Propelled by demanding style expectations and new technologies, today's yacht designers are breaking the mould. Perspective takes a look at the trends and constraints facing luxury yacht interior design today
The modern luxury-yacht interior designer has a range of materials and techniques available to them that would have been unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. But with design constraints and considerations that include an expectation of the highest levels of comfort, working within a well-defined and often tight space, and the need for safety and regulatory compliance, they continue to deliver elegant and distinctive schemes both above and below deck.
Home from home
There are the have nots and the have yachts, so they say. Much like one's own home, yachts are a canvas on which to communicate an owner's sense of style and taste. They are also a place for experimentation, escapism and glamour.
The recently launched Pink Gin VI is a 54m carbon fibre sloop, with interiors by London-based marine specialist Design Unlimited. Surface finishes and textures play an important role throughout while materials are used in unusual ways to create a tactile look and an elegant feel of domesticity. An eclectic mixture of stained oak joinery, bespoke metallic finishes and sumptuous velvets and leathers create a warm, inclusive ambience.
Yacht owners wish to feel the same level of comfort and quality when on their yacht as they do at home
"Any space on a yacht is valuable real estate so we ensure that all space has a purpose, is well-proportioned and we pay close attention to the flow of movement through the yacht for how she will be used," says Nicola Brook, head of decoration at Design Unlimited. "We often start with a blank canvas. Listening to our clients, we can understand how they want to live on board, how many guests they want to entertain and the key factors they wish to include in the design of their yacht."
These are spaces that allow occupants to find their sea legs – and true comfort in their own space. "Yacht owners wish to feel the same level of comfort and quality when on their yacht as they do at home," says Stacey Sibley, creative director of Alexander James studio, which partners with Sunseeker to style and dress its yachts. "We look to use varied colour themes, drawing on richer, more vibrant colours to add more personality and distinction."
Above the waterline, yacht interior design continues to be influenced by the changing needs and desires of clientele. Kate Maclaren, senior interiors manager for yachts at Winch Design, notes a significant increase in the number of clients with young families. "Boats now need to be child-friendly,accommodate teaching staff or additional relaxation areas – including spas for parents and cinema or entertainment rooms for the children," she explains. "This, in turn, has also led to lighter, brighter decor – more suited to the sunny sea environments and more contemporary in style."
Sea Owl, one of the most imaginative Winch Design projects to date, has a fluid yet distinctive design, both inside and out. The yacht's fantasy-inspired interior is aimed at encouraging the owner's grandchildren to explore imaginary worlds.
Meticulous craftsmanship goes hand-in-hand with playfulness. There are Alice in Wonderland murals; frescoes inspired by the voyages of Charles Darwin; pirate-themed cabins; whimsical carved owls and squirrels perched on banisters; a mahogany magic tree that ascends four decks; and a jewel-strewn Jacuzzi overlooked by a grinning toothy shark.
While private yachts are nothing if not a sign of a prosperous lifestyle, there's still a need to communicate the owner's distinctive – perhaps impeccable – taste, achieved through the designer's attention to detail and style.
One of the trends that has emerged over the last decade is the demand for customisation. "Some of the yards that performed best during the difficult financial times where those offering the most custom design to their clients," says Jean-Baptiste Souppez, senior lecturer in yacht design and composite engineering at Southampton Solent University in the United Kingdom. "This has also been boosted by modern technologies, such as virtual reality: very early on in the design process, the owner can be 'walked through' his future yacht to refine the interior design and ensure maximum satisfaction."
One of the trends that has emerged over the last decade is the demand for customisation
Interior designer Martin Kemp has projects which include private jets, superyachts and high-end residential developments in Manhattan and Mumbai. He places a keen focus on a high level of personalisation in the interior of 45m yacht Logica. Kemp's design for the owner's cabin, for example, includes working the initials of his wife discreetly into several items of joinery and upholstery throughout the room. It's a small but significant touch that adds a layer of beauty and interest to the space.
This is an excerpt from "Pushing the boat out”, a feature article from the May issue of Perspective magazine.
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