Inside Matters

Four yacht interior designers discuss what drives their vision.

A yacht’s profile is the first thing that catches your eye, but oftentimes it is a striking interior that keeps your gaze, stretching from that first glimpse of a swank salon decor to a functional and warm belowdecks arrangement. Creating an inviting, highly customized and homelike space in a relatively confined footprint like a yacht’s interior can be challenging — and highly rewarding — when the road of an owner’s desires, wants and needs meets that of a designer’s completed creation.

Dickie Bannenberg: Building on Legacy Dickie Bannenberg (left) grew up in the yacht-design sphere. His father, Jon Bannenberg, is considered by many to be the one who developed present-day design. “My father’s work seeped into me, like osmosis, from an early age,” says Bannenberg, who runs the Bannenberg & Rowell firm with partner and creative director Simon Rowell (right). When approaching a project, they look at every yacht as a prototype, and the team keeps its “creative antennae pretty well-tuned, looking for interesting forms and aesthetics.” Bannenberg says yacht-design inspiration can be found in segments as diverse as automotive, fashion, movies and the natural world. While his firm is not easily placed into a category, he refers to its style as “approachable modernism.” The team creates an environment in which people are comfortable, and that provides “impact, depth and complexity.” Multifaceted could describe Bannenberg & Rowell too. Some of the team’s projects have included a classic 1930s-era yacht rebuild, a 213-foot high-speed megayacht and an interior based on “all things German.”
Sylvia Bolton: Born to create Some individuals discover their passion early in life. At 6 years old, Seattle-based Sylvia Bolton found design. At first, she worked on interior architecture and products. She was schooled in Europe, but it was a return to the States that redirected her career path to yachts. While taking reaccreditation classes in Seattle, Bolton won a marine-theme design competition, and her professors suggested that she consider the yacht-design field. The rest is nautical history. After putting in time with Kris Shei Design and Glade Johnson Design, she formed her own firm in 1993. Bolton says she draws the greatest inspiration from yacht owners. “All of my projects are only as different as my clients,” she says, adding that once she gets to know them and their wants and desires, she sketches her ideas freehand and thinks of yachts as little cities. “I like to think of my design as sculpting all of the components I work with: space, human factor, function, light, color, decorative detail.” One of her most memorable projects took two years and was inspired by the “color and bold wildlife of Africa.”
Marty Lowe: Soothing Escapes Marty Lowe started her design career at Bertram Yacht after an education in Lucerne, Switzerland. “I was one of the first women in the industry at the time, and it was quite the fun experience,” she says. Creating spaces for yachts, as opposed to homes, presents her with one great challenge: “Yachts are moving vessels. Homes are stationary. [It] sounds simplistic, but it is the defining factor.” With regard to style, Lowe says she is constantly awed by nature. (She’s currently working on an interior inspired by a sunset dinner on the beach in Forte dei Marmi, in Italy’s northern Tuscany region.) Lowe is a strong proponent of designing what she calls livable luxury. “A vacation on the water is unique in that it is always going to be casual,” Lowe says. “Therefore, the surroundings should be simple, yet luxurious.” Maximizing space is also paramount to this designer. “Limited space is always a challenge,” she says. “Everyone wants volume and light, but there must be a balance between the exterior lines and the inside volume.” Her favorite project? The last one completed.
Destry Darr PethTel: Designing with purpose Like Dickie Bannenberg, Destry Darr Pethtel was born into the marine industry, in her case as the daughter of a yacht broker. She spent considerable time around and on yachts, so it was a natural fit to apply her Florida State University interior design degree to the yachting field. In fact, she finished school on a Friday and began working for a yacht-design firm the following Monday. Pethtel, who works on both new construction and refits, says yacht design “is very analytical and requires left brain, not just right. The technical restrictions on a yacht rule.” Like some of her peers, Pethtel says clients most inspire her designs. “It is important to include the clients and guide them in the style they want without overdoing something and creating an unsalable yacht,” she says. The current trend is to go highly contemporary, she says, but she believes many owners want a more transitional design. Pethtel creates what she calls mainstream interiors for spec vessels, allowing future owners to infuse their own personality after the sale, keeping very personalized flourishes to accents.