Home decoration doesn’t have to be restrained to dry land abodes. For those who count a luxury boat as a second home, or have their sights set on being able to say so someday, superyacht interior inspiration becomes a hot topic. There are design principles that remain relevant whatever the shape, size and style of the property, such as harnessing natural light, but beyond that, superyacht interior design requires its own, shipshape decorating agenda.
Incorporating the structural elements
Boat interior design typically faces a few physical barriers that affect the aesthetic. Often, some of the necessary structural facets of the build are exposed, such as steel supporting girders in the centre of a room, or technical obligations like marked security exits and emergency lighting that need to be visible, but will detract from the room’s style. The key is to turn these challenges into opportunities. In the case of the supporting columns, they can be transformed into elegant pillars with additional, dummy columns added to make a statement with strong symmetry.
Channelling natural light
Just as with houses on the shore, a luxury yacht interior is always going to be benefit from natural light pouring in. Many contemporary yachts are purposefully being designed to echo what you see in contemporary buildings – ceiling to floor sheets of glass. Or as close to that as they can. Not only does this direct a greater degree of natural light into the yacht’s living spaces, but it challenges the traditional window design you’d see at sea, making them appear less stereotypically nautical.
Maximise the amount of light by using high-gloss, polished surfaces that will reflect the sun’s rays as well as oversized mirrors if the wall space allows. If the yacht’s windows are more traditional in their dimensions, avoid heavy window treatments like fully-lined, voluminous curtains that, even when pulled back, will block some of the natural light from entering.
Working with oddly shaped rooms
Many vessels have a matrix of unusually shaped rooms that can make living quarters feel cramped. One way to work around this to use glass instead so that there’s still the required support in place, but the walls become transparent, opening up the environment. This takes a lot of planning with the shipyard and means creating a channel that holds the glass within the boat’s structure – it should be installed even before the flooring so that the wall flows smoothly through the floor. But if this degree of build isn’t passable or if you’re only concerned with decoration rather than the boat’s architecture, remember to stick to just a few colours and materials in your boat’s scheme. By having walls, ceiling and designer furniture all in the same colour, they fuse together and make unusually shaped rooms appear less cumbersome. In the Martin Kemp Design interior, you see a focus on white and the same tone of wood used from room to room, which result in any awkward angles being smoothed out.
Make the most of the minimal square footage
Even on the grandest of super yachts (have a read of our Q&A with superyacht firm Bannenberg and Rowell for seriously grand boat design talk), space is always the biggest constraint. Practicality doesn’t have to overrule good looks, but the two do need to balance to achieve a harmonious interior. Nothing is more frustrating than when there’s not enough room to store belongings, so by ensuring there’s a considerable amount of clever, integrated storage, the less there is to line the corridors and litter any surfaces.
Other key design tips to not over-occupy minimal square footage include ensuring any electrical wiring and speakers for technology like music or entertainment systems is concealed in the boat’s walls with a flush finish if possible. With lighting, concentrate less on floor lamps and more on wall lights, ceiling lights and pendant lights. Look closer at the Martin Kemp Design yacht bedroom and you’ll notice there are bedside wall lights and shelves rather than lamps and tables, as well as lots of LED strip lighting that take up no room.
Manhattan-based architect David Easton designed the interior for the luxury yacht, Marie, with Hoek Design and commented: “The key to making a small space large is not only a sense of scale, it's giving that scale a sense of excitement. Soften the upholstery fabrics so they blend in with the surrounding walls. I prefer neutrals. They're less jarring to the eye. Too many jarring contrasts and interruptions make a small space cramped. Colourful paintings and luxury cushions provide the accents. Mirrors on side panels bring the outside in, expanding the space.”
Another point worthy of consideration for a short-on-floorspace yacht is to scale back the size of the furniture. This can mean commissioning bespoke pieces, but it’s a wise investment, as Easton added: “Eighteen inches is the usual seating height. Scaling furniture back to 17 inches high makes a big difference.” Some pieces of furniture will suit a yacht interior perfectly well, but when space is limited, reducing the size of a few pieces in the room will ensure the room looks and feels less full.
Build in seamless storage
Attention to detail is always pivotal in interior design, because the smallest of touches can have a huge effect. In terms of a boat’s design, a strong example is making sure any storage is handleless. Push-to-open mechanisms or cutout handles really do make a room feel far sleeker. The handle-free option combined with integrated storage that’s flush to the wall allows for significant fluidity. This doesn’t mean to say that every piece of storage has to be fitted. But try to bring in any freestanding items of storage in line with the architecture of the room. Follow any places where the walls come out and let them be your guide. Looking back at the Martin Kemp Design bedroom, the chest of drawers doesn’t protrude past the wall on the left-hand side of the room, and in the twin bedroom, the bedside tables are at the same level as the bed frame which creates a seamless line.
Working with low ceilings
Superyacht design almost always should seek to combat the notorious low ceiling environment. Boat ceilings can be as low as seven feet, so employ design trickery techniques that can give the illusion that they’re on the taller side. Reflective materials used well will add lift and can even create a feeling of infinity when they’re used in a detail-oriented way. For example, in the Martin Kemp Design bedroom pictured, where there’s a combination of gloss paintwork and reflective panels laid in a chevron formation which draws the eye up and along. Equally, dark colours used overhead with a reflective finish adds depth to the ceiling that’s hard to calculate – there’s no telling where it ends, and so the ceiling height feels lifted, like it might go on and on and on.