benetti oasis 34m main deck interior view

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Credit: Karyn Millet

Four North American designers bringing a fresh perspective to yachting

19 March 2024 • Written by Rachel Ingram

From Miami to Toronto, stars from architecture, residential and commercial design are cutting their teeth in yachting. Rachel Ingram meets a few of these wave-makers redefining the landscape…

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Carla Guilhem Design

Florida-based designer Carla Guilhem developed a passion for interior design while growing up in Brazil with her family, who owned a furniture business. She studied architecture and interior design and lived in Italy and Spain before settling in the US where she cut her teeth on residential projects in New York and the Hamptons. Guilhem founded her eponymous design studio in 2012, headquartering the business in Miami: “a nexus of cultural and design influences that resonate with my ethos.”

Her foray into yachting came through a client who asked her to design the interior of custom motor yacht Lady Lene. Her brief was to create a home at sea for three generations of the family, and in the end the yacht won the 2023 BOAT International Design & Innovation Award for Best Interior. The award was “a milestone that cemented our studio’s reputation in the industry,” she recalls.

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The studio is currently engaged with several new yacht builds across Europe, most notably Project 111.11, a “ground-breaking” 34.1-metre yacht under construction at the Van der Valk Shipyard in the Netherlands. “The interiors are crafted to transcend our current understanding of forms and spaces,” Guilhem says. 

“Combining classic and futuristic lines,  the design immerses the owner and his guests in a sensation of outer space, integrating imaginary organic forms throughout. Flowing curves and seamless transitions create an otherworldly experience that harmonises with the natural elements of the sea. A monochrome and earthy colour palette further enhances the celestial ambience.”

Read More/Van der Valk begins construction on 34m custom motor yacht Project 111.11

Guilhem claims not to adhere to a specific signature style, believing that the studio’s USP is its ability to “draw out and integrate our clients’ specific tastes into a design that is both timeless and deeply personal.” While each project is unique, she has observed a pivot toward designs filled with elements that serve a clear purpose, and for beauty that’s “matched with utility.”

She adds, “There is also a prevailing demand for creating interiors that serve as sanctuaries at sea. Our designs are increasingly focused on fostering this connection, creating environments that are restorative and peaceful.”

Bonesteel Trout Hall

Michele Trout
Credit: Jeffery Holt

California studio Bonesteel Trout Hall was founded 20 years ago by partners Heidi Bonesteel, Michele Trout and Jill Hall, all of whom were born and raised in the Golden State. From their offices in Pacific Palisades and Newport Beach, they offer “Southern California flair of laid-back glamour.”

The design leads are Bonesteel, who previously worked with builders and designers in Los Angeles, and Trout, who cut her teeth in hospitality and luxury hotels. The duo claims to have no signature design and instead choose to adopt a personal and versatile approach each time.

“We integrate our clients’ taste, respecting the architectural integrity of each property and ultimately, try to pioneer our clients into a modern realm beyond their wildest dreams,” they say. “This chameleon-like approach yields a diverse body of work, resulting in everything from a sprawling French Normandy manor rooted in tradition to an avant garde New York pied-à-terre apartment.”

Heidi Bonesteel
Credit: Jeffery Holt

The studio’s key focus is residential, but it recently dipped a toe into yachting, designing the interior of the 55-metre Amels Nomad. The owner, a repeat client, brought them on midway through the construction.

“We were eager to take on something completely new, working with the family to create something with function in mind but also transforming their idea of what a yacht could look like,” they say. “The family really wanted their yacht to represent their native California upbringing so we infused functional pieces with a contemporary yet casual California look. The hull colour, a vibrant royal blue, informed the colour palette — we used that as a jumping off point and brought in citrus yellow as a nod to their sunny southern California lifestyle.”

Read More/Inside the adventures of 55m Amels Nomad in the Baja Peninsula
Credit: Karyn Millet

Their go-to brands include Christian Liaigre Furniture — “their pieces are timelessly contemporary with subtle nautical details” — and DEDON for outdoor furniture — “their work gives a highly modern look with an ergonomic comfort that no client can resist.” For Nomad, they also pulled pieces from Summit, citing the brand’s “highly functional” products with “classic California depth and comfort.”

