Yacht Design Under the Influence

It has been said in jest by many of us in the yachting industry that if it wasn’t for the owners, we could build our yachts on time and on budget. The truth is, of course, if it wasn’t for the owners, we’d all have to get real jobs! As Friedrich Schiller once said, “Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.” In yacht design, that beauty is largely influenced by the owner. When it comes to designing these floating works of art, yacht owners can play an extremely important and inspirational role in pushing the boundaries of interior design. They educate us with their needs, they challenge us with their expectations and they inspire us with their enthusiasm. 

Each yacht interior should reflect its owners’ tastes, desires, and needs. On one recent project, the 96’ Nordhavn VivieRae II, the owner specified a multipurpose sky lounge that could simultaneously act as a space for entertaining and working, with the capability of being transformed into a bonus stateroom. One additional request that inspired great yacht design ingenuity was to “get creative with lighting and glass.” This request allowed us to have fun with backlighting and incorporate lighting in the shower walls and floors as well as the glass staircase.

96 Nordhavn Vivierae II 

Whether they are looking for a showplace for socializing or a private retreat for their family and closest friends, yacht owners’ requirements can be specific, demanding, and sometimes, even impractical. In these cases, listening is the most important tool we yacht designers have in our bag of tricks. 

Our role is to guide the yacht owner in translating their visions into reality – and in this process, we can find inspiration in pushing the boundaries of that proverbial design envelope! Although many owners want their yachts to conform to the current trends of contemporary yacht design, the owners of the 142’ Christensen Lady Bee requested a very specific design for the refit of their yacht. Their vision was for a yacht interior that complemented the elegance and opulence of their home, catered to their lifestyle, and reflected their love for their home state. This required careful translation of a very contemporary and minimalist interior into an ornate and sumptuous environment complete with luxurious finishes and intricate carvings and details. We enjoyed incorporating subtle allusions to Louisiana and Mardi Gras in the final touches such as fleur-de-lis, artwork portraying Greek gods and goddesses, and an array of Mardis Gras accoutrement!

142′ Christensen Lady Bee

How far we can push the envelope, however, and still create a spectacular yacht design relies heavily on how much or how little money the yacht owner chooses to spend. Value is important, of course, but the budget will determine the level of detailing in the yacht design, the choice of building materials to be used or the quality of specifications such as lighting, plumbing, appliances, hardware, and stones. As yacht designers, we take on the role of advising and guiding, while making the project fun and enjoyable for all involved. The best results come when the owner understands and appreciates “the design trifecta” of time, talent and funding, and allocates ample attention to all three. At the same time, a yacht owner can negatively affect the outcome of the yacht design project by disproportionately spending too much money altogether on the interior and/or toys and electronics in the base value of their yacht. It’s all about balance.

Working with the yacht owners at the earliest stage of the yacht build gives us the best opportunities to grant exceptional design wishes. For the 100’ Nordhavn Serenity, we were fortunate to be brought into the project at an early stage, enabling us to design a layout that was a break from tradition, achieving the owners’ request to create a haven that would accommodate his large family comfortably and seamlessly. This also allowed us to incorporate his appreciation of modern, clean lines, statement architecture and luxurious, spa-like finishes prevalent in his homes.

100′ Nordhavn Serenity

The same was true for the 120’ Nordhavn Aurora, whose owners also worked with us from the very beginning. Their notably specific request for a full complement of high-end appliances and areas for family gatherings throughout elevated the entertainment potential onboard to great success.

120′ Nordhavn Aurora Enclosed Fly Bridge

Other highly specific yacht design requests, such as the implementation of a nursery, for example, may only be needed for a short time, so we always try to design these features in a way that they can be easily modified or repurposed for resale. Locking in very personal designs can devalue a project down the road. 

As with everything, balance is the key and great yacht design professionals can make the most of any budget and any criteria with a creative effort – and quite possibly be inspired by their yacht owners in the process! 

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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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