Design details: Ewa Eidsgaard on choosing the perfect superyacht accessories
by Tory Kingdon
Seemingly minor details, from decorative objects to door handles to crew uniforms, can play a key role in the overall feel of a yacht, says the Harrison Eidsgaard designer and director
Founded in 2005, Harrison Eidsgaard has quickly risen to become one of the most respected superyacht design studios in the industry. Under the directorship of Ewa Eidsgaard, as well as Peder Eidsgaard and Ben Harrison, it has worked with the likes of Feadship, Heesen, Wally and Lürssen on motor yachts and sail yachts from 40 to 95 metres. The studio has won a number of awards, most recently five Neptune trophies at the 2019 Boat International Design & Innovation Awards: four for the 74.5-metre Abeking & Rasmussen Elandess and one for the 51-metre Heesen Irisha.
In an unconventional path towards superyacht design, Polish-born Ewa Eidsgaard studied finance in Paris before joining Goldman Sachs in 1996, where she worked for nine years as vice president. With a keen interest in art – particularly photography – she later moved her attentions to a career in design. For the last 14 years, she has been involved in the interior decoration of Harrison Eidsgaard’s aviation, residential and yacht projects, which she describes as “the best job in the world”. She is known for injecting soul into her interior projects, ensuring whether at land, in the air or at sea, clients feel very much at home.
Ewa Eidsgaard on accessories and furnishings
“Accessories on a superyacht aren’t necessarily a ‘finishing touch’. For instance, the hardware – doorknobs, cabinet handles and so on – will need to be decided very early on as this is one of the structural pieces of information required by the yard. Very often the selection of hardware influences the design of the cabinets or doors. Boats are very practical in that almost every piece of furniture has an extra storage element and an access panel. If you were to put handles on all of these it would simply be too much, so we’re working out where we need hardware and where we want a touch-and-release mechanism or similar; it becomes part of the architecture of the boat.
Often we’ll create custom handles and knobs. On Tango, for instance, we had beautiful art deco-inspired doorknobs, which we designed and Van Lent executed, first in wood so that we could test the ergonomics and then in stainless steel. In our latest project with Abeking & Rasmussen we worked with The Beardmore Collection and used handles on top of decorative plates to add an extra element of grandeur. There is a lot you can do in terms of embellishments to create different looks.
Soft furnishings and decorative objects will come later in the design process, particularly for things like cushions and throws, as we need to have all of the furniture chosen. If the interior is calm, we might be braver and use accessories as a colour accent. Or the opposite, if the interior is eventful then we try to tone it down. We’ll also use accessories to link furniture. If there is a seating group with different upholstery on each piece, we might introduce cushions to link it all together in a nice ensemble, by co-ordinating fabrics or piping. It’s a fun part of the project, but needless to say there are hundreds of fabrics to choose from so it can be a big job.
Accessories are so important because without them a boat can feel quite cold and impersonal, or like a hotel room. These yachts are homes, so they need to feel that way. Having said that, I try not to over-accessorise a space in order to give clients some room to purchase some of their own things over time. They travel to all these beautiful places and it’s important that they can buy things and bring them on board, and not feel that they’re upsetting the balance because it’s already overly, or very specifically, accessorised.
In terms of decorative objects, we always try to think outside the box and often source things from places that aren’t so well-known. We recently found some really unusual, very beautiful obsidian bowls from a French company called Cub-Ar for a project, as well as some amazing centrepieces from Brazilian artist Regina Medeiros. I sometimes look to Thomas Lyte for custom silverware. We start from scratch every time.
Clients will occasionally want to incorporate their own decorative items – for instance, on Elandess the owners were very art-focused and they had a lot of decorative objects that they wanted to bring on board. We delivered the soft furnishings and the more practical accessories, such as trays and wastepaper baskets, but then we just had to ensure that there were enough places to display the pieces that they had. Luckily we knew in advance so this was accounted for early on in the build.
Accessorising a boat can also include considering things like crew uniform. Owners will often opt for bespoke designs, and there’s a lot to consider in terms of making it stylish and practical, not just for everyday wear but for the fact that staff members can change, so you need something that’s going to flatter all body shapes. The crew’s evening wear in particular is part of the entire setting, so it needs to be a look that works with the interior. It is, of course, all about the details on a superyacht so getting all of these seemingly smaller elements of design right is really key.”