It’s often said that taste is a personal issue, so how can you create a charter yacht that pleases guests with a wide range of preferences? Expert interior designers reveal a few fail-safe tricks to designing the ultimate charter yacht...
Speak to any designer and the sentiment remains the same: superyacht interiors that try to please everyone – both owners and charter guests – can end up pleasing no one.
This can be quite the conundrum for owners, who want to create the boat they’ve always dreamed of – as well as something that sells when they’re not on board. As a result, common pitfalls include compromising on an interior that is just too neutral, or using materials that are too obviously hard-wearing, which can take the luxury edge off the design of the whole project.
The thorny issue of cabin size is a perennial problem for charter superyachts too. A vastly superior master cabin is great for the owner, but if a party of charter guests is looking at a suite of undemocratic cabins, this can be problematic – especially if they are splitting the bill. Clearly, the owner won’t want all the cabins to be the same size, but every cabin needs to have its own unique selling point.
Any owner refitting or designing a superyacht for the charter market needs to also be mindful of the lifestyle trends that are influencing superyacht design, to make sure their boat sings for its supper. The extras are extremely important on a charter yacht – this means a well-stocked toy box with not only the usual jet skis and tenders but paddleboards, kayaks and state-of-the-art dive equipment.
Beyond this, recent developments in superyacht design means that fitness areas, gyms and spas are now as essential as the entertainment areas. A spacious sundeck equipped with sufficient loungers for everyone, a spa pool, a dance floor and large entertainment areas are also a given. Daniela De Marco, head of charter management Europe at Fraser, has noticed that “outdoor cinemas are currently extremely popular, and we are seeing more and more of these incorporated into charter yachts”.
Playing with all these elements is an exciting proposition for superyacht designers. “The client who approaches the world of superyachts for charter expects a unique experience, with maximum service and comfort,” says Francesca Muzio, founder of studio FM Architettura. “So, rather than an aesthetic approach to design, I would take an experiential one. Each space must [help to] create a different experience, which changes throughout the whole day.
“I believe that the world of charter has positively influenced the design of yachts in recent years,” she continues. “Changing the traditional and, I would say, a bit static way of interpreting layouts and styles. In fact, today we almost paradoxically often find ourselves interpreting requests typically made for charter yachts, on private yachts.”
The traditional interior formal dining area, and external informal one, is one set-up that simply isn’t in tune with modern-day superyacht living any longer. Instead, Muzio prioritises a larger number of more flexible spaces where guests can eat and drink.
“This is what happened in the last two projects built by Feadship: Zen and Somnium,” she explains. “We extended the concept of the western kitchen and eastern kitchen by creating dining fusion experiences, with the possibility of growing your own vegetables directly in special hydroponic refrigerators.”
FM Architettura also designs luxury hotels, and this helps inform the design process. Muzio points out that the operation part on a charter yacht should be like a hotel – for example, the pantry and bars should be close to the dining areas. “Even the storage space dedicated to linen and china is decidedly more important than on a private yacht, and so is the space reserved for water toys.”
This issue of space and how it’s used pervades all aspects of design. Muzio stresses the importance of maximisation of cabins on a charter yacht. “Take one of our most recent concepts, Freedom, developed for and with Feadship,” she says. “On this vessel, the garden suite is a surprise element that introduces a deep connection with nature. We have moved all the cabins on to the main deck area and created a connecting element, a garden in between two VIP cabins. Thanks to this element, we are giving the possibility for guests to connect with nature, as well as enjoying a larger cabin when the vessel is not at full occupancy.”
The garden is a cleverly devised lounge space in between the two cabins, with a drop-down balcony that can be open when at anchor. One of the cabins will have a splitable or raisable bed, which can be converted into a sitting area. The cabins will be connected through a sliding wall, and they will share the garfden between them.
As well as cabins, self-care areas are also vying for space on board. “Spas, wellness areas and gyms are a must,” says Laura Pomponi, CEO of Luxury Projects. On Nero, she created a state-of-the-art gym with the latest Technogym equipment and ample full-height storage. Every exercise whim was catered for with loose weights, yoga and Pilates equipment. Pomponi points out “we converted the existing gym into a beauty salon with a multifunctional total body treatment chair, enabling the onboard beautician to offer manicures, pedicures, hair treatments and massages. Massage treatments can also be offered in the seventh guest cabin, where the team conceived an extremely comfortable sofa, creating a space that can be converted in three different ways: lounge area with sofa, extra guest cabin or massage room.”
Pomponi has also cleverly devised a pantry that converts into a guest bathroom and a saloon with a convertible sofa bed that becomes a cabin on 43-metre Polaris, as well as an upper deck lounge which can convert into a full-beam VIP cabin on a 47-metre Feadship project.
For her, art, light and detailing are the perfect ways to personalise a charter yacht design. “The basic design remains calm, meaning floors, walls and ceilings are made of materials and colours that are easy on the eye,” she says, and it makes sense to be a bit bolder here, given these items can easily be swapped out to suit differing tastes and create different moods.
Pomponi and her in-house lighting design manager Enzo Treviglio also create bespoke light features together: from lighting systems and special technical ceiling devices (mainly made using invisible, indirect lighting sources), through to custom-made light sculptures and decorative lights, they help to create engaging and unique atmospheres on their yachts to add a point of difference.
“I believe there should be no design compromise,” says Ramon Alonso, founder of Miami-based architecture and design studio Radyca. “When talking about superyachts, the level of expectation of a refined charter client is as high as the owner’s.”
In Alonso’s view, there are some essentials that all superyachts need. These include “good and silent zero-speed stabilizers and a redundancy of all main operating systems.” He also stresses the need for a reliable and powerful Wi-Fi network, and the post-pandemic need for remote-working areas, for owners and guests alike.
For him, charter yacht design is about simple, pure luxury. “The key is finding the right balance and contrast between the elements. We tend to use natural stones, woods, leathers, and glass, and play with their different tones and textures to achieve a warm, neutral simplicity throughout. We then incorporate the use of colour for some details, and a carefully curated selection of art and accessories to personalise each space.”
His work on Laurentia, which wasn’t originally intended to be a charter vessel, shows that what an owner wants is very often want a charter guest wants as well. “We included features such as the outdoor cinema, leather and suede panelling throughout, multiplex awnings and ample tenders and toys among many others. Ultimately the owners decided to offer it for charter, and it has had outstanding performance and reviews among the most demanding charterers, while the vessel is still in a pristine condition.”
The new wave of yachts that has been successful on the charter market recently show that clients are buying into a more fluid way of living – no mean feat. From a distinctive design, through to spaces that house a vast array of activities, there is no doubt that the charter yacht interior represents the ultimate design challenge. Get it right, however, and the bookings speak for themselves.
First published in the April 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issueSHOP NOW