Illusion V: a relaxed and stylish family home at sea
by Stewart Campbell
Pitted travertine walls, coconut furniture, leather roses, even a stingray staircase feature in the unique aesthetic of the 58 metre Benetti superyacht Illusion V. Yet thanks to designers Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli, she is a relaxed home for a young family as well as a statement of style.
When we first step aboard Illusion V, Lady Tina Green is about to burst with excitement: “I’m like a child. I just want to jump up and down,” she says, ushering us proudly around the yacht. Illusion V was designed inside and out by Tina Green and her business partner Pietro Mingarelli and the pair had spent the last two weeks camped in a chase boat at Benetti’s Livorno facility, urging the build along to make sure everything was completed in time for the show.
Photography by Mike Burns Photography
“You should have seen her two weeks ago – there was still so much work to do,” Tina Green says, buzzing. “Everyone said it couldn’t be done.” I’m tempted to suggest we sit for a while and take it easy in one of the comfortable lounges on board, but this is Monaco and we have to hustle. And anyway, Lady G, as she’s affectionately known, is in no mood for sitting. “Let’s go,” she says. “You have to see this!”
Illusion V’s experienced owner has an enviable track record, having started out with a couple of Mangustas – a 72 and 92 – before he switched yards with an ISA 120. So far, so sporty. But when he started a family, he thought about going bigger because space on board had become a priority. He found it on his last boat, also called Illusion, a half-built 45.6 metre Benetti that Green & Mingarelli Design(G&M) adapted before its launch in 2010. “He bought that boat halfway through its build, so it wasn’t 100 per cent us,” Tina Green says. “This,” she adds, sweeping an arm around the spacious main deck saloon, “is 100 per cent us.”
Illusion V's rose theme and details
The exterior style is a fusion. There’s some Bali in there, as seen with the use of coconut and mother of pearl on the external furniture, a hint of ancient Rome in the copious use of travertine and even some Thai, evident in the pen shell ornaments and wooden Buddhas. But the central theme – the symbol most prevalent – is the simple rose. Whether embossed, engraved or embroidered the motif is unavoidable, with details of the flower evident in everything from cushions to carpets, walls to windows.
“The owner saw what Pietro and I have done with Lalique Maison, and how we had used the rose motif,” explains Lady Tina Green, “and he liked it so much he wanted us to make it the major theme on his boat.” As well as working on yachts and houses, Green and Mingarelli also design and produce a collection of furniture and accessories that make up the lifestyle arm of Lalique, most famous for its glass and crystals. No fewer than 480 crystals are used on Illusion V, in the floor, ceilings and walls – all carrying the rose.
You’d think the design might become repetitive but the duo have cleverly avoided monotony by playing with the shape as much as possible. For example, cushions are covered in scattered petals, while the staircase features leather walls embossed with the full three-dimensional beaded flowers. It’s like this on all Lady Tina Green’s yachts: they start with a single theme, whether a flower or, in the case of a 65 metre she designed recently, an antique woodcarving picked off the floor of a market in northern Thailand.
Comfortable living at sea
The other thing that strikes you about her designs, particularly Illusion V, is how comfortable they are, probably a consequence of Tina Green living on a yacht up to six months a year. Thanks to this lifestyle, she knows what works and what doesn’t. Small wonder clients trust her judgement.
It’s a measure of this client’s confidence in Green and Mingarelli that he didn’t visit the yard once during the build. “I saw the boat for the first time this weekend,” he tells me. “They did an amazing job. When my wife and I met with the designers originally, we told them how we wanted the yacht to feel. I didn’t want lounges where you were too scared to sit on the sofa, I wanted to feel at home. They managed to pull it all together plus our requests for certain colours and a certain vibe – casual and relaxed.
“It’s a superyacht and supposed to be luxury and high-end, but we’re quite young with a young family and don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t go anywhere [on board].”
A great example of this “comfort max” ethos is the TV area leading into the main-deck master suite. Usually this would be a study or an office, but that would just be wasted space, the owner felt. “Nowadays you’ve got laptops, iPads, your phone. The world we live in doesn’t require you to sit for hours on end behind a desk with a computer on it. So we turned it into a room we might actually use; where the kids can come in in the morning and jump on the sofa and watch TV. So they’re in the owner’s area, but, you know, not on your bed!”
Guests get treated well, too, since it was important that Illusion V had a successful charter career. The big VIP cabin is on the lower deck, occupying the full beam of the boat and has the only bathroom outside the owner’s with the full white-onyx treatment. Four roomy guest cabins sit in front of it: two doubles and two twins (the twins could almost be doubles, so wide are the beds). Discreet but voluminous storage is in all cabins: “One thing we’re very known for is our hidden cupboards,” Tina Green says.
All the requisite A/V is tucked neatly away in the guest suites. “You need your big media, you want your remotes to do everything, you want enough plugs to charge your phones, you want your Apple TV,” the owner tells me. “It’s all got to be there but you don’t want it in your face.” Unless, that is, you do. The spiral staircase leads to another area that will have the charter market frothing: a cinema room with sofas so deep they’re writing poetry.
