Interior Design Advice from a Professional Yacht Designer: A Date With Destry

Prior to founding her Fort Lauderdale-based interior design firm in 2004, Destry Darr refined her skills as an interior designer for several world-class, well-known yacht interior design firms. Since then, Destry has overseen nearly 300 yacht design projects – both new construction and refit – and has honed her expertise to rank among the world’s leading professional yacht interior designers. We managed to sit down with the busy designer between client meetings, materials sourcing and final installations to ask a few questions about yacht design tips, interior design advice, and what insight she can impart as a professional yacht designer.

Q. Do you have any favorite yacht design projects?

There are so many! But here are a few of my favorite recent yacht refit projects:

Main Salon

112′ Westport Hannah | View Portfolio

Hannah (Westport 112) This yacht was a departure in style from the look that has been popular in recent years and I absolutely loved the opportunity to work on a fresh new look. This project was a comprehensive, “gut-n-chuck” refit along with complete outfitting for personal and charter use. See before and after photos here. It was also challenging because it was done right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients always have an effect on how much I enjoy a project and these clients and Captain were wonderful to work with.

Stay-Salty-Main-Salon

161′ Trinity Stay Salty | Read Blog

Stay Salty (161’ Trinity) This was another project that was underway during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and was challenging in that it had to be completed within four weeks! What I like to call a “fluff-n-puff” refit, this project involved changing out the entire interior decor and completely outfitting the yacht. It was a lot of work that required our entire team and an incredible team of trusted contractors to pull off. Challenges such as these are very exhilarating to me! Because of the quick turnaround, the owners trusted us to get it done without approval on many things. Seeing how overjoyed the owners were when they came on board made all the hard work, weekends and late nights worthwhile!

Lady-Bee-Main-Salon

142′ Christensen Lady Bee | View Portfolio

Lady Bee (142’ Christensen) This was a very big refit. The owners knew what they wanted and pushed us to reach their desired look. It was a welcome challenge to take the contemporary styling of the existing interior and achieve the more traditional desired look. Read more about this project here

Paikea-II

64′ Paikea II Grand Banks | Read Blog

Paikea II (64’ Grand Banks) While this was a small boat, it was a big refit with BIG challenges – such as converting an office to a twin stateroom which required working with fractions of inches. In the end, we completely changed the look and function of the interior and I very much enjoyed working with this fun client and laid-back Captain.

Q. What advice Do You Give your yacht refit clients?

Giving advice to clients considering a yacht refit is a big part of my job and something that I’ve written about a lot in blog posts.

When I sit down with a client who is considering a refit project, the main areas of advice are:

  • The scope. Determine what type of refit the vessel requires – is this a “fluff-n-puff” or will it be an extensive “gut-n-chuck” project? A well defined, clear and detailed project scope when planning a yacht refit will allow for precise specifications to each of the various contractors involved, which is necessary to obtain comprehensive quotes. What appears to be a lower priced quote may very well just not be inclusive due to a lack of information.
  • The budget. The budget for a yacht refit project must be realistic and should contain a contingency for unforeseen conditions. The owner should acknowledge their budget and be honest with their team, the designer and the Captain. 
  • The team. Once a realistic budget for the yacht refit project is determined and how it will be allotted, plan accordingly and engage the appropriate professionals who can ensure that the refit does not expand beyond control. Prior to the start, the owner-designer-captain-shipyard team must be certain of the desired end result. 
  • The communication. Just as every little change during a yacht refit project will affect something else, each contractor’s work affects another’s. Weekly onboard meetings with all of the contractors involved, as a group, will uncover possible bottlenecks in the process early on that can affect the budget or schedule. Identifying these obstacles will allow for swift reorganization, minimizing lost time and getting the yacht refit project back on schedule.

Q. ANY favorite new yacht construction projects?

I LOVE new yacht construction, which has its own set of challenges as well as a whole different creative process. I think the takeaway here is that creativity, challenges, problem solving and the clients have the most effect on which projects become my favorite! Five of my most favorite new construction yacht design projects are: Castlefinn (Westport 125), Serenity (100’ Nordhavn), VivieRae II (96’ Nordhavn), Aurora (120’ Nordhavn), and Ti Punch (87’ Outer Reef). Each of these clients pushed me to get as creative as possible.

Yacht Interior Main Salon

125′ Westport Castlefinn | View Portfolio

Westport 125 Castlefinn was a spec build – which means it was built without a client. As for a brief, Daryl Wakefield, the President of Westport, simply told me to “wow” him. Read more about this project here.

Yacht Interior Dining Salon

100′ Nordhavn Serenity | View Portfolio

Nordhavn Serenity The owner of this yacht would say, “More design! More design!” and encouraged me to push the envelope in terms of space planning and layout so that his large family and their affinity for cooking and lounging could be accommodated. Read more about this project here.

Yacht Interior Stairway

96′ Nordhavn VivieRae II | View Portfolio

Nordhavn VivieRae II The owner of the 96’ Nordhavn VivieRae II inspired me to get creative with glass and lighting. Read more about this project here.

Aurora-galley

100′ Nordhavn Aurora | View Portfolio

Nordhavn Aurora was the first 120’ Nordhavn built. It was a challenge to redesign the vessel after the change in initial ownership and a challenge to get everything the owners desired into their galley. Read more about this project here.

Ti-Punch-Main-Salon

100′ Outer Reef Ti Punch | View Portfolio

87’ Outer Reef Ti Punch The owners of the 87’ Outer Reef Ti Punch wanted to pivot away from the typical traditional Outer Reef design for a much more contemporary look to suit their taste. Read more about this project here.

Q. You not only have a thriving yacht interior design business, you recently opened a showroom. how do you Keep balance in your busy schedule?

I absolutely couldn’t do it without the help of my family. I started Destry Darr Designs only a couple of months before my first child was born. My grandmother came to live with us and with her help I was able to keep my newborn at home while also running the business. The business grew and I became busier and busier. My husband, who was a teacher at the time, began working with me nights, weekends and summer break and eventually stopped teaching to help me full time. By the time my second child was born, my Aunt moved to Fort Lauderdale from Colorado, and together, she and my grandmother were nannies to my two boys. We continued to grow and hired additional employees, including my mother! Today, Destry Darr Designs continues to expand and evolve with the addition of our new studio, showroom and online store!

Family Photo
What I love most about yacht interior design are the different experiences, challenges and opportunities for solutions that I encounter every day. No matter how many projects I work on, I learn something new on every one. I love the creative process and creative problem solving.

Be sure to visit our blog often for more yacht interior design advice!

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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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