Yacht Interior Designers Guide: To Refit Or Not To Refit

Having spent quite a bit of time at various shipyards this first couple months of 2019, I am noticing that the yards are buzzing with refits and showing no signs of slowing down.

Why the refits? We are continuing to see yacht buyers who are interested in customizing a yacht but are unwilling to wait several years or pay the financial premiums that come with building a new custom yacht. If this is the case, an ideal solution would be a brokerage yacht that is purchased with a refit in mind.

A yacht refit can give an existing vessel an entirely new identity more expeditiously and more cost effectively. Great value can be achieved from successfully refitting an existing yacht to the buyer’s personal tastes and requirements. Either from the outset of ownership or during, a refitted yacht can exponentially add to the yachts aesthetic value, the buyer’s on board experience, and to the safety of their family and crew.

86’ Nordhavn VivieRae Main Salon​

Yacht refit options range from minimal to massive.

Just about anything is possible with a yacht refit, allowing total customization within the yacht’s hull structure. One of the first steps is to determine what type of refit the vessel requires.

Does the yacht require a major refit, or “gut-n-chuck”? A “gut-n-chuck” consists of structural changes to exterior decks, walls or stairs, upgrades and repairs to the vessels mechanical and electrical systems, lighting, audio visual, plumbing, overheads, space planning, built in furnishings, mill work, solid surfaces, appliances, hardware, loose furniture, upholstery, window treatments carpet, wall paper, plus all of the soft goods, art and accessories. You can read about one of our most current extensive and highly custom yacht interior refits 142’ Christensen Lady Bee Refit: Striking A Balance Between Design & Desire on our Blog.

142’ Christensen Lady Bee Master Stateroom Before
142’ Christensen Lady Bee Master Stateroom After
142’ Christensen Lady Bee Dining Salon Before
142’ Christensen Lady Bee Dining Salon After

Or does the vessel require a minor yacht interior refit, or “fluff-n-puff”?  A “fluff-n-puff” includes fabrication and installation of soft goods such as bedding, upholstery, window treatments, carpet, wall paper, headliner, loose furniture, art and accessories.

A client who was a lifelong boater decided to charter the 86’ Nordhavn, (named Cary Ali at the time) and immediately made the decision to purchase her. After spending some time on the 86’ Nordhavn VivieRae, he decided to build the larger 96’ Nordhavn VivieRae II. He engaged us to do a minor refit on the yacht to enjoy during the two year built process of the 96’ which he also hired us to design.

86’ VivieRae Main Salon Before
86’ VivieRae Main Salon After
96’ VivieRae II Main Salon

Sometimes an Owner, Owner’s Representative or Yacht Broker will request that a Yacht Interior Designer “fluff-n-puff” or even stage the interior of a yacht to assist with the sale.  This was the case with the 209’ Royal Denship Turmoil that we completed just in time for the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. You can read more about staging in our blog post “Staging Yacht Interiors”.

209’ Royal Denship Turmoil Sky Lounge After

The key to successfully refitting a yacht is the effective planning and correct execution of the plan.

The success of a yacht refit and the difference between a smooth project or one full of setbacks and frustration comes down to the plans and decisions made prior to beginning the refit.

The key players are the yacht interior designer, captain and shipyard who execute the plan; the designer making interior decisions, the captain and / or shipyard making mechanical decisions, and the owner that approves the financial and time implications.

Together, It is crucial for this team to prioritize goals, map out a course of action and create a plan that anticipates and considers any potential unforeseen issues that may arise. As work begins, unexpected surprises will need to be addressed promptly and methodically.

Realistic budgets can work to a Yacht Owner’s advantage.

The budget should be realistic and contain a contingency for unforeseen conditions.

The Owner should acknowledge their budget and be honest with their team, the Yacht Interior Designer and Captain. Some Owners are reluctant to divulge the actual budget to the designer. Setting a realistic budget will help an owner keep track of where their money is going and what it is going toward. The Designer would not want to give the Owner a Cadillac if they had a Bentley in mind or the other way around. The Owner must discuss the budget with the Designer and the Captain and determine how much money should be allotted for items such as the interior, paint, generators, etc.   A wish list should be created and future Owners and charter guests should always be factored in to maintain the yacht’s value. All of the experts on the team must be on the same page to determine if everything desired will fit into the budget.

It is what you don’t see that can cause unexpected budgetary issues.  To keep costs from creeping up during a yacht refit, quickly identify any additional costs or delays and address them. Almost anything can be done, it just may cost more time and money.

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 >>