Interior designer Emma Sims-Hilditch on keeping things classic at sea
by As told to David Nicholls
Keep things classic for an elegant boat, say Neptune creative director and interior design Emma Sims-Hilditch...
Two years ago we became the owners of Venator, a classic Sparkman & Stephens Swan 65. Her sister ship [Sayula II] won the first round of the world Whitbread race in 1973. We’ve continued a restoration programme and she recently won the Concours d’Elegance award at a Swan regatta in Italy. She’s an elegant and beautiful family cruising yacht and is also wonderful to race.
Venator has a classic feel, with teak wood down below, contrasted with white ceilings and white painted joinery in the cabins. Upholstery is made to be practical and leather is a favourite, but I prefer linen and cotton fabrics; we have used a herringbone aqua linen from William Yeoward for the seating.
When we were fitting out Venator I made many trips to Rialto Living, an interiors store in Palma, Mallorca. It has a wonderful collection of coastal inspired fabrics, accessories, china and glass, perfect for a boat.
For ultimate yacht luxury, Loro Piana has developed fabrics capitalising on the properties of cashmere and linen. They are perfect for upholstered furniture, bedspreads, cushions and light-blocking drapes that ensure privacy at the dock. I think the best solution for windows is a blackout blind that can be fitted discreetly, ideally canvas and not patterned.
On board a yacht, space is at a premium. A really clever idea I saw on a friend’s boat was a wine cellar under the saloon seating – close to the waterline to maintain a constant temperature.
Unlike interiors on land, a boat has no straight lines, which means it is important to find a simple style that deals with this fluidity. Keeping a limited materials palette is the key to an elegant boat interior.
The 1930s J Class yachts are iconic boats. We were out on the water when five of them, including Velsheda, were racing at Falmouth Week in south-west England and the combination of their classic lines, enormous sails and speed was magnificent.
One of the prettiest superyachts in the world in my eyes is Malahne. I love the way Oliver Laws has created an elegant and sympathetic interior. I want to see inside Nahlin, a historical motor yacht that has been restored and is owned by James Dyson. Built for Lady Annie Henrietta Yule in 1930, she is 91 metres long and in 1936 was chartered by King Edward VIII, with Mrs Simpson.