We checked in with 2021 San Francisco Design Week winner Olivier Turon, who seems to be flying high these days.
Until this year, 29-year-old French designer Olivier Turon (@oliv_turon) had never entered a design competition. Then, fresh out of school and under the wings of revered designer Eche Martinez, he won first place at the 2021 San Francisco Design Week for his fascinating work “Le Colibri,” the sleek, sophisticated and forward-thinking outfitting of a private jet. Here, the emerging talent reveals how he rose to the main stage seemingly overnight by way of hard work, passion and pure talent.
Congratulations on receiving the top prize in the Travel and Hospitality category. Where did you draw inspiration?
I came across the 2021 SFDW annual dates only three weeks before [the deadline for submission]. Eche said I should challenge myself and submit a proposal. So I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but I wanted to try to propose something different.
Le colibri is French for hummingbird. The whole project started with this majestic bird and its color palette in mind. I was inspired by Haussmannian interior architecture; I wanted to create a composition that translated into a residential theme. I also wanted a different approach to the regular portholes we commonly see in commercial and private aviation. I wanted them to provide an unprecedented perspective of the sky.
A true passion for aviation is at the core of this submission. I’ve also always been fascinated with designs, such as interiors that are mobile rather than static. Winch Designs was a huge inspiration, as I’m fascinated by everything they do. Finally, I find the majority of the private aircraft interiors to be very similar to one another, and I wondered if the space could be elevated to a different perspective.
Olivier Turon envisions the future of flying private, and that scene stars soft lines and natural materials complemented by bespoke furnishings and accent lighting.
Where did you source materials for the project?
As I’m very aware of the strict requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration on interior compartment materials, this composition is purely conceptual. However, the project is absolutely realizable using FAA-certified fabrics, finishes and equipment.
How was this project different from designing a space inside a building?
While the scale of the space differs greatly—if you compare a home or building to even the largest private aircraft—I’d say the idea remains the same: to create an interior that strikes the perfect balance between comfort and luxury, while taking into account the client’s unique tastes and preferences. Again, as the space has to be capable of flying safely, many FAA rules need to be strictly followed.
What’s your favorite part about this project?
How residential it feels. I tried to bring a unique composition for a potential next-generation aircraft by proposing a floor plan that’s quite different from what is already available. Other key features I’m really pleased by are the portholes; they offer an unprecedented live perspective of the sky and generously bring in natural light.
How did you land in San Francisco working for Eche Martinez?
A native of Biarritz, France, I initially moved to the United States with the intention of improving my English and furthering my education. I naturally fell in love with California and completed my interior architecture and design studies in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. My eagerness to learn has landed me formidable opportunities to work with brilliant designers—including Gary Hutton, Alison Damonte, Joanna Wong and Eche Martinez.
I’ve been following Eche’s work since my arrival to San Francisco, and I applied to different positions he had opened over the past two years. In March, he gave me a shot and let me contribute to the amazing projects Eche’s firm is working on. Eche is the most supportive employer I have ever had and naturally became my mentor.
What’s next for you?
In my spare time, I enjoy reimagining transportation interiors and working on projects like “Le Colibri” with the hope of one day bringing these concepts to fruition. For now, I want to learn as much as I possibly can—I don’t know what my future holds, but I am utterly convinced the bond I have with architecture and design will bring me to a place where I can realize [my] dreams and simply be myself.
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF OLIVIER TURON