The plane in the living room

Materials World magazine
,
1 Nov 2017

Two brothers from Bath created a business in 2012 that turns plane scrap into custom-made furniture.

‘We just feel that there is such an abundance of stuff out there that with a bit of ingenuity and imagination can become something amazing instead of going to a landfill or being melted down,’ said Ben Tucker, one of the designers of the above pictured cowling chair, which has been made from plane scrap. ‘Our family has always been resourceful as farmers so I guess it is in our blood too,’ he told Materials World.

The 2x2m chair is made from mirror polished aluminium, fibre glass and features a suede interior. It resembles Eero Aarnio’s ball chair, the famous 1960s piece, but is bigger and sturdier as the main body used to be a Boeing 737’s engine cowling (read more about how decommissioned airplanes get turned into furniture in MW January 2015).

Five years ago, Tucker and his brother started to make furniture that comprises plane scrap such as doors, window sections and seat covers, bought from an aircraft breaker, and by now they’ve added accessories and travel bags to their manufacturing portfolio. They have their workshop in Bath, UK, where the brothers grew up on a working farm with their parents.

‘We source our parts mainly from here in the UK, our partner runs a facility in the Cotswolds that scraps over 15% of the world’s aircraft. On the odd occasion, we do find bits from around the globe, but rarely due to the high cost of shipping and importing,’ explained Tucker, who worked at a property investment firm before starting his career as a furniture designer. He adds that ‘we start with the scrap part, then go through a brainstorming session, generating lots of different ideas until we have narrowed it down to a couple. Once we have chosen a final design we go ahead and start the build phase’. 

From a design perspective, the brothers are constrained and limited to the dimensions and materials of the original part but, Tucker says, this is part of the fun, seeing what imagination can conjure up.

Talking about his inspiration, beyond reusing materials, he said, ‘We love the idea of immortalising these scrap pieces into new, beautiful artefacts that will stand for decades to come. There is something really romantic about aviation and flying, it fascinates us and our clients equally, and we believe this holds true to the vast majority of us.’

While every piece the brothers design is unique, they ‘tend to use plane pieces that we know we can get lots of when we start the design process, it is important that when someone wants one we are able to replicate it,’ said the designer Tucker. 

The cowling chair is, like all the other furniture, custom-made to order and can cost £19,000, depending on materials used, which is a bit of a hike compared to its Finnish brother from the 1960s, of which a replica is available starting at around £500.