Refit guide: Top tips for a quick superyacht refit

Whether buying a second-hand yacht or looking to refresh the interior of an existing one, few owners want to undergo a lengthy refit process. “Usually we’ll get an order in January, and the owners want to be back on the water by June, if not Easter,” says Francesca Muzio, of Italian design studio FM Architettura d’Interni. When speed is a priority, it’s always a challenge for designers and shipyards. “A refit is no less involved than a new-build project,” says yacht designer Sam Sorgiovanni. “You have to understand what’s there and how to work with it before you start on design solutions.” You also have to retain “the soul of the boat”, says Laura Pomponi, of Luxury Projects. You don’t want to strip everything out and be left with something unrecognisable. So how does one overhaul a yacht interior, within a limited timescale, without affecting the boat’s overall character? Read these seven rules to find out...

Look at the basics

“Never underestimate how much of an impact adding in new fabrics and loose furniture has on the feel of a boat,” says Charlie Baker of RWD. “When you board a yacht after a refresh, you realise how tough the impact of salt and sunlight really are.” When time is short, you’ll need soft furnishings and fabric options available at short notice, but, says Pomponi, “designers are often strategic in only showing these options to clients”. New artworks and decorative accessories are an easy addition too. “They’re an instantly impactful way to add a personal touch.”

Image courtesy of Billy Black.

Avoid major structural changes

If speed is your priority in a refit, avoid altering major structures such as steel bulkheads, which lead to engineers and possibly classification organisations and a lengthier process. If structural changes are compulsory, “planning is paramount”, says Baker. “On Ilona [pictured], which went through fairly major changes last year, the work in the yard was done quickly but the planning and preparation was done well in advance to minimise the time the boat was out of action.”

Play with light

Lighting tech has come a long way, and modernising systems can enhance the feel of a yacht. “If there are halogen spots, introducing LED technology, string lights and multiple dimmable circuits can create a totally different ambience,” says Pomponi. Baker adds that one should also consider updating the flow of natural light. “Window treatments can make a room feel completely different. How a sheer curtain or blind reacts with light through a porthole or window can soften a formerly stark room,” he says.

Image courtesy of Billy Black.

Work with what you have

“Furniture and joinery can be retained but modernised,” says Pomponi. “A high-gloss dark panel could be treated with a multi-step varnish removal and lime-washing process, for instance, and brass fittings or hardware can be turned into silver or chrome. On the refit of Nero [pictured], we used a product that gave an aged patina look to the portholes for a new look.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Pearce.

Adapt, don’t alter

A smart designer will look at adapting existing elements rather than stripping them out. Muzio references a past project, where mother-of-pearl veneers were used throughout, to the dismay of the owner. “Re-veneering is a big job, but we found a way to cover the panels with leather instead.” One can also look at adapting how spaces are used. “Refits often involved modernising a boat to focus more on a more relevant lifestyle. In the past we have turned a library into a corner for amenities for the spa.”

Image courtesy of Billy Black.

Work with the right team

According to Baker, a dedicated owner’s rep is essential on any project. “They can make all the difference to a project running smoothly and efficiently.” And Sorgiovanni says choosing a yard with experience in refits is also vital. “Things can go wrong if you work with a second-tier yard. I would always recommend using some of the traders that built the vessel in the first place.”

Image courtesy of Billy Black.

Look at the technology

Nothing moves faster than tech, and it’s not unusual to find systems significantly out of date. Replacing televisions or speakers is easy, but if you’re looking to update the systems entirely, Baker recommends using a specialist audiovisual and tech consultant. “As well as ensuring you have something that meets your requirements now, they’ll ensure a system can be put in place with added flexibility, so your yacht can also be ready for the next gen of tech when the time comes.”

Image courtesy of Mike Jones / WATERLINE MEDIA.

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