Claire Bennett

The Claire Bennett Agency



Spence & Lyda’s Innate Collection is a Timely Rally Cry

Design has been in Fiona Lyda’s blood for as long as she can remember.

Having opened Spence & Lyda, Sydney’s renowned home interiors retail destination for the design–savvy, over 20 years ago, Lyda continues to be a pioneer in the retail and design space.

With an emphasis on showcasing ‘products of unparalleled quality and distinction, visual form and functionality; pieces designed to stay in our lives for generations’ Lyda’s stamp in design is here to stay. Central to the Spence & Lyda philosophy is creating a sustainable design industry.

According to Lyda, using Australian materials and supporting Australian designer–makers is key to this philosophy. In the midst of COVID–19, supporting Australian has never been more critical, for the sustainability of our economy as well as our planet.

The Innate Collection epitomises what Australia needs right now, to support our own, and as usual, Lyda was ahead of the curve.

Innately Australian

In 2018 Spence & Lyda collaborated with Australian designer–maker Jon Goulder, to create the expertly crafted ‘Innate Night’ collection. The furniture range is made from Tasmanian Oak and Blackwood, Australian leather and steel.

 “Innate became about who we are as Australian’s. We were trying to understand and drill down to what is innate in an Australian. It’s the tactility of the materials around us. It’s the saddle leather from our history with Bush Rangers, it’s the stone we’re stomping around on all the time and it’s the beautiful natural woods that we have to use,” says Lyda.

Looking for a timber that would fit this Australian aesthetic and meet Lyda’s strict requirement to stand the test of time, Tasmanian timbers were easily settled upon by both Lyda and Goulder.

“I use Tasmanian Blackwood all the time and have for a long time and so does Jon,” explains Lyda.

“[For Innate] we wanted to do a collection first off which was called [Innate] Night. We devised this pickling technique which is a complex natural process of putting a vinegar solution into the wood, which reacts with the tannins. It sends Blackwood black, and Tasmanian Oak silver, which really worked for us.

Spence & Lyda in collaboration with Jon Goulder, have recently released the first piece for [Innate] Day: a coffee table using Tasmanian Blackwood in its natural form. For Innate Day the Blackwood is paired with brass and South Australian Limestone.

“We didn’t want to affect the Blackwood with stains for the Day range, so we’ve used only beautiful natural finishes and waxes.”

Allowing the beauty of the natural timber product to shine through was essential for Lyda.

“The important thing about wood is its sensuality. You need to be able to feel the grain and see it and not have this kind of hyper glossy thing that wood does not do. It’s about keeping the tactility and finish as natural as possible.”

Celebrating the local – making in Australia, with Australian material

For Lyda it’s not about just using any timber in design. Lyda says using Australian timbers and supporting Australian designer makers is one of the keys to creating a sustainable design industry.

“I think that’s the story that has to be told here – why it’s important to use our timber in Australian designs, made in Australia.

“We have to bring most furniture across the globe and increasingly, that’s a poor idea. Making here is a much better idea and that’s one of the driving forces behind Innate. And with so much great raw product, why wouldn’t we?”

“We really need to be paying people the right amount of money for the natural products we have. For people to put time and energy into making furniture with the precious raw materials we have, you have to spend money on it. The only way you do that is if you understand that you’re buying for life.”

Life and Design

Going against trends and fads in design, Lyda explains it’s all about selecting pieces that tell a story.

“Furniture should never be seen as a fashion statement. Things have to tell a story that resonates with you and actually has meaning to you. You need to be able to have an eclectic interior that does allow for you to bring things in.

“That means something you found on your travels or that you found down the road, or on the side of the road and have refinished– that’s a real interior. That’s an interior that the family can live in, that the children can happily move around in, that the dogs and animals are in, that occasionally a glass of red wine goes across the room.”

“I really believe that we need living interiors that allow for life to happen. Have a little more faith in your own story, in who you are and be happy to express that.”

“Spence & Lyda is my vision of what the retail showroom of the future is. We showcase a curated collection of really wonderfully designed pieces that have a story. This is a showroom of forever home pieces.”

Striving to only curate a collection within her shop that reflects these ideas is what has made Lyda’s shop in Sydney’s Surry Hills a designation with a cult like following amongst Australia’s leading interior designers. Spence & Lyda’s philosophy is exactly what our country needs right now, let’s follow her lead and make choices that are innately Australian.