Hiring a Yacht Designer: The Benefits

Considering Hiring a Yacht Designer Instead of An Interior Designer?

This is a touchy question, but a common one that many owners will face: “I’m considering hiring a yacht designer, but I have a great designer for my home or homes, why can’t I use him/her to design my yacht?”

Unfortunately, many owners have paid the proverbial price for bringing a land-based residential designer with little or no yacht design experience into the project. Hiring a yacht designer can save you money, time and hassle in the long run.

The short answer is, despite the mutual goal of incorporating furnishings and soft goods, a yacht is completely different from a land-based residence. This is a space that is constantly in motion and requires technical and practical knowledge that only an experienced yacht designer can provide. 


The technical and structural restrictions on a yacht dominate the overall design and constrict the possibilities of aesthetics, as opposed to residential design. Space, scale, proportion, balance, stability and function are more critical on board a yacht than in any other space.

The angles and shape of each space must be considered. On a yacht, even a room with four walls is not really a square space.

A designer may want to get creative with space planning, move beds or other built-in furniture, but often those are used for concealing many different things, from structural stringers and floor line to HVAC, plumbing, wiring, and even fuel tanks. 

Many clients also want to take advantage of multiple shower applications with rain heads and body sprays. But space, plumbing and hot water capacity restrictions need to be addressed. A professional yacht designer will work with the builder as soon as possible on items such as these, so the pre-engineering can be done.


Storage is a premium aboard yachts of all sizes, so most built-in and many loose furniture pieces will have storage incorporated – often with hidden functionality. The mechanisms for operating this function need to be considered. The design of cabinet doors and drawers influences the hardware and vice versa. Doors and drawers must remain closed when the yacht is underway. So, it is not only the exposed decorative hardware that needs to be considered, but in the very early stages of the design, the type of mechanism and how the doors and drawers function must be determined.

Boat storage table
boat storage table open to show bottle storage
Hidden Bar on Yacht
yacht bar sink with folding faucet
Benefits of hiring a yacht interior designer. Folding Faucet for Yacht

Also, those beautiful hanging light fixtures? They need to be customized so as not to swing.


There is even a difference to the finishes used in the interior of a yacht and how it is decorated. First, all materials incorporated need to be easy to clean and maintain, lightweight and flexible – that 800-year-old solid oak dining table salvaged from a French monastery? Save it for the Tuscan villa. 

Many materials can be difficult to install on a yacht and require specialists. Stones like onyx and natural quartz are soft and brittle, so if they are not properly installed, shifting of the interior can cause cracking and breakage. A popular residential application, wood laminate expands and contracts at a high rate and this – as well as many other materials – can be very moisture sensitive. Flexible and sound dampening sub-surfaces, moisture-resistant adhesives, and special grout materials must be used on yachts.


Wondering what could possibly go wrong? The list is endless: they might look comfortable, but adorning the deck settees with countless throw pillows that aren’t weighted or secured in some fashion will ensure that all or most will be sacrificed to the sea either the moment the yacht gets underway – or via an irritated deckhand who must store them quickly every time a shower passes overhead!


Eager to display that collection of artifacts gathered on excursions through ancient ruins? Each one of those fragile tchotchkes placed just so on every surface that must be stored every single time the boat moves. Each decorative item – in fact, ALL small items – must be either affixed solidly to the surface to minimize damage during the yacht’s pitch and roll, or have a dedicated and protective storage compartment. All cutlery, place settings, glasses and bottles must have its own storage. Professional designers also must factor in custom designed storage for items such as guns and fishing rods.

If there is one way to frustrate a talented stewardess, fill the salon with accessories without incorporating dedicated storage for each. If there is one way to frustrate a successful owner, tell him his prized artifact was damaged due to being handled constantly during storage and unpacking. When dealing with works of art worth thousands or millions of dollars, it’s suddenly not as simple as hanging a piece on the wall or placing a piece on a shelf and assuming it will stay there for years to come.


Yacht design does not allow for any mistakes and there are many potential issues that may arise. It is what you don’t see that can cause unexpected setbacks and budgetary issues – or worse, compromise safety. Every design component on a yacht affects something else. The yacht designer must anticipate problems before they occur and correct them before they become critical. 

For a yacht design to be successful, knowledge and training are required and gained through real-life experience by working directly with yacht builders to learn about the build process and engineering and spend time with the yacht owner and the crew to learn how each yacht is used and how each client likes to use their yachts. Yacht design is both intensely challenging and immensely rewarding, and we designers are learning continuously from our clients, the builders, captains and crew. 

So, when you are ready to embark on your yacht design project, consider the right fit for the role and hire a professional yacht designer!

Photos of Destry by Mariya Wail Photography

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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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