From A Yacht Interior Designer: The Nature of Yacht Interiors

Traditionally, not unlike homes, yachts have been thought of as having two distinct spaces – the interior and the exterior. However, because of our inherent relationship to the outdoors and natural elements, there is a prevailing movement for yacht interior designers to capture that outdoor essence, creating yacht interiors that are in harmony with nature, making the transition between indoors and outdoors more fluid, creating a balance between nature, luxury and innovation..


In our blog post Trend Spotting at the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, I mentioned that in current yacht interior design there is a desire for yacht owners to feel that they are literally on the water by bringing the outdoors in, a definite move toward integrating natural materials, shapes, textures, and features into the design in order to give yacht owners the feeling that they are always connected to nature…that nature is not without, but within. I saw this trend in full effect at the 2019 Palm Beach International Boat Show as well.

As a yacht interior designer, this integration of nature is a strategy I have embraced and utilized in my yacht interior designs in a number of ways. It is, for lack of a better word, “natural” to do so. After all, yachts sit upon the water, and are brought to life by water. Most yacht owners, therefore, want their yachts to exist as an extension of that water. The distinction is an important one, yacht interior design is different from traditional interior design because of a yachts constant movement through nature.

First of all, for clarification, when I say style that mirrors nature, I am not talking about nautical or coastal themes…not pictures of anchors or images of fish on the walls (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Rather, think natural materials, nature-inspired hues and textures bringing the outside inward. It’s about creating the feeling of freedom that is at the heart of yachting, an opportunity to be untethered. The freedom and flexibility of yachting allow immersion in life’s exceptional experiences that create new and deepened connections with friends, family and the natural world..

It all begins with a palette; we keep the base neutral and flexible. Then, color and interest can be added with texture and materials in-keeping with nature. This will create a layered effect which mimics the layering of nature itself.

After the background is set, we draw in nature-inspired elements and finishes that surround the owners and their guests in a serene and natural atmosphere.


For yacht interiors, bringing in wood that comes in a variety of finishes, species’ and applications is one of the easiest and warmest ways to incorporate natural materials. We integrate these woods from built in and loose furniture to flooring and accents.

To enhance the oceanic feel of the yacht interior design, wood flooring or furniture in warm and cool grays with minimal lines free from ornamentation are ideal. Additionally, open grained woods lend a natural appeal to the designs. However, for owners who like to keep a more sophisticated flair, darker woods such as mahogany or cherry can be contemporary or traditional in style and be dressed up or down to meet their needs. Another striking choice is to combine contrasting dark and light, satin and high gloss for a more sophisticated feel.

A variety of finishes can also be utilized to add a natural glow or appeal to the design. For example, high gloss surfaces such as resin, acrylic glass or paint used on walls, cabinetry and in various details on ceilings or loose furnishings reflect light, thus bringing the natural light inside more effectively.

One of the easiest and most beautiful natural elements that many forget about is sunlight. Natural daylight can make a room come alive, it enhances colors and makes people feel healthy and inspired. Natural light can have an effect like no other throughout yacht interiors.

A simple, elegant, and impactful way to illuminate a space and connect with the surrounding views of the ocean is by using large, expansive windows and doors. Such windows and doors maximize space and light, allowing for panoramic sea views for owners and guests to enjoy the stunning vistas. Isn’t that why yacht owners are out on the water in the first place?

Glass is the essence of sand and ocean life. How appropriate, therefore, that it enhances the natural light of the design. Large glass windows and doors combined with open areas let light spill in, making the most of natural light.

Glass is versatile, thus it can be used in many different yacht interior design details and applications, maximizing space and light while enhancing the natural feel of that space. Glass erases walls, and on a yacht that means glass lets the ocean in, flawlessly and beautifully connecting us with the water.

In the design of the 142’ Christensen Lady Bee yacht refit, we created glass stair panels with etched waves, accented with blue. These panels lend a natural elegance and sense of movement to this opulently designed yacht.

In the design of the VivieRae II, we created glass stairs on the circular stairwell from the Main Deck to the Upper Deck, which were illuminated from the outside perimeter of each step to shine through the glass. This design gives one the feeling of walking outside on light- on the starry sky, or in the sunshine.


The natural elements of wood and stone, when combined, create a grounding balance.

White and grey stone with darker woods provide contrast and pair well in both luxurious and minimalist settings.

In the yacht refit of the 142’ Christensen Lady Bee, we were able to bring in reminders of being on the water with the creation of movement in various onyx stones in swirling neutrals & blues reminiscent of dreamy clouds and crystal blue waters.

We did the same in the 120’ Nordhavn Aurora with the use of various shades of blue stones and other materials throughout.

Also in the yacht refit of the 142’ Christensen Lady Bee, we used blue agate slices embedded into white quartz creating the Upper Deck Day Head vanity top, blue agate slabs serving as features in the Main Salon and Main Deck Day Head and Sodalite Blue stone, an exotic granite of cobalt blue accented with specks of white and black on the exterior decks.

The grand staircase walls of Lady Bee are composed of mother of pearl accented with brass inlays, and Swarovski crystals. We also utilized natural mother of pearl inlays in the custom cabinet hardware.

Other unique shells such as capiz, paua, troca shell and penshell (to name just a few) can also be used on entire furniture pieces or as unique natural inlaid accents.


Materials with unique patterns, can serve as reminders of being on the water by creating movement that is reminiscent of the undulation of waves.

In the Lady Bee, we customized artistic white, wave-patterned carpet to be lain throughout the yacht.

In fact, hues themselves can create this feeling of fluidity, further strengthening a closeness to nature. For example, calm cool tones and subtle color palettes of beckoning blues and grays, also bring the sea inside.


Connections with nature are also made through art and accessories. Many mediums that artists use to inspire and create their pieces come from nature such as charcoal and  graphite. Natural materials such as fine sand and gravel mixed with water and pigments create various textures. Iron powder creates a metallic finish. Glass beads, quartz crystals and even semi precious stones add shimmer.

Art and accessories inspired by nature have the ability to make a room feel energized. Art can be realistic – capturing items from nature – or abstract – a visual representation of the natural world taking its cue from the natural surroundings.

In the yacht interior design of the new 125’ Westport, we are incorporating crystal and agate accessory pieces throughout. They are said to promote healing, relaxation and create an organic and serene ambiance.

Adding pops of fresh green botanicals throughout the living space will refresh and reinvigorate, creating the finishing touch.

Mother nature may be the world’s best yacht interior designer. Frank Llloyd Wright harbored a great respect for nature in his work, and believed that architecture should connect harmoniously with its surroundings. His pioneering thoughts have inspired architects and designers to follow in his footsteps. Yacht interiors inspired by nature are one of the greatest examples of Wright’s beliefs.

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About the Author

About the Author

Destry Darr Pethtel is an award-winning interior designer based in Florida. Her designs have been featured in several luxury yacht publications such as Showboats, Boat International, Yachts International, Yachting, Luxe Magazine to name just a few! Read More About Destry >>

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