A Material Culture Celebration of Aviation in Twenty-First Century Furniture Open Access

At the turn of the twenty-first century, a business called MotoArt got its start making furniture out of reclaimed airplane components. Inspired by military history and an enthusiasm for aviation, their business is as much about honoring aeronautic achievement as it is about creating bold gleaming furniture. After nearly two decades, their business has grown to include a large inventory of furniture types and inspired other entrepreneurs to put their own spin on aircraft furniture. PLANE Industries in Bath, England is less inspired by aviation history than by the process of upcycling the valuable detritus of the aviation industry into a small collection of design-driven furniture. The American aircraft manufacturer Boeing has entered the competition, opening an online store selling furniture made from components of its eponymous aircraft. French designer Jean-Pierre Carpentier of Aviation-Spirit began creating aeronautic furniture in 2003. His furniture is made from French aircraft, and some of his pieces are derived from French historical forms. There are three factors that have created the market for aviation furniture. First, Americans harbor an intense, cult-like regard for aviation, partly because the birth of winged flight was the result of American ingenuity and because of the high-tech innovations that followed. Fascination with flight is a human phenomenon and the cult of aviation quickly spread across the globe. Second, economic circumstances culminating in a class of ultra-wealthy individuals, and businesses have created a pool of patrons who can indulge their love for aviation and high-tech by purchasing very expensive furniture. The final factor supporting the popularity of the theme is the architectural trend toward industrial interiors that complement the big, bold, stripped-down vibe of the furniture. Aviation furniture tells the story of the modern age, from its wars to its technological achievements. It celebrates humanity’s ability to externalize and make form of the human dream of flight. It represents our mastery of the sky and our desire to have physical reminders of that mastery under hand. The human power to create and dominate is brought into the home or office in furnishings that make a bold statement and remind the user of their origins in human dreams, perseverance, and the promise of high technology.

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