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Raising the bar of refit…by grand design

The steps Winch Design has taken to play a major role in the refit sector…

Jim Dixon, director, yachts and aviation at Winch Design, outlines steps the studio has taken to play a major role in the refit sector.

Is there a viable market for the design community in the refit industry? My first response to this is to highlight what the design community has to offer. There are many different attributes in the make-up of a good designer – among them curiosity, adaptability and integrity. Refits require designers to think differently as the design brief always demands a different approach to needs, budgets and aesthetic desires. Refits are more akin to puzzles in contrast to a full-custom new build where there are existing parameters and logistical restrictions that need solutions.

More lateral creative thinking is required, something the design community excels at through their tenacious, curious and adaptable approach to spatial problems. So, in short, it would be foolhardy to embark on a superyacht refit project without a designer.

The Winch Design studio is known globally for the design and delivery of some of the most iconic – and complex – full-custom and semi-custom superyachts afloat. From bow to stern, the team applies an immaculate understanding of luxury design to create vessels that raise the bar for the superyacht lifestyle.

Jim Dixon, director, yachts and aviation at Winch Design

One measure of our own success is whether a client returns for a repeat project, and they do so when they feel understood by the studio and that there’s a shared design vision and language. The refit business model isn’t something Winch Design pioneered, but we certainly find that the majority of our clients do return to discuss some level of refit because their on-board lifestyle changes, or they want to re-energise certain areas of the interior or exterior decks. As a result, the refit market is now a well-established string to our bow. A combination of client relationships, understanding of the existing original design and a great supplier network ensure the studio is always primed for refit projects.

Refits and refurbishments can vary hugely in scope and scale – from a contemporary refresh of loose furniture and artwork to the lengthening of the hull to create additional spaces. The former involves an interior designer and procurement manager while the latter involves a complete structural overhaul and incorporation of new metalwork sections, with the need for many skilled workers and months in the shipyard.

Whatever the nature of the request, each refit offers a fresh opportunity for creativity. The Winch approach goes beyond pure analysis of the design brief to fuse problem-solving with a sustainable ethos. If an older yacht is being refitted, its sustainability credentials may not live up to the future vision of yachting, therefore this presents an opportunity for the design team to provide a fresh take on materiality and sustainable innovation.

Winch Design now has a dedicated ‘sustainability specialist’ in the Interiors team, whose full-time role is to research innovative materials, sustainable suppliers and environmentally measurable design solutions, encouraging the design team to implement these into the studio’s projects.

Earlier this year, we demonstrated how this added aspect can form the fundamental principles of a new concept design. ‘Barefoot’ and ‘Moonlight’ signified a milestone for the superyacht industry, with their sustainable interiors developed in conjunction with the Water Revolution Foundation for the interior of the new Amels 60 series. Meticulous attention to detail was paid to both the materials and production processes, as well as the source and supply chain, to ensure we were making a genuine and quantifiable contribution to sustainable design, not simply a tokenistic one.

‘Barefoot’ is a light, natural interior, where guests can enjoy the texture of organic cotton and deep curved sofas upholstered in fabric made from industrial process waste. Pineapple leaves undergo a non-chemical process resulting in a lightweight, versatile and hard-wearing leather alternative, adding subtle texture to wall panelling. The ceiling domes are dressed in a recycled and recyclable ‘parquet’ rope panelling that mirrors the beachy, natural theme found below.

Sand is sculpted and pressurised using air and water to create a centrepiece wall finish that mimics the form of raw stone, and fine, almost translucent layers of aloe vera create a coral-like textural finish in the surrounding niches. By contrast, the edgier atmospheric ‘Moonlight’ concept centres on minimal light emissions and showcases the use of aluminium, an innately sustainable material capable of almost endless recycling.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for the superyacht design and refit industry, one where this constant interrogation and analysis of our design approach will pay dividends for the future of the industry and add longevity to some of the most-loved superyacht creations.

This article first appeared in The Superyacht Refit Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group's full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

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