When Jakob Mähren, the owner of 48m M/Y Forever, was looking to refit his yacht’s interior, he insisted that he wanted it to be strikingly different from other vessels that he had seen. In order to achieve his dream, he turned to a residential designer – with no previous experience of yacht design. “I didn't want it to look like a typical yacht with too much wooden furniture. I don't like that. So, we created a very special look for the whole interior,” remarks Mähren. “I had already worked with interior designer Michael Niederer on one of my last projects, a cosy chalet in Austria, so I trusted him and I'm a big fan of his work.”
Michael Niederer is the head of design for St. Corona interiors, an Austrian-based interiors studio. Niederer had completed a huge renovation of an early 20th century hotel Villa Antoinette, in the mountains of Semmering, Austria, when he heard from Mähren. “He called me about a week after I opened our business and he said, “I saw Villa Antoinette and I heard a lot about it, I would like to buy a chalet in Switzerland,” and he asked me if I would do the chalet for him. We finished that project very quickly – and he loved it – so he asked me: ‘Michael, do you also do yachts?’ and crazy me, I said very quickly, ‘Yes, of course!’" A week later, Niederer found himself travelling to Viareggio, Italy to see the boat.
Forever was built in 2014 by Logica Yachts, but Mähren wanted a complete interior refit, which came as a surprise to Niederer. “It was a beautiful boat before but the owner was much, much older, and something that was really hard for me to understand is that it’s totally normal to take everything out, even though it’s only three years old!” He explains that in residential projects, it is common to work with a lot of the existing structures or features of the space. “For me, I thought, ‘Oh my god! This is basically new and you’re destroying everything to make it new?’ But that is obviously what happens sometimes in the superyacht world, so that was a learning process for me.” He adds that navigating the restrictions and safety elements of yacht design was a challenge, but was quick to make any adjustments to designs or furniture to accommodate these.
"We finished the chalet project very quickly – and he loved it – so he asked me: ‘Michael, do you also do yachts?’ and crazy me, I said very quickly, ‘Yes, of course!’"
As someone who has never approached a yacht design project before, Niederer worked closely with the captain of the vessel. “I must say, for me, it was really important to have the captain, who has been with the boat since it was built three years ago. He knew every centimetre of this boat, which was really helpful for me.” When it came to amount of interaction between the designer and owner, Niederer says that he had “carte blanche” from Mähren, but he insisted that he “make it different”.
The project took around seven months to complete, and no expense was spared when it came to the interior. “The materials we used are extremely high-end. We covered all the walls and sofas, everything is Loro Piana white linen, because we have a lot of stone and concrete. A yacht should be comfortable but clean and modern,” explains Niederer. It was important for Mähren that the yacht interior drew inspiration from striking residential trends and spaces he had seen around the world. “The salon looks like a New York loft. The lovely Onyx Bar instantly invites you for a drink or aperitif,” he says.
As a first-time owner, what was the biggest lesson Mähren learned with this project? “At the end, everything is more expensive and takes longer.” For Niederer, his first project has opened his eyes to another area of design that he had previously would have never experienced. “I loved designing the yacht a lot, it was a really interesting challenge. Jakob is very happy. I would love to do other boats, it was really interesting and I have discovered a new passion.”
Images: Sandro Bertozzi
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