private beach house designs, Fowóralé, is a contemporary minimalist escape that blends local and global. 

Who: Tosin Oshinowo, cmDesign Atelier

Working out of Lagos, Nigeria, cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A) is headed by architect Tosin Oshinowo. Founded in 2012, the architecture practice takes a site-specific approach, while blending Oshinowo's own experiences in Nigeria with her time in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. As a result, cmD+A is a laboratory of exploration for a design language that ‘asserts an identity', bringing together a contemporary sensibility with a very local, sensitive, site- and culture-specific approach. 

‘Today’s Nigerian society and culture is rooted in the consequence of colonisation and modernity,' says Oshinowo. ‘Our design language is influenced by this and manifests as minimalist modernism, while our space composition is culturally Nigerian/African. Where possible, we explore local materiality and technologies for use in a modern context.' 

The residential offering in the studio's growing portfolio is rich, ranging from new-build private homes and beach houses to retrofits. Contemporary villas such as the crisp white minimalism of Fowóralé, and the balanced, geometric frontage of 5 Four, a series of terraced houses (all in Lagos), are key examples. Meanwhile, the team also tackles retail, offices, urban interventions and masterplanning. ‘By first understanding our client’s specific needs, through design, we create contemporary solutions that are challenging and culturally relevant to the identity of architecture in the context of Nigeria and west Africa,' says the architect. 

Looking at low modernist Nloigerian villa over swimming pool

(Image credit: David Timibra)

What: Fowóralé house

The luxurious and picturesque Ilashe beach outside Lagos, is the green setting of this crisp, white minimalist villa by cmD+A. Tosin Oshinowo and her seven-strong team worked with the serene, natural environment to compose the house's design concept. This exclusive beach can only be accessed by water, making aggressive development in the area difficult, and allowing the natural environment to remain just that – pristine and untouched. The design seeks to reflect a sense of peace and connection with nature. 

‘Our intent in the design was to create horizontally and vertically framed views, showcasing the calm serene beach environment,’ says the architect. ‘The minimalist aesthetic draws your eye to the surroundings with the casuarina trees planted in a colonial area that have blended beautifully with the indigenous palm trees.'

Created as a private retreat, the beach house includes three bedrooms orientated east, towards the region's striking sunsets. Plenty of external areas, including decked terraces and pathways, and a swimming pool, allow the residents to experience an effortless indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Clean surfaces and volumes, white walls that reflect the sunlight, and a welcoming, open design with a discreet, low profile make for the perfect getaway. ‘The space between the two bedrooms lends itself as an opportunity for a feature art wall to showcase the diverse artistic creativity of the Lagos,' adds Oshinowo.

Looking at low modernist Nigerian villa over swimming pool

(Image credit: David Timibra)

Why: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021

Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory is our magazine’s annual listing of promising practices from across the globe. The project has, over the years, spanned styles and continents, while always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. Now including more than 500 alumni and counting, the Architects’ Directory is back for its 21st edition. Join us as we launch this year’s survey – 20 young studios, from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the USA, and the UK, with plenty of promise, ideas and exciting architecture.

Open roof top with coconut trees

(Image credit: David Timibra)

Studio with white walls and white floor

(Image credit: David Timibra)

Minimalist exterior of white retreat in Nigeria

(Image credit: David Timibra)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from