Private aviation is booming. Demand for private jets has skyrocketed in light of the pandemic, with providers and manufacturers across the globe reporting record requests in the last 18 months. When it comes to private jet interiors, there’s a lot more you can do than secure a few seats. With modern design innovators showcasing everything from transparent walls and fold-out terraces to onboard bars and fully equipped kitchens, the sky is the limit of a designer’s imagination.
However, creating interiors for planes comes with its own distinct set of challenges compared to other projects such as yachts or static builds. Three of the world’s leading design studios reveal to Effect what makes private jet design different to any other type of design.
Founded by legendary photographer and interior designer Alberto Pinto, PINTO is one of Europe’s leading luxury design houses. With an ethos built around “eclecticism, luxury details and refinement”, the Paris-based consultancy has attracted a global clientele of high-net-worth individuals and royalty, for whom it has worked on a diverse variety of projects including private residences, office buildings, airports, hotels and yachts. The studio’s aviation division has designed the interiors for myriad private jets, including the Boeing 737, Airbus A319 CJ and Bombardier aircraft. Whether designing for land, sea or the sky, PINTO’s designers remain committed to elegance and the team ensures the tastes and cultures of its international clients remain front and centre of the design.
Yves Pickardt, aircraft interior designer for PINTO, says: “We approach aeronautical design like any general interior design project. Each project is different, and custom-made to fit the client’s personality and needs. We can provide them with almost every style or trend they may want, even for an aircraft.”
Each project is entirely new, made for one client and built around their personality, their way of life, their own tastes and desires. Nothing is imposed.
Yves Pickardt, aircraft interior designer, PINTO
“However, the limits of creative fantasy in aeronautics are more quickly reached than for other type of interior design projects,” notes Pickardt. “Everybody thinks this is mainly for technical and safety reasons, which of course represent some major constraints and must be taken into account; however, we usually can find technical solutions that satisfy the client’s expectations as well as the design requirements.”
In fact, he reveals that the greatest obstacle in the design process comes more from the commercial viability of the client’s ideas. “Some clients dream of flying discos, or spaceship interiors but in the end, given the large amount of money involved and the avowed objective of being able to resell the aircraft quickly one day, it is most often reason that guides the client design brief towards a wiser project,” he says.
The firm works with suppliers and artisans to produce custom-made pieces for each project. Every piece is made-to-order, from the seats down to the lamps. As well as ensuring comfort and quality, going bespoke enables designers to ensure pieces fit the fit the cabin shape and meet any technical and safety requirements of the aircraft.
“PINTO’s work and spirit is similar to that of haute couture: custom-designed for the client with refined and unique finishes and details,” Pickardt adds. “Each project is entirely new, made for one client and built around their personality, their way of life, their own tastes and desires. Nothing is imposed, everything is conceived to the scale of their dreams, but also their needs.”
In the unassuming town of Redditch, just outside Birmingham, UK, lies a surprising find – the home of one of the UK’s most creative aviation interior design specialists. Design Q is a consultancy working in three areas: automotive, business jets for aircraft manufacturers and owners of private planes, and commercial aircrafts, for whom they create high-end first and business class environments. Founded in 1997, the studio has worked with manufacturers such as Bombardier, Airbus and the now-defunct Aerion Corporation to design interiors for a number of iconic planes such as Global 7000 and Aerion AS2.
Howard Guy, CEO of Design Q, says: “Business jets have been in our expertise for the last two decades, and we have had significant influence in an industry that has struggled to keep up with the perceived quality of luxury automobiles and yet can cost 600 times more than your average luxury car. This is an area that we have been focused on and have been able to influence some of the world’s most successful jet manufacturers.”
“We have been successful in pushing boundaries by way of invention and design, giving customers something that they cannot get anywhere else,” he adds. A key example of the firm’s innovative imagination is Airlander – a concept commercial helium airship that is “designed to cater for total luxury packages that allow slow, low travel viewing the world like Blue Planet.” Another intriguing concept that’s a little closer to coming to fruition is the BAE Explorer concept jet, featuring a terrace which folds down when the plane is on the ground.
In a riverside studio overlooking the Thames in London, some of the world’s top designers are hard at work creating custom private jet designs. Harrison Eidsgaard is a leading international superyacht and aviation design company which has been crafting interiors and exteriors since 2005. It specialises in the creation of environments that “enable you to reconnect, explore and experience your passions whether that be on land, in the air or at sea.” Whatever the project, Harrison Eidsgaard maintains a solid commitment to quality and attention to detail and works with clients – ranging from private owners to global aircraft manufacturers – from concept and design through to installation and delivery.
“While jets, yachts and residences are very different operationally, the design process is very similar,” says Richard Whitehouse, a director of Harrison Eidsgaard. “We start with understanding the client’s dreams and lifestyle requirements, and also their aesthetic preferences. Our job is to expand on that in order to deliver something that will be exciting in a few years from now when the project is completed, and then in many years to follow.
Designs tend to focus on timelessness rather than trends. “Due to the lifespan of a jet or a yacht, we focus on the long-term usage, avoiding fleeting trends and instead focus on a timeless design, employing a mixture of natural and bespoke finishes,” Whitehouse says.
“Our approach to design starts with the functionality and the proportions of the layout, and the architecture of the zones and rooms,” he adds. “This forms the ‘background’ of the design, and when that is well considered there will always be an inherent harmony and balance to the finished interior. This architectural harmony creates a certain timelessness, in which an interior design can be slightly classical or very contemporary.”
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