A new decade looms before us and with it comes myriad emotions - anticipation excitement, apprehension - the list goes on. Personally, I feel this is a time for reflection and reevaluation - taking time to assess the triumphs and defeats of the previous decade and formulating a plan of attack for 2020 and beyond. So let us look specifically at superyacht design; times are changing, and as we usher in a new decade, I’m exploring what may be on the horizon.

The past decade was a whirlwind of change - suddenly we found ourselves in an ultra-fast, ultra-demanding period of change, characterised by creations as outlandish as sailing yacht A, a spike in technological innovation and a wide-reaching social responsibility imperative. We also saw 1,647 superyachts hit the water, which equates to 29.6 per cent all yachts ever delivered.

On the design front, it’s hard to pinpoint one overarching trend of the last decade, but I will say this - for me, the previous decade has seen design grown up - many clients seem to have ended their affair with ostentation, and are looking towards a utilitarian decade of superyacht design.

The previous decade has seen design grown up - clients have ended their affair with ostentation, and are looking towards a utilitarian decade of superyacht design.

“People seem to understand the boats a bit better and not using them so much for showing off,” says Tino Zervudachi, a master of design fundamentals. Having completed a multitude of pioneering design projects, such as London’s National Gallery and the Royal Opera House Zervudachi’s refreshing view of the superyacht industry is one which I feel defines where we are in the world.

“Designers can often get a bit carried away and try and fit too much in, and put too many different materials in a small space, and it all becomes slightly over-styled and very often the antithesis of what yachting is really all about”, he adds.

But this, I believe is history; I think we find ourselves at an exciting juncture, where the so-called ‘next generation’ of superyacht clients seem to be less concerned with displays of wealth and more on functionality.

The last two years has seen momentum gather around a welcome trend, which I would describe as a more ‘stripped back’, more ‘relaxed’, more ‘textured’ approach, which I think is linked not just to the lifestyle on board, but a different breed of superyacht client.

“The younger clients have changed the way they are using the boats,” says Kate Maclaren, head of Interiors FF&E at RWD. “They are much more relaxed and casual. They don’t want a cinema, they want an American-style den where they can pile on the sofa and watch a film with the kids. Or, we had a client that wanted a kitchen in the saloon – you [once] wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that.

“I think there is a sense that the owners want to live in that space and enjoy it, and it ties in much more with the environment.” Maclaren adds. 

It is clear that the superyacht industry is developing yachts of a remarkable size that somehow manage to retain the connectivity with nature’s elements, which in my opinion, is vitally important. Today, the environmental agenda is something I believe to be influencing interior design, as more natural materials are being implemented on board.

Towards the end of last year, my ‘superyacht sessions’ in The British Superyacht Report took me to Brockenhurst to sit down with Mick Leach, for what was one of my favourite interviews to date. There, Leach told me that “there is a human sanctuary in design,” and each project is just that, a sanctuary. As the next generation takes centre stage, I believe that this generational shift will focus client attention on a more wholesome existence on the water. Wellness, biophilia, and exploration are on the rise, and these are trends that are here to stay, well into the next decade.

I’m excited for the next generation, as I believe we will be welcoming yachts of an unbelievable calibre, given the technology and design talent at the market’s disposal. There are currently 383 superyachts in the global order book at the moment, thus this is a time, on the design front, where we can be extremely excited for the coming years ahead.

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Michael Leach Design


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