Luis De Oliveira of furniture makers De La Espada recently visited Sydney ahead of the opening of the new Winnings flagship showroom. We took an exclusive tour of the new space and spoke to the Portuguese designer about his passion for timber furniture.
April 12th, 2023
The intimate event took place with an audience of interior designers keen to hear directly from De Oliveira about his design philosophy. The managing director of De La Espada certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of opening up on what makes him tick in the world of furniture design.
In a deeply personal address, De Oliveira referred to some of the great aesthetic debates of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to share some of his original sources of inspiration. De La Espada’s products sit in an intriguing ground of overlap between two broad philosophies: on one hand, the arts and crafts movement of William Morris and John Ruskin and, on the other, a minimalism that celebrates materiality for its own sake.
“Morris and Ruskin were writing over a hundred years ago and I’m surprised there aren’t more people referring back to them because some of the parallels are unnerving. The triumph of being in a post-modern position is that we can look back at someone like Morris and ask what did or did not work,” says De Oliveira.
De La Espada’s products make up part of the wider range on offer at Winnings, a lifestyle and luxury destination for the home whose flagship showroom has just opened its doors and includes leading retailers Spence & Lyda, Winning Appliances and Rogerseller. It’s an impressive space on its own terms, enough to catch any interior designer’s eye. What distinguishes the space and makes it especially relevant for our contemporary moment is the multisensory focus.
Related: Boffi / De Padova Sydney showroom
Upon entry, customers will likely be greeted with the fragrances of freshly baked goods and coffee from kitchen and bar facilities that have been set up with a view to real use in the showroom. Alongside the real smells of a kitchen, there are of course sights to behold – not only the products on show but also the layout of the showroom. Over two floors, the spaces achieve an openness as well as pockets of seclusion in which the distinct varieties of a particular fit-out can be fully appreciated.
Most of all, however, the Winnings showroom is defined by tactility. Just like De Le Espada’s timber pieces, one cannot help but touch the many different materials and finishes in passing through the space.
A passion for timber in particular is at the heart of De Oliveira’s practice. “Architecture is swinging back towards timber,” he notes. De La Espada works with single source pieces of timber that are grown sustainably in the US, meaning that the material can be traced precisely to its source.
In line with a focus on sustainability – and very specifically not greenwashing – De Oliveira challenges us to consider one simple question: what have you made that will live longer than you? While timber lends itself to longevity, it requires loving attention to craft it in such a way as to endure.
The passion for timber furniture design and manufacture is, for De La Espada, strongly rooted in place – namely, central Portugal. This is where the products are made and De Oliveira speaks passionately about his home in the north. It’s a country that appreciates good design, demonstrated by the esteem in which Álvaro Siza is held as a national figure.
De La Espada
Spence & Lyda
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