Iconic interiors: Superyacht designs that made waves


1921, Great Lakes Engineering Works

What makes an icon? When it comes to yacht interiors, it might not always be what you’d expect. There are the obvious head-turners and there are the yachts that stand the test of time. Among all these we find the rare icons, the ones that set the bar, that broke the mould, that tested new ground. Some of these hold up today, while some we look back on with a what-were-they-thinking arch of an eyebrow, but there is no denying they define an era. From glamorous to garish and daring to boldly discreet, each of these yachts is a symbol of their time.


Built for automobile pioneer Horace Dodge and named after his daughter, Delphine was America’s largest steamship yacht, at 78.5 metres. She defined early 1920s glamour, with a smoking lounge and a pipe organ for entertainment in an interior that made her suitable as the flagship for Admiral Ernest King, commander in chief of the US Fleet during the Second World War.

Delphine is also an icon of restoration. She caught fire and sank in New York in 1926 and the family salvaged and restored her to as-new condition. She then ran aground in 1940 and was repaired. Finally, in 1997, she was sold for scrap and underwent a six-year, $60 million restoration, pictured here. Today she’s the only yacht of the era with her original steam engines in service.


1930, Krupp Germaniawerft

Image courtesy of David Churchill

Talitha is a 82.6 metre motor yacht, designed by Cox & Stevens, and has had many owners and many lives. After she was purchased by Paul Getty in 1988, a full refit was undertaken at Devonport Yachts in 1993, led by the legendary Jon Bannenberg, and updated in 2009.

He was inspired by the original art deco interior, and his refit aimed to recreate elements of it while bringing her into modernity. What makes Talitha really stand out is the painstaking recreation of original parts with modern functions such as her on board telephones.

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Krupp Germaniawerft   82.6 m •   1930

Honey Fitz

1931, Defoe

Photo courtesy of the John F Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

Although commissioned and launched as a private yacht for financier Sewel Avery in the 1930s, it was her rebirth as the US presidential yacht that made her name. She served five presidents – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, making her the longest serving US Presidential yacht – but was best regarded for the time she served President Kennedy, who renamed her Honey Fitz after his grandfather.

The 28.35 metre yacht took interiors to a new level in the early 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helmed her refit (pictured). Mid-century furnishings and details were added to suit a family – and president – at sea, including a colour TV in the saloon. Her current refit, carried out by Moores Marine, upholds this mid-century styling.


1973, Burger Boat

She was designed by Jack Hargrave for Ogden Phipps, the owner/breeder of a string of famous thoroughbreds including Buckpasser, the boat’s original name. A true style icon of the Seventies, Buckpasser featured avocado green carpets and bedspreads that matched the wallpaper.

Later updated by American celebrity Frances Langford under the name Chanticleer, the yacht was then used to transport her and husband Ralph Evinrude (the outboard engine king) between their Canadian summer home and Florida.

During her ownership Chanticleer was redecorated in shades of pink, given a cockpit for fishing and the three small round portholes lighting the passage to the forward dining room were converted into vertical ovals – a shape now the norm but then very much ahead of its time.

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Hitachi   37 m •   1985

Coral Ocean

1994, Lürssen

A design ethos of understated beauty is what made this 72.5 metre yacht, launched as Coral Island, stand out. Interiors were by Jon Bannenberg to an owner’s brief that specifically forbade opulent marble, gold or bling.

Coral Ocean is credited as one of the first yachts to have this “casual elegant” motif, which is highlighted by myriad tribal details and African art and distressed furniture surfaces. It also featured a two-level master suite with a walk-in shower that begins on one deck and ends on another. While Coral Island was seen by only a handful of people until recently, enough details leaked out over the years to influence others in the style that has become today’s “beach chic”.

Maltese Falcon

2006, Perini Navi

Photo by Rupert Peace

Ahead of her time in myriad ways, 88 metre sailing yacht Maltese Falcon has an industrial-chic interior that matches the high-tech appeal of her stunning FalconRig. It was designed by Ken Freivokh around her original owner Tom Perkins’ modern art collection, with heavy use of leather, glass, wood and steel that gave an edgy yet smart atmosphere.

Rather than hide the bases of the three masts behind walls and cabinets, Freivokh boldly makes them part of the décor, a technique repeated in other mega-sailers, such as Aquijo.

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Perini Navi   88 m •   2006

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Sea Force One

2008, Mariotti Yachts

Most yachts feature works of art, but then you have 53.8 metre Sea Force One, of which the entire interior seems to be an immersive art experience with modern works and light installations at every turn.

Even a decade after her launch, she still sets the bar in terms of art-heavy – and certainly unique – interiors. It might not be surprising that she also makes an ultimate party yacht, which was also part of the brief. This bold atmosphere, with lots of lighting and AV effects, heavily influenced future yachts such as Solandge.

Sycara IV

2009, Burger

This award-winning 46 metre represents the best of the trend in “modern classics” – reimagining the elegance of 1920s yachting with the technology of today and an affection for the long, low profile, fantail stern and external brightwork associated with classic yachts.

Is there anything as charming as a fantail stern with overhanging deck above, as witnessed as recently as 2017 with the launch of Soprano? Sycara IV has been sold and renamed Nadan.

The interior of Sycara IV, by Ken Freivokh, is a nod to this bygone era, warmed by madrona burl wall panels with inlaid macassar ebony. Family-style cruising yachts of this compact size have been a recurring theme since the 2008’s global financial crisis.


2010, Perini Navi

56 metre sailing yacht Panthalassa showcased a remarkable interior by Foster & Partners with flowing, highly architecturally inspired shapes and furnishings.

She also showcased an abundant use of glass and a showstopper of a central oval staircase that connects all three decks. Perhaps the biggest impact with this interior is that it opened up the builder to working with outside architects, such as the famed Norman Foster, who tugged the GA into new usefulness.

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Perini Navi   56 m •   2010


2015, Feadship

Yachting design newcomer CG Design was able to bring fresh eyes to 83.5 metre Savannah, creating an unusual layout with immense dimensions and an open main deck surrounded by sliding curved glass, leading to the pool on the same level.

In fact, everything on this boat is curved – except the plumb bow. She’s equally ground-breaking for her cosier spaces, such as the Nemo room, that connects guests to the sea, and for a spectacular catwalk connecting two saloons on her upper deck.

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Feadship   83.5 m •   2015

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Feadship   83.5 m •   12 guests • Price from €1,000,000 p/w

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