Designed for entertaining
The upper deck is where the after-dinner action will take place. There’s an option to turn the area into another large cinema space, with a big screen that rises out of a sideboard, although people are more likely to cluster around the bar – one of five on board.
“There are a lot of bars,” the owner admits. “That doesn’t make me an alcoholic – it tells a story. Bars are a focal point and on my last Illusion we didn’t have as many. You know, this is my house when I’m on it and I love to mix my own drinks. I don’t want to be waited on constantly and it’s great to be able to go behind the bar and just grab a drink.”
If the party ends in the upper deck lounge, it starts up top. The sundeck of Illusion V is spectacular, offering clear uninterrupted views from the rear sunloungers to the raised foredeck spa pool. Better still, it’s all on a single level and incredibly versatile. In the middle of the deck is a dining area that seats 12. Clear doors fore and aft can be opened or closed depending on the wind, making this a year-round, all-weather dining space. Forward is another bar, panelled in matt coconut and embellished with travertine – while the chairs in front of it, also made from coconut, are highly lacquered with mother of pearl inlays, “for that feeling of luxury”, explains Tina Green. As with all the external spaces, the plants up here offer a contrast to the warm beige palette and give life to the decks.
However, none of this cosmetic detail makes it onto the foredeck, which has been left clear. “I’ve never understood why people use that space right in front of the bridge for sunbathing. Why do you want to lie in front of the crew?” the owner asks. “It’s also nice for the crew to have a spot to go and grab fresh air. But if we wanted to use it for a barbecue in the evenings we can do that, or put some mats, even equipment, out for morning exercise, or set up a paddling pool for the kids. It’s a massive, open, transformable area, not a fixed space that becomes totally non-versatile.”
Attention to materials
The textures and materials throughout the yacht are something of a G&M speciality. All the exterior dining chairs are made of coconut and mother of pearl, with chenille fabrics, for instance. “No one else is doing this,” she says. “We made coconut sophisticated!” All the loose exterior furniture was made in Bali, and Green and Mingarelli posted their own experts there to lacquer it. Elsewhere, parchment – goat skin to the uninitiated – is used to give depth and texture to coffee tables, including the enormous one in the main deck saloon while shagreen (stingray skin) is used on the upper deck side tables, coffee table and panellings on some of the fixed furniture.
“Tina and Pietro have been all over the world finding this stuff,” the owner says. “The skill is that they don’t go and buy out of a catalogue. I go on some boats and I can tell you where most of the furniture comes from: the same catalogues, the same places. [G&M] build, buy and create specific products that you’ll never see anywhere other than on the yacht they’re working on. It’s nice to be unique.”
Stable and quiet performance
This focus on design is fine so long as the boat works. The owner admits he is highly sensitive to movement and noise: “Honestly, I’d rather be on land! So it’s important the boat is incredibly stable and quiet. When I got on board yesterday, I said to the captain the boat was listing two degrees to the right. He came back and said, ‘Yep, it’s listing two degrees to the right.’ We’ve had lots of people working with Benetti to make sure the boat runs smoothly, quietly and with no vibrations. All these technical things have been completed to a different standard than before.
“And I don’t want to hear generators. We can sit at anchor in Greece for two months without going into a port, with the generators running constantly. So any vibration or noise, or smoke or smell was something that I wanted Benetti to concentrate on specifically. We managed to get the generators built on special blocks, so that we shouldn’t be able to hear or feel them at all.”
With the boat sitting at the show, it’s hard for me to gauge how successful Benetti has been in this regard, but following successful sea trials, it obviously went well, and she is now heading off to the Caribbean, where the owner will join the boat with his family for Thanksgiving. After that, she’ll head back to Europe for the Monaco Grand Prix. “That’s the plan, anyway,” the owner says, estimating he spends about three months a year on board.
Given that amount of boat-time, it’s understandable that he wants something supremely quiet and supremely comfortable. We can confirm that at least the latter has been achieved – and with aplomb. “Love, passion and comfort” is how Lady Tina Green sums up the boat when we ask her to provide a neat soundbite. When I tell this to the owner the next day, he laughs and confirms: “Yeah, love – lots of love. It’s our home.”
Photography by Mike Burns Photography
Superyacht Illusion V specs
Displacement (half-load): 800 tonnes
Gross Tonnage: 963GT
Engines: 2 x Caterpillar 3512C, 1,380kW @ 1,600 rpm
Speed (Max/Cruise): 15.5 knots/15 knots
Range: 5,000nm @ 15 knots
Owner and guests: 12
Tender: 1 x 7.5m Dariel
Construction: Steel hull/aluminium superstructure
Naval architecture and exterior styling: Benetti/Green & Mingarelli Design
Interior design: Green & Mingarelli Design
For charter: Camper & Nicholsons International