Luxury Interiors (Fireplace Included) For Your Private Jet
Elisabeth Harvey (seated 2nd from right) and her team at Jet Aviation
Currently, there are around 39,000 private aircraft (including helicopters) flying the skies across the world. Engine manufacturer Honeywell predicts nearly 10,000 more will be added to that number over the next decade.
So as the market recovers from a recession, manufacturers such as Gulfstream are launching bigger, faster jets aimed at the more resilient top end of the market. And those who can afford that price tag, about $70 million, are also willing to spend on turning these aircraft into veritable luxury homes in the skies.
Luxpresso spoke to Elisabeth Harvey, British interior designer-turned aviation interiors expert and design head at Jet Aviation, about the process of designing and outfitting a private aircraft.
Below are edited excerpts.
What prompted you to switch from designing homes to designing private jets?
To create a cabin interior in a VIP aircraft is arguably one of the most exciting design challenges and Jet Aviation is one of the leading completions centres in the world. So when I had the opportunity to work for the company, designing interiors for some of the world's most prestigious clientele, I jumped at the chance. I find that although, of course, the proportions and dimensions are completely different between residential spaces and aircraft interiors, the design process is very similar.
There are many interesting parallels between residential design and aircraft interior design. In both instances, there are strict rules and regulations guiding what is allowable, but there is still a great deal of creativity, and many fascinating challenges.
What are the restrictions you face while designing the interiors of a jet?
One of the most challenging aspects is developing an interior which is beautifully designed, yet ergonomically sound; in addition it should be technically feasible and meet aviation authorities' full requirements in terms of safety and certification. Yet the interiors must fully meet the needs of the owner.
No two aircraft are the same, which means that we build a unique prototype every time. We take into consideration all aspects of the interior; passenger safety is of prime importance, whether that is related to seat design - which although luxurious, has its basis in a certified structure - or the treatment of materials to ensure flammability requirements are met. Our aircraft have truly VIP interiors, with bathrooms, showers and lounge areas and sometimes even cinemas. These areas need careful designing around the specifics of the airframe itself and the certification basis of the aircraft.
Can you briefly take us through the process, from design to delivery?
It is important to understand our clients' needs first. Many clients have bought a brand new aircraft, which is delivered directly from the manufacturer. This means we have to design literally everything, each cabinet, each piece of carpet, every detail is meticulously designed, in order to be produced mostly by hand. It is the work of a true artisan.
In parallel, we also need to define, closely with our client, all technical aspects of their aircraft - the functionality of the in-flight entertainment they would like, the sound system, mood lighting, communications system required and so on.
Once we have established a baseline, we bring together concept ideas, floorplan layouts and sketches to help our clients visualize how their aircraft will look. We also create highly photo-realistic computer-generated renderings, showing each room with the proposed materials and designs. As designers, we also manage every step of the [outfitting process], working closely with engineering and production professionals.
A rendering of Jet Aviation's Timeless concept
I've seen rendering of some of Jet Aviation's designs. How do you fit a fireplace on board a plane?
One of the interesting challenges in aviation design is translating elements which one may find in a home or yacht, into the interior of an aircraft. In the idea of a fireplace, we took inspiration from the home, but using the latest technology in monitors, recreated a very life-like symbol of what is often a central point in many residential spaces. Flames appear life-like, the embers crackle. The fireplace defines the space, and creates an appealing warmth.
Can you give us an idea of the trends in cabin interior design?
A particularly interesting trend which has been seen for some time now in private aviation is using the latest residential-based materials, amenities, and textures, even layouts, in the cabin. Materials such as natural wood flooring and more open concept cabins, with buffet areas rather than galleys are often featured in our designs. I also see an added attention to detail in all areas of the cabin with clever functionality being key.
What are the luxury materials you use for interiors?
We have installed gold leaf, rare woods, marquetry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other precious materials in our aircraft. As long as we can ensure that a material meets flammability and certification requirements, we are able to install it into an aircraft. Really there are very few limitations apart from this, depending upon our customers' wishes. Even materials or elements which were until fairly recently not often used in private aircraft, such as real glass mirror or custom designed lamps, are now almost standard in our VIP interiors.
What is the most outrageous demand you have had from a client?
Almost every client wishes to push the boundaries when it comes to the design and materials they want to see in their aircraft. I would not perhaps use the term outrageous - these wishes are what we experience and indeed come to expect on a day-to-day basis as aviation designers. In the world of private aviation, even seemingly innocent requests can often become a challenge from a technical or engineering standpoint. We have certainly completed some demanding projects, including relocating the staircase in a Boeing 747 aircraft, which allowed us to create a highly bespoke bedroom environment on the upper deck.
A rendering of Jet Aviation's Visionary concept