Sam Omondi and Khan Key, the founders of Sky Decor, have been best friends since they sat next to each other in their first year at Cavina School. Having both studied architecture in the US, they returned to Kenya a few years ago. They hadn’t planned to start a business together but an old abandoned aeroplane they came across, while camping in Turkana, provided the basis for their design business.
The plane was from Lokichogio Airport. It had been left at what used to be an air strip after it suffered mechanical problems that weren’t worth fixing. After getting permission, they returned to Nairobi and came back two days later with a truck to collect the plane.
For a few weeks the plane sat in Sam’s yard in Karen. Initially they had planned to make “some sort of art,” Sam tells me. “We have always been really good at designing stuff and making stuff with our hands… when we were younger, the way we would hang [out] was to build stuff like tree houses”. After much tinkering they eventually made their first piece of furniture – A Propeller Table.
Sam’s neighbour who had been watching “over the fence” bought this first piece as soon as it was finished. Over the last two years, Sky Decor has had rapid organic growth. Last year alone they were able to pay themselves and bring on three employees – specialists in metalwork, woodwork and finishing. And in early 2015, they exhibited, as part of Design Network Africa, at the prestigious Guild Design Fair in Cape Town.
Since they found their first plane, they have bought one other whole plane, a decommissioned Cessna, but primarily buy parts of larger planes from Wilson Airport. To date, they have made six propeller tables. However, given how they come across the parts, no two pieces are alike. For example, the ‘legs’ of the propeller table, pictured above, are a jack, making the table height easily adjustable.
Photograph courtesy of Sky Decor.