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Material girl: Interior designer Laura Pomponi talks superyacht textiles

Laura Pomponi has often been touted as one to watch. The Rome-born designer set up her company Luxury Projects Design Studio in 2008, after studying engineering at university and then learning her trade in the world of superyachts working at CRN shipyard in Ancona, Italy. As a child she was taught needlework and embroidery in the atelier of her grandmother, a fashion designer, and it is these artisanal skills combined with her technical knowledge that make her so sought after as an interior designer.

From her Ancona-based studio, Pomponi and her team work across hotel projects, private jets, luxury offices and private villas, as well as superyachts, managing projects from conception through to completion. Pomponi also creates bespoke design products and decorative accessories, from cushions and objets d’art to furniture, at her impressive atelier. The designer likes to inject an element of surprise into all her interior schemes, whether that be using unusual custom-made materials on surfaces or working with an artisan she has met on her travels to create an entirely one-of-a-kind piece.

The studio has worked with shipyards worldwide, such as Amels, Feadship, Palmer Johnson, Jade Yachts, CRN, Benetti and CdM. Past projects include refits of the 90.1 metre Nero at the MB92 shipyard, the 37.3 metre HeesenDestiny, the 43 metre CRN Avant Garde and the 39.4 metre Heesen Lady Azul.

Luxury Projects is the recipient of a number of awards, including two for Destiny and one for Nero at the International Yacht & Aviation Awards 2017, and a judges’ commendation for Performance and Design for Koji (now Primero) at the 2013 Boat International World Superyacht Awards.

Laura Pomponi on textiles

Textiles are part of the whole ambience of the boat; they’re the thing you can touch, and can quickly give a boat a real identity or set it in a particular style. For instance, if you’re looking for an art deco theme there are so many patterns and fabrics that relate to that era. A particular fabric or leather can also provide the inspiration for an entire scheme.

On one of our projects, Talal, the mood board began with a sage brocade that the client and I both loved. We used the fabric on the sofa, but picked up on the tone of the colours elsewhere. We then had a similar pattern on the floor and a bespoke Swarovski chandelier, where the placement of the crystals also mimicked the print. It was the starting point for the entire design scheme.

Personally, I have always been drawn to interesting textiles and I love pattern. My grandmother owned a fashion atelier, so I used to accompany her to the market to select fabrics. I think because of this I’ve never been afraid of experimenting with different colour and texture combinations. I get a lot of inspiration from my travels and also source a lot of materials while I’m away, especially fabrics and leathers. There are some amazing artisans in the world and they are the only people who can do what they do, which results in really unique things; on Koji I worked with a woman who creates beautiful sculptures out of felt.

Most people think textiles can be decided on towards the end of a project, but actually it’s a really key element that needs to be confirmed at the beginning, because the materials can go out of stock, and you’re ordering a lot.

On every project we’re using around 10 or 12 different brands of fabric, from the likes of Jim Thompson, Pierre Frey and Designers Guild. For Nero, we delivered almost 2km of fabric in two weeks, as soon as the client approved. This was a refit project, and obviously textiles are the quickest way to give a boat an instant new style, while also respecting the identity of the yacht.

There is so much innovation happening in textiles at the moment. Materials can be combined in interesting ways. Woven leathers have advanced a lot and you can now weave leathers with satin, with linen, with velvet. If you want a different style you can even weave leather with straw, which can be used on the ceiling, on wall panelling or as a detail on furniture. On Yolo, we used a great material on the wall panels that was very thin strips of leather woven together. There are new techniques that cater for those clients who care more about the environment, too; for instance synthetic leathers have improved a great deal, and a stingray leather effect can now be printed on cow leather for a more eco-friendly solution to shagreen; Foglizzo does this. There is also more available in terms of fabrics for outdoor use, or for a more relaxed yacht life. Pierre Frey has a fabric created by Marcel Boussac that combines linen and elastic; it’s perfect for a sofa on a superyacht as the material is very hardwearing and it doesn’t crease.

We use a lot of wallpaper. I like Phillip Jeffries and Arte, because they are incredible with their research. When we use wallpaper, we have to ensure it’s properly finished. On a boat, it’s different from a house because the edge of the wallpaper is much lower and more visible so you need a design solution to create a seamless finish. We tend to use leather trimming.

I think with textiles, it’s about being creative and pushing boundaries. Once upon a time, people would’ve said you definitely shouldn’t put leather on the floor, for instance, but on Ability (now Shane) and later Koji we used exactly that, in a hardwearing eel leather. I have a leather floor in my own atelier, too, and the more you walk on it the nicer it becomes, like a leather jacket. There are no rules as such, just technicalities to work around.

This article was originally published in the Superyacht Interiors book, order your copy here.

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