Flying commercial is so 2019 — at least for today’s jet set. What’s long been a symbol of luxury is now the much-preferred mode of transportation as the pandemic has brought about travel restrictions and cancellations. And with this fervent spike in private flying have come exciting requests for personalization. Customizing bespoke interiors for private planes is a new niche that designers and brands alike are quickly capitalizing on to make their clients’ in-air experience a memorable — and signature — one.
RH (the brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware) recently debuted its first jet, a 12-passenger Gulfstream G650 available for charter this year. Inside, RH One features rift-sawn European white oak, hand-tufted wool, cashmere bouclé and the brand’s trademark Belgian linen. Designed by CEO Gary Friedman himself, the aircraft is “a warm ode to minimalism” that speaks a similar design language to the forthcoming RH Guesthouse in New York City.
While jet design is a natural way for a company to showcase its best self, it’s also fitting for brand loyalists who look to their favorite fashion houses for inspiration. To that end, Hermès outfits cabin interiors with its classic luxurious leather, while Loro Piana lends its soft wool and velvet for upholstery on superb lounger chairs.
“Aesthetic inspiration and cabin comfort come from endless sources, including fashion, textiles, jewelry, architecture and automotive,” shares Textron Aviation interior designer Lydia Pierce, who has created countless jet interiors with high-end brands like Loro Piana and Jim Thompson. “The artistic elegance of a timepiece or even the texture and color block of a couture handbag can spark the look and feel of an aircraft interior design.”
Pierce works closely with clients to select fabrics, leathers, carpets, wood veneers, stone countertops, metal plating finishes and more. Then comes the customization to make an airplane truly one-of-a-kind. Some of the wilder requests she’s fielded? Bordeaux-hued carpet and walls for wine aficionados and benches that convert to dog-proof seating for pet lovers.
When it comes to ultimate expression up in the air, anything goes. Acclaimed interior designer Ken Fulk recently took his work to the skies, designing a James Bond–inspired jet replete with graphic David Hicks carpeting and bespoke touches like a quirky safety video and custom dopp kits for passengers.
England-based Design Q is behind some of the world’s finest planes crafted for “luxury expeditionary tourism,” like the impressive Airlander 10. In creating the aircraft with Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company devised an infinity lounge and altitude bar where guests can enjoy cocktails and fine dining in the skies with panoramic horizon views.
“We designed it like a commercial hotel bar,” explains Design Q CEO Howard Guy. “We wanted a large reception area to welcome several guests at a time, offer boarding cocktails and collect coats to let you relax immediately. On most business jets and commercial aircraft, you board into the kitchen — probably the worst area on the aircraft other than the lavatory. When you leave after a flight, it can feel like leaving a restaurant by the backdoor passing all the bins and trash!”
Just as the bar’s bottles were carefully displayed, backlit and secured for takeoff and landing, no detail was overlooked. Says Guy: “Everything from the door inward was evaluated, and every idea was considered, no matter how outlandish. After all, you only get one chance for a first impression.” And if that impression — complete with Champagne, full-height windows and stomach-dropping views — gets a little dizzying, passengers can retreat to their private en-suite bedroom with blackout shades and high thread count sheets for a grounding rest.