Owners are the drivers of invention in many matters on board a superyacht and no less so in the area of lighting. We asked top lighting designers to share some of their recent projects, which stemmed from the owner pushing the concept forward or seeking a solution to a problem, resulting in new lighting concepts.

For the owner of a 60m support vessel, shadow to his 78m superyacht, a system was required that would compliment his use of the space as a place of refuge and restoration. Before creating the Sound 2 Light unit with UK designers Lumotics Marine, the owner had been enjoying the rather rudimentary, unpolished space of the shadow – an icebreaker fitted with canons and fire fighting capabilities – by simply watching the sun go down from his bay door.

“The owner likes to open the huge bay door,” Lumotics’ Pidge Scales tells us. “He gets the captain to point [the yacht] at the sunrise and he just sits in big sofas watching the sun rise and set.”

But the owner had a vision of a high-tech lighting system that would enhance his use of the space as a chill out zone. The system would respond intricately to music, so he could sit and immerse himself in it in the seating and dining areas. “He wanted to be in with the music, not just listening to it, he wanted to feel the reaction of it as well,” explains Scales.

When exploring the existing options he found systems that could produce garish flashing lights and colours in response to music, but not the sophisticated effects he was after. After a meeting at Monaco between his representative and Scales, Lumotics took on the challenge of designing a bespoke system; one that was a more subtly responsive system.

“I asked [the owner] to plug in his iPhone and play any music,” says Scales, describing the initial test results. “He picked a classical song and as the violins came on, the red lights grew, and got brighter and brighter as they were playing. His exact words were, ‘that’s excellent, I’ve been searching all over the world [for that].’”

The eventual unit, installed over two days, allows the owner to control the system by iPhone or iPad from anywhere on the vessel. Everything from the levels of brightness to the intensity of the light reactions to bass and pitch sounds can be controlled, as can the colours programmed. Now when the owner opens his shadow bay doors, he can watch the natural lightshow of a sunset or sunrise, but also a personalised lightshow on the water. “The owner wanted to be meticulous in the interior and exterior,” says Scales.

For New York lighting designer, Beatrice Witzgall, various owners had approached her with complaints based on the operation of their lighting systems, as well as in search of a particular effect. Although Apple technology is now the de facto solution for controlling lighting, she found many owners were not able to use current iPhone or iPad based systems.

Japanese VIP suite programmed to 'romantic' on the ipad lighting mood control

“These generic interfaces are hard to understand and control,” Witzgall tells us. “Clients have come to ask for a better user interface because they are frustrated. A custom interface on a personal iPhone is intuitive, it’s a different story.” One of her more recent interfaces was created for the owner of an 85m superyacht, who wanted to select moods as opposed to have to think what light setting would be needed for a desired mood or a specific occasion.

Witzgall created a custom interface on the owner’s iPad based around moods, such as ’late night’ and ‘romantic’ for the Japanese style VIP suite. Witzgall is now developing health-based mood controls such as a ‘jet lag’ mode for owners who might have travelled far to reach their yacht at the start of a charter. “Certain light in the colour spectrum influences melatonin level projection, which impacts on sleep patterns,“ she says.

An area that can sometimes be a bit of a design after-thought, lighting is actually a field that offers innovative and exciting possibilities to enhance the interior of a superyacht. Like all areas of design, it can be a very personal choice and not a case of ‘one system fitting all’ and it is inspiring to see how designers are developing unique solutions that could provide inspiration for future projects pioneered by other superyacht owners.