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7 How to design superyacht interiors for children
Designing interiors for children
Some years ago, a client with four small, active children approached Hargrave Custom Yachts to design a 19.8 metre Monte Fino motor yacht. The owner asked the build team to incorporate an aft deck enclosure much like a batters’ cage that would keep his children safely ‘contained’.
Aboard for the first time, the owner surveyed the enclosure, asked if it was strong enough, and then proceeded to launch his 210-pound frame against the screen blocking the steps to the swim platform. As he bounced back he concluded, ‘That’ll do.’ During the demonstration his five year-old had set off to explore the interior. Within 30 seconds the port engine fired up. Without missing a beat the owner muttered, ‘We’ll have to do something about the bridge, too.’
Anyone who has young children understands the patience necessary to venture out to something as innocuous as a grocery store with them in tow. The thought of bringing them aboard a moving vessel might seem completely impossible. Yet, before you change your lifestyle, know that it’s feasible to take small children cruising safely and without losing sanity. If you're considering biulding a new yacht, or even just a family-friendly charter, here's our essential guide to designing superyacht interiors for children...
Consider your vessel type
Vessel type plays an important role in the design consideration. Sailing yachts, with their open decks and tendency to heel, might provoke the most trepidation for parents, yet today’s emphasis on safety and comfort in every area of the design and build makes sailing yachts an increasingly popular choice for families, especially those who want their children to experience nature up close and personal.
The 2001 Abeking & Rasmussen Alithia (pictured) was built for a first-time owner who wanted to take his family – five children ranging in age from 5 to 14 – on a two-year circumnavigation. Every detail was carefully calculated for this purpose in this high-performance sloop. She featured a lightweight Alustar hull designed by Bill Tripp whose long waterline afforded not only a stable platform, but good response and manoeuvrability.
Winch Design designed the interior of Alithia to house a maximum of 18 people, including the family, two teachers, security personnel, the crew and two occasional guests. The children were housed aft in a five-berth stateroom that included a large worktable and six computer workstations.
Flexibility is key
The 42.7 metre carbon fibre sloop Sarissa is another of Bill Tripp’s designs and her interior by Rhoades Young Design, also specifically accommodates children. Sarissa’s family-friendly interior features a pirate-themed bunk cabin for the children (pictured), which adjoins a nanny cabin through a shared bathroom.
The owners also opted for an open plan galley/dining area connected with the lower salon to create one large living space for the entire family. The recessed aft cockpit is directly accessible from the owners’ cabin and converts to a paddling pool for the kids.
However, if you're debating between motor and sailing yachts, the high bulwarks, wide side decks and enclosed interiors of a motor yacht make this a popular choice for cruising with children. The interior spaces are easier to adjust than a sailing yacht and the deck areas can be configured so as to create child-friendly play spaces.
Consider children at all stages of design
When kids are considered at the design stage for motor yachts, all manner of features can be incorporated, from playrooms to theatre and game rooms, pools with waterslides, to kid-sized tables, desks and chairs.
Many of Hargrave Custom Yachts’ clients are families, with a significant percentage of their yachts designed for private – versus charter – use. Aboard many of its builds, Hargrave has incorporated pocket doors or gates at stairwells that match the wood grain of the interior to look like a cabinet door when opened. Aboard the 41.5 metre motor yacht Dreamer, Hargrave configured one of the VIP suites to include a children’s room with railed bunk beds in the position normally occupied by a walk-in closet.
The en suite also features a door for nanny and/or crew access. Many of Hargrave’s owners have also opted to incorporate children’s rooms into the master suites in lieu of his-and-hers baths.
If you can't customise, think creatively
If you're not building from scratch and can't customise the design, successfully integrating children into the yacht’s daily life becomes more of an emphasis and is, in fact, one of the main reasons for bringing children aboard in the first place.
Such was the story of the 50 metre Perini Navi Perseus (now Silencio) whose owners purchased her with the intention of travelling around the world with their two children, aged three and six. Jonathan Kline, a yacht captain and former educator was hired to oversee the completion of the build and upon delivery, served as the children’s tutor during the travels.
Without the opportunity to incorporate child-friendly features into the build, Kline worked to transform the Perini into an overall classroom experience for the children. The wide side decks, high bulwarks and lifelines on the Perini worked well, as did the enclosed flybridge. Zone separation kept the children safely confined to the sunken aft cockpit in rough conditions.
Kline transformed the owners’ main-deck office into a formal classroom equipped with a video monitor and white board. The children would report, in uniform, to the ‘classroom’ each morning and hands-on lessons held on shore or elsewhere on the boat would continue in the afternoon. Over the years, the children became more involved in the crew activities; the older boy became part of the watch system and both learned to drive the 3 metre Zodiac tender. Swimming, diving and seamanship skills became second nature to them.
Don't forget about the crew
As the Perseus story shows, crew is a huge part of the success of extended cruising with young children. Designing flexible crew and/or staff accommodation space should also be part of the discussion. An owner might not want a crew or staff member who is looking after a child to constantly be in the owner’s area, for example.
Designing a playroom into the layout as a bridge between crew spaces and accommodations may provide the necessary middle ground in the same way that many galleys are now being designed with an owner’s area or breakfast bar corner to provide a comfortable physical conduit between the owners and the chef.
Safety is key
Safety is by far the biggest consideration when bringing children on board, no matter the size or type of yacht. Plexiglass inserts in open staircase railings, locks, gates and surveillance equipment can easily be incorporated. Pay attention to furniture design avoiding items with sharp edges, incorporate low-level hand holds where possible. Just as with yachts designed for handicap access, the clips that keep doors pinned open have to be strategically placed. Electric door openers (and elevators) will need a lockout to keep children from letting themselves out on deck unobserved.
Likewise, the infrared beams that keep an automatic door from closing on someone standing in the doorway need to be set low enough to detect a little person – the same goes for people who travel with pets.
Consider window heights and porthole placement if possible to make sure kids have a way to daydream looking out the window without having to climb on something unsuitable. Window seats can be the perfect design solution.
This article first appeared in Megayachts Volume 13.