While there are a number of industry-specific advisers who can assist in the search for the right design studio, nothing calms the nerves like first-hand experience. We speak to seasoned owner Tony Bakker and broker Chris Cecil-Wright to discover the best way to tackle the design process.

Understanding what a studio can offer is essential, as is establishing its combined experience. This is less about how long a studio has been established or the number of projects it has delivered, but rather the specific projects that the team has been involved in. Many of today’s budding studios are driven by creative minds that have served under the biggest names in the industry. However, there is a growing number of new studios formed by aspiring designers, with limited experience in the field, wishing to make their mark.

“A young designer starting out with their own studio might show fantastic flair in conceptual design but I would only ever recommend this route to an experienced owner who plans to use an established shipyard,” explains Chris Cecil-Wright — broker and founder of Cecil Wright & Partners — who admits he would steer a less experienced owner towards a more established design studio that would be able to provide more support with the basics, “such as step height and depths for example”.


Image by Justin Ratcliffe

For Tony Bakker, who together with his wife Linda owns 39.3m Safira, reputation and a proven track record in the industry are important criteria, as is a good relationship. Bakker explains how it is important to work with someone who will listen and engage with the client’s ideas. “I hate to stereotype, but I have found that designers and architects in all walks of life can be quite egotistical and want to impose their ideas on a project.”

When asked what advice he would impart to a potential owner in search of the right design studio, Bakker pointed to yachting media as a good starting point. Just like any project, doing your homework is vital and magazines and the wider media world will offer you an understanding of the market and a feel for what styles and ideas are out there. For the Bakkers, the winning combination was US-based Sparkman & Stephens (“We struck up a good rapport with the studio from the word go”), with interior design delivered by Michael David & Associates.

Having worked with Mike Shewan at Michael David on several commercial and residential projects previously, he was an obvious choice for the couple. “Even though he had no experience with yachts, he knew our likes and dislikes so this was an easy decision,” says Bakker. “We did not feel the interior of a yacht was much different from the interior of a home.”

With such a large selection of designers, brokers and shipyards to choose from, it is important to dedicate the time to discovering what is the best fit for you. One of the most common remarks we receive about yacht ownership is how the design and build process can be the most rewarding, so it is worth getting stuck in.

For Bakker, the most enjoyable aspect of the design process with Safira was in the creation of the layout. “In particular the sundeck, which I more or less designed myself,” he says. “This is the area where we like to spend most of our time.” With the right team, anything is possible and it will not only determine the success of the project but also the enjoyment for the owner.

Read the full article in the latest issue of SuperyachtDESIGNERS, Issue 25.