The designers have seen trends in yacht and residential design merging. “Clients are pushing for organic forms, whether it’s nesting pebble coffee tables or curved sofas. Additionally, they’re looking for a more intentional and subtle use of colour. Clients want designers to celebrate the natural landscape rather than compete with it.”

Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture

Credit: Thomas Loof

New York City-based architecture and design firm Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture was founded at the turn of the millennium by Italian and British architects Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski. The pair met in the mid-1990s while working for American architect Peter Marino and quickly bonded. “We opened our own office in 2000 when we had the chance to design a large apartment for fashion designer Donna Karan,” Bonetti says. “Since then, we split our work between high-end residential and high-end retail, designing flagship stores for different brands.”

The studio, which has also worked on numerous hospitality projects, is renowned for its minimalist style. “Our goal is first of all to provide an extremely functional space and then to disguise such efficiency with an elegant and well-balanced design that will limit visual distractions and would create a natural rhythm through the spaces,” Bonetti says.

Audemars Piguet House NYC
Credit: Eric Laignel

It’s this aesthetic that inspired Italian shipyard Benetti to grant the duo their first yacht project, the first yacht in the new Oasis series. “We were called by Giovanna Vitelli to provide an interior vision for a new line of yachts that was under development with RWD,” Bonetti says. “We used our foreignness to the boat world as a plus, and we created what has been described as a fresher and calmer design that blurs the line between the interior and the exterior areas.”

The 40-metre Benetti Oasis 40M line received such a positive response that the studio was brought back to design a smaller version, the 34-metre Oasis 34M, which was equally successful.

Credit: Benetti

As a yachting industry outsider looking in, Bonetti has noted an “overall improvement” in yacht design in recent years. “We notice in general that there are fewer interiors designed for a wow factor, which, as yacht designer Terence Disdale brilliantly said, is the fastest ageing element in any design. We notice clients asking us for spaces that can have multiple functions: this is something that we really enjoy working on.”

The studio always works with trusted suppliers for its yachts, many of them from the founders’ home countries, Italy and England. “We very often incorporate fabrics from the Italian company Dedar, for their quality and for the wide range of textures and colours,” Bonetti says. “We also like to specify our line of outdoor teak furniture from Sutherland Furniture.”


Credit: Guillaume Plisson

Over the past three decades, Toronto-based design firm Burdifilek has built a solid reputation in the fields of retail, hospitality and real estate. Praised for its design style of “quiet, understated elegance with a global and timeless appeal,” the studio now has its sights set on yachting.

“We are creators of an international style, transcending trends to blend a distinctive design vision,” creative partner Diego Burdi says. “Our design team is committed to excellence and craftsmanship, and working with highly skilled artisans is very important in our studio.”

Read More/The emerging yachting designers making waves
Credit: Guillaume Plisson

Burdifilek’s first yacht project was the interior of the 60-metre Amels 60 Entourage, completed in 2023. The studio joined the project through an existing client, an experienced yacht owner who was able to guide them through the process.

“We were thrilled,” Burdi says. “Our studio started researching and exploring the yacht world. By doing so, we quickly understood the importance of the experience of yachting, and the contact one can have with the exterior environment and the sea. We knew the interior needed to be the background for the exterior experience.

Read More/Industry outsider Burdifilek’s twist on the interior of a new Amels 60

“For us it was important to feel that we are on a yacht, so we made design decisions to embrace the marine language by complementing the shape and form of the yacht into the interior design. For example, the lower deck bedrooms have curved walls, and the bed follows the vessel’s hull.”

The colour scheme they selected complements the ocean. “A monochromatic palette frames the exterior, allowing full view of the reflective waters,” Burdi says. “Knowing that the client had a colourful art collection, we created a softer palette backdrop to accentuate their art collection. The whole interior is holistically coherent.”

Burdi insists the studio actively avoids trends. “To create unique environments, you need to go beyond the trends and push boundaries,” he says. “Typically, clients will discuss their programming but when it comes to design, they leave us to create with our own DNA.” This extends to their pick of suppliers, which changes with every project. “Our studio is constantly researching and exploring new talents.”

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First published in the April 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue. 

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