Autumn Duntz - Autumn Eliszabeth Design
"Bridging the Gap"
Out of the US's deep south comes a bright young aviation designer bent on filling what she sees as a gap. Autumn Duntz, founder of Autumn Elizabeth Design believes there is a gulf between residential and aircraft interior design. She firmly believes the aesthetic enjoyed in our homes, is transposable to the private aircraft we own and fly.
Interview By: Richard W. Roseman
My favorite part of the job! Sitting down with other designers. This week I was lucky enough to spend time with Autumn Duntz, a bright young US designer making quite a splash in the aviation design world. Having recently worked for a large OEM, she is well versed not only in cabin design but the inter-workings of the completion process. As is always the case, I wanted to find out what drives her work now as an independent and her philosophies on the various aspects of working with her customers and carrying her process from concept to fly-away.
Below is my interview with Mrs. Duntz, a delightful young talent whose company will no doubt continue to make a mark in our industry.
JCF: I always like to ask where the first 'spark' occurred within a designer's younger life. When did you first know you had a keen eye for aesthetics and a desire to pursue a path as a professional designer? Can you tell us a little about how that developed for you and how it finally came to land in aviation?
AD: I was creative from a young age, and as I grew up, it developed into a love for puzzles. I thought I wanted to be an architect. However, I learned about interior design while preparing for college. It felt like all the stars aligned because it was this perfect mix of creativity and solving problems. I always knew I wanted to specialize in something niche and learned at college that aviation or yacht design would be a good fit. I interned for a summer with Gulfstream Aerospace and fell in love with it. I remember my first time walking into the hangar, and the aircraft seemed so majestic! I was hooked from that point on.
JCF: Most designers I know have a particular aesthetic of their own...a style and look they tend to lean toward and infuse in their work when the customer brief allows. Can you please describe in a few words what your own personal style preference is and why it speaks to you?
AD: I enjoy a very minimalistic aesthetic. It draws attention to the craftsmanship and the beauty of the materials. But when designing for clients, the aesthetic is always born from their personalities and style. The opportunity to design for someone is special, and I enjoy that no two projects are the same!
JCF: Each customer is very different to be sure. Having said that, all designers seem to have a 'generalized' approach they take with each new customer in order to get the ball rolling. What's yours and how has it proven successful for you?
AD: My process always begins with a discovery meeting or phone call. It’s here where I learn about the aircraft's mission, what the client needs help with, timeline, budget, and all those things. I explain the refurbishment process and ask them to send along anything that inspires them or spaces they love. I also answer a lot of client questions during this meeting. Refurbishments are a peculiar thing. Most aircraft owners don’t have a lot of experience with them. It’s always my goal to make designing the aircraft interior fun and enjoyable! After the Discovery Meeting, I continue to communicate with the client on concepts and begin the design development. Once I have a good feel for their style, I schedule a meeting and go over the design. I like to provide renderings so they can have a sense of how the space will feel.
Then it’s about implementing the design. I work with the refurbishment facility the client has selected and provide the design details and specifications. I also monitor the project and visit the aircraft during the project to check the quality. I'm the client’s advocate in the execution of the design. Lastly, the plane gets delivered back to the client, and I set the aircraft management team up with documentation on the finishes in their cabin and how to take care of them. I also like to have a follow-up call once the client has had the opportunity to fly a little to make sure they're happy and answer any questions.
JCF: Be it a wide-body VVIP, a Gulfstream, or otherwise, all aviation designers are working within a 'tube'. How does that change your approach in terms of design over say an architectural or yacht project? Are there some rules of thumb that guide you in this regard and can you explain why they consistently support a successful AC cabin design - as opposed to other environs?
AD: Proportion and scale are so important in all design, but particularly in aviation. Using color value and pattern to trick the eye into making a space feel a certain way also plays a big part in every design. Color and pattern do a lot of the heavy lifting. Clients are often worried about the space feeling confined or dark, so paying attention to these design elements has been successful.
JCF: Bringing something 'fresh' to each new project is a challenge all designers face. For you, is that more about finding new "materials" or devising new "treatments or looks" that you haven't explored before? Or is it often a combination of both? Can you inform us of the process you employ in leveraging something completely new and fresh onto each project?
AD: Finding new materials is difficult in aviation! As a designer, I rely on my suppliers to help bring new materials into the aviation market. I like to play with different materials that I have a lot of experience with, so I know how the material will perform for the client. I know it’s a cliché, but nature has always been a source of inspiration for me. Whether it’s color combinations, patterns, or just being a quiet place for reflection, spending time outside has always been a part of creating something new!
JCF: What new trends do you see emerging in the coming years for VVIP and Bizjets?
AD: For aircraft refurbishments, I'm seeing a shift toward warm-toned neutrals and minimalism. Clients are looking to create more quiet and comforting spaces within their aircraft. I hope the aviation industry continues to move toward more eco-friendly and sustainable materials and practices.
JCF: Have you engaged in a narrow or wide-body project thus far in your career as an independent? In a general sense, can you tell us what your preferred space is - the larger commercial size airframes or the top-tier business jets where your experience thus far has mostly lied? What appeals to you about both?
AD: I’ve enjoyed some fantastic refurbishment projects already and specialize in large to light business jets. I love the quick pace of these projects and the design challenges associated with the project scale and timeline. The opportunity to design a wide-body project would be an exciting one!
JCF: In my own career, I always sort of looked at projects in two stages, 1) the completed interior itself, devoid of amenities - and the finished delivered AC with pillows, throws, accessories CCF, etc. How important to you are the final amenities and perhaps hard-mounted accessories such as lamps etc.? Is this something you focus on as a complete part of your effort?
AD: They are definitely important. I like to help my clients select these items if the scope allows. Designing a holistic experience for the client includes all those finishing pieces. I also think someone with experience in aviation should specify those items. This way, they’re all the right scale and function well in the aircraft.
JCF: Selling any design means supporting the presentation with high-end renderings. Do you produce yours in-house or as an outsourced effort? What are the key points you try to employ in your final renderings or animation?
AD: I currently produce all the visuals for my client presentations. I began my aviation career as a visualization designer, which helps a lot! There are many talented visualization artists out there, and I look forward to working with them on a future project. My goal with renderings is to have the materials portrayed as accurately as possible to give the client the best sense of the finished project.
JCF: Lastly, I always like to ask a rather playful question, so if you'll indulge our audience, here goes: If you could own and operate your own aircraft, what would it be and why? Naturally, we'll want to know what kind of interior it would have - and finally where would be your favorite destinations?
AD: So fun! I would have a G550. They're beautiful and reliable. I would have a walnut veneer (my favorite) and fabric seating with leather trim. My husband and I enjoy diving and snorkeling, so we’d be flying to all the best diving destinations!
G A L L E R Y
For more information on Autumn Elizabeth Design, contact Autumn Duntz at:
For for editorial questions, contact Rick Roseman at: 214.415.3492 (firstname.lastname@example.org).