Commercial ocean liners are upping the ante with cabins and interiors on a par with the best hotels – and private yacht designs are not far behind
With the growing number of high-net-worth individuals around the world – not least in the Asia-Pacific region – it comes as no surprise that the private yacht market has grown. According to Technavio's Global Luxury Yacht Market 2016-2020 report, the global luxury yacht market is expected to grow by about 7 percent during that period, lending credence to the increased investment in marina facilities by governments and private developers (Montenegro, for example, is actively courting yachters across the Adriatic Sea in much more expensive Italy). Despite high operating and maintenance costs, yachts are a premium indulgence, underpinned by the ability of yacht owners to create their own personalised tourism.
As the industry grows and responds to new needs and desires, so design has evolved. New materials and technologies have given rise to innovative hulls that are faster, lighter and consume less fuel. Inside, the changes are even more apparent. Over the past decade or so, yacht interiors have come to rival those of five-star hotels, and can be every bit as creative. However, yacht interiors vulnerable to harsh elements, moisture, everyday mess and constant movement pose unique challenges for designers. With custom builds taking up to four years, owner needs may change, but international safety, environmental and other standards do not.
"[Custom interiors are] achieved by complying precisely with technical specifications, with the requirements of register and classification entities and, always most importantly, with the owner's expectations, as interpreted by [us] through construction capabilities and an Italian love of design," says Peter Mahony of Italian builder Benetti.Yachts, however large they may be, are space-constrained in a way luxury home or hospitality interiors are not. There is also an inherent need for communication between the interior and exterior spaces – an issue Sanlorenzo addresses with its new SL102.
"It rethinks the well-established layout of a yacht, only keeping the deck on the starboard side and eliminating the port side one, which is carried on the roof of the structure," explains Sanlorenzo's chairman Massimo Perotti. The asymmetrical configuration is a yachting first, and recovers about 10sqm (107sqf) of space for the interior.
Annelies Damen at Dutch builder Amels sees some parallels between residential design and yachts. Amels' largest superyacht is a roomy 83 metres long, with six decks and more than 700sqm (7,500sqf) of interior space, so there's certainly room to move. Yet she points out that plenty of owners choose to work with traditional architects lacking in yacht experience, which can pose problems on a moving, seafaring vessel.
"Things like glass chandeliers, sculptures and televisions need to be sea-fastened. Placing artwork is also interesting because you have to consider the changing play of sunlight and shadow as the yacht moves," she says.
As luxurious as marble and natural oak are, they're heavy, and she agrees that regulatory factors – the need for watertight doors and bulkheads for a start – affect design choices. Finally, spatial flow is a challenge when most yachts also have crew who need separate quarters from guests. Ensuring privacy for everyone as well as the proper functioning of a hi-tech machine means more care when planning layouts. But attitudes and requirements have changed over the last decade, and most major yacht manufacturers can and do customise interiors to meet buyer preferences. Asian buyers lean towards high-end audio and more considered interior space to maximise indoor time.
Experiential travel is on the rise. But Perotti says that shipowners are also increasingly interested in green solutions, including high efficiency hybrid propulsion systems. Dan Lenard, designer of the Monte Carlo Yacht collection argues yachting has become transversal."Materials now are specially developed for yachting interiors, where people were [previously] just using housing materials… More clients are looking for personalisation, and are extremely international today and know about styling, lifestyle and fashion trends," he says. "In yachts, clients want to get the maximum of everything that exists, or something that is either too expensive or difficult to build in a house."
Damen concurs, noting bespoke interiors are the ideal option, but that they are affected by how a yacht is intended to be used. Some owners enjoy the comfort of flying to a destination where a comfortable, familiar space is waiting for them. Others have radically different needs. Currently under construction at Amels is an expedition SeaXplorer, destined for places such as Antarctica and climates totally unlike traditional yacht destinations such as the Seychelles.
Materials now are specially developed for yachting interiors. More clients are looking for personalisation, and are extremely international today and know about styling, lifestyle and fashion trends
"There's a bit more focus on practicality," she says. "For example we have dive centres where guests are in wetsuits or when guests come back from heliskiing there are 'snowroom' spaces to change gear. It's still luxury, but there is a transition to the more classical luxury spaces."