Importance of texture in yacht interior design

21 January 2015 • Written by Louis Postel
Woven leather furniture used aboard the yacht Darlings Danama.

Yacht owners are making it known to their interior designers that texture more than counts – it rules. The rewards of a beautiful hand, the richness it adds to the yachting experience, are nevertheless subtle, easier to feel than see. A third skin of fine textures layered around one’s second skin is beginning to define the luxury yacht experience. Marshalling all of one’s resources to create a ‘wow’ visual first impression is fast becoming secondary.

How are megayacht designers rising to the challenge of interpreting this new notion of luxury? Regardless of what people are wearing as their second skin – a Valentino suit or a Speedo and towel – the design of the third skin enveloping them must simultaneously flatter, delight, energize and soothe all on board.

Manufacturers are responding to this complex challenge, as well. They are now offering designers a cornucopia of custom silks and chenilles, velvets and cottons, cashmeres, linens and leathers, wools, speciality indoor/outdoor synthetics, warm woods and veneers, along with matte-finished or otherwise roughed-up marbles and granite.

The handrails aboard the yacht Arianna add dimension as well as texture to otherwise simple furnishings and fixtures.

One of the epicentres of the texture trend is Italy, where the artisan work around fabric, stone and leather has been refined for centuries. There, we spoke with two leading megayacht designers, Stefano Pastrovich near Genoa and Antonio Romano, a partner in the Hot Lab Yacht & Design studio in Milan.

'Texture is one of the things that can transform a boat in five seconds. It is very simple, just some cutting and gluing,' says Pastrovich. His work on the refit of the 50m motor yacht Mystere and Xvintage, a 100m concept developed with Fincantieri, are two recent yacht projects where he feels the understated magic of texture is most pronounced.

'Not only can texture transform a yachting experience overnightat least where ceilings are concerned, painting is a far more expensive option than using textiles,' explains Pastrovich. 'With textiles it is much easier to hide the joints between panels.'

As though for emphasis, a rising tide of textile samples from the many of the world-class mills nearby appears ready to engulf Pastrovich at his desk there and then.

'Fabric is a particularly critical factor on furniture. While in your house, you at least have your shirt on; while on the boat can have next to nothing. One needs to consider how the fabric contacts the body directly. Peeling oneself off leather or a glossy hard-finished chair can feel uncomfortably sticky,' says Pastrovich.

'Stone floors can feel cold and gummy on bare feet as well. If you tour Mystere at Monaco, you can feel how we broke up the marble so its surface is not completely smooth. Then we brushed it with sand. When you walk on it barefooted you feel like you are still on the beach.'

This stateroom of a 28m yacht designed by Hot Lab uses various textured materials.
Texture surfaces in the Darlings Danama yacht add interest to plain decorations.

‘The preciousness of the glazed fish leather we have been using is a good example. Only when you run your hand over this leather can you appreciate its uniqueness, its sensuousness,’ says Romano. ‘The same holds true with the Macassar ebony on the ceiling of another project – there is an arrowing quality to the veneer that guests can easily miss the first time, but when they finally discover it, they become enthralled.

‘The 45m we are working on at RMK Marine in Turkey weaves together at least 20 different tones and textures, all very light and smooth: polished silver leaf on the mullions in the salon and dining area will complement the anigre veneers and white cashmere upholstery. LEDs will backlight the mullions at night to bring out the texture even more.

‘The side cabinets will have white leather tops edged with blue stitching, like a sports car. There are no handles on the cabinets. Instead, braided leather covers the drawer faces making them easy to grasp and pull out.

‘The coffee table will be in mother of pearl with an ebony centre. Its top can be lifted to reveal glasses and champagne chilling in an ice bucket. Really, we should call it a champagne table or mini-wet bar, not a coffee table at all.

‘All this rests on a parquet floor tinted through and through (not stained!) platinum grey and a tufted wool carpet detailed with an aerial view of Milan.

‘Our clients aren’t just asking for light or dark and that’s it. They are looking for a level of detail that becomes increasingly apparent the closer they get,’ adds Romano.

While the level of textural detail he describes is not readily apparent to the naked eye, it is mainly non-existent in the publicity photos floating in the back eddies of the Internet dedicated to yacht design. No matter. Leading designers such as Pastrovich and Romano have the courage to risk forgoing the photogenic wow visual in order to deliver the refinements their clients actually want.

Their designs for salons, staterooms and decks constitute a third skin for people inclined to change their second skin many times a day – from beachwear to crepe suits that flow with the body. Have these designers succeeded so far? To quote the salesman from menswear, just ‘feel the hand’.

ShowBoats International October 2012

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