The rules of fashion meet the laws of physics: explore interior design at 40,000 feet with designer Sasha Adler.
The Boeing 787, the Lockheed SR- 71 Blackbird, the Gulfstream G500… all airplanes that are synonymous with breathtaking designs. However, you don’t often hear conversation regarding the merits of these airplane interiors. In fact, much of the interior design in an aircraft can become an afterthought when balanced with the needs and demands of a flying machine. Airplane exteriors and airplane interiors really are meant for two different worlds.
There are many reasons why airplane interiors can have a slightly sterile feel. Everyone loves granite counter tops and stone fireplaces – but would the airplane support it? Many aspects of aircraft interior design are governed less by the rules of fashion and more by the laws of physics, as well as by current FAA regulations. A broken microwave cannot simply be unplugged and replaced; it has to be taken care of by a maintenance technician, who also needs approval from a compliance team. When it comes to interior spaces at 40,000 feet, designers must play by the rules.
This was the challenge that Sasha Adler faced when she agreed to design the interior of an aircraft for a close friend and client. Adler, the owner of Sasha Adler Design in Chicago, loved the challenge posed by this special project. “I find a lot of aircraft are too boring or too flashy. I reached for materials that I find in my residential projects that you don’t traditionally find in aircraft, such as natural oak and high gloss paint applied by hand.”
WE TRY TO GET A REAL FEEL OF HOW THEY WANT A SPACE TO FUNCTION.Sasha Adler
The Sasha Adler Design firm had its hands full with this project, which is also its first project in an aircraft. The firm focuses on historical renovations and ground-up construction projects, so this was a little outside of their air space. However, Adler knew that the basic principles of interior design could translate to an aircraft.
For 14 years, Adler worked as the co-design director for Nate Berkus Associates in Chicago, where she started this aircraft design. She launched her own firm in June of 2018. When searching for office space, she passed on lifeless corporate spaces available and chose to forge ahead in a ritzy three-bedroom apartment complete with hardwood floors, a fireplace, and crown molding.
If Adler is known for one thing in the design industry, it is her make-it-happen approach, and it has earned her projects like this aircraft interior. Customization is a calling card for Adler, and she appreciates the opportunity to try new things when clients are willing to let her take her own approach.
“I looked at the project like I would any interior design project. I was seeking to create an environment that is reflective of the client’s aesthetic; that also felt warm, thoughtful and comfortable. However, since it is an aircraft, we had to take into account several other influences,” Adler explained.
Challenges abound when it comes to ordinary design work: style, taste, price, materials, etc. When aviation is added into the mix, you also have to think about the smaller space, the durability of materials, safety, flammability, economy, and function. Adler stated, “We wanted the plane to have luxurious fabrics and the attention to detail that you would find in a home, but everything also needed to be extraordinarily durable and meet all of the codes.”
Due to the restrictions of safety and space, much of the design in the aircraft came down to very small details. Adler shared, “We tried to be thoughtful of everything from the detailing on the brass vents to the hardware used on the cabinetry, to the leather welt that trims the seams of the camel wool sofas.”
Much like the service that Jet Linx provides, Adler likes to get to know her clients in order to discover what pleases them most. For this particular project, Adler was acquainted as a friend with the clients, so she had an idea of what they wanted.
She described their home as classic, timeless, modern, and comfortable, and this is what inspired her overall design for the interior. “When I started thinking of this project, I happened to be in New York and wandered into the Hermes flagship store on Madison Avenue. The materials, color tones and textiles are so classic and timeless (pale oak, saddle leather, natural linen, camel wool, black/white herringbone, deep navy blue, brass, etc.), yet the way everything comes together, the quality of the craftsmanship always feels modern. That was my initial inspiration for the plane,” Adler revealed.
She also wanted to add an extra splash of personality into the interior. “I thought it would be nice to come up with a subtle identity for the plane, so we created an abstract ‘logo’ featuring their initial that we embroidered on linen napkins, cashmere blankets and even playing cards that we gave as a gift to them, as a way for us to say thank you for the opportunity.”
One particular challenge about this aircraft design was the lighting, and Adler was proud of her creative solution. “Lighting was also extremely important. I have noticed from personal experience that when planes are in the sky during daylight hours, you get a bright white light that reflects inside the plane that reads like florescent light,” she noted. “I used warm tones to counterbalance this affect using a warm ivory on the walls, rich saddle leather and camel wool for the upholstery and I was very strategic with the lighting selections and placement.”
Although Adler usually works in places that offer more square footage than jets, she doesn’t particularly enjoy one space over another. She expressed, “Through the years I have learned what does and doesn’t work in certain spaces, but I can’t say that I have a favorite. More than anything, we try to get a real feel for how the clients live and try to get a real understanding of how they want a space to function.”
Adler’s devotion to forming relationships with her clients has proven successful, as people appreciate the fine details far more than one would expect. Jet Linx has taken the same ‘client-first’ principle in a different industry, where the results have been equally stunning.