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How Young Yacht Owners Are Breaking the Rules of Boat Design

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Millennial and Gen-Z superyacht buyers, looking to ditch the stacked-wedding-cake designs favored by their parents, are turning to 40-something designers from outside the marine industry to realize their visions. Owners of the recently launched 387-foot Celerius chose that tack with Paris-based architect Joseph Dirand and were not disappointed. It was his first yacht, and he broke loads of norms. “I limited myself to just two decks above the waterline and introduced an interior perspective with end-to-end views,” he says. 

If yacht design is ultimately about creatively redefining available space, Dirand believes recent trends have missed the mark. “Yacht design has a disconnect with the ocean by minimizing outdoor space—equivalent to buying a waterfront home with no garden,” he explains, while characterizing many interiors as segmented and claustrophobic. This doesn’t float with a newer, more design-savvy generation of buyers, Dirand says: “Young owners’ preferences are honed by hospitality and a knowledge of architectural trends.” 

Joseph Dirand’s patio-like stern of superyacht Celerius

Joseph Dirand’s patio-like stern of superyacht Celerius.

Courtesy of Joseph Dirand Architecture

For Celerius, Dirand put his concepts into practice. He reduced the yacht’s overall height to streamline the profile, extended the length, and freed up the superstructure to create more open-deck areas. “For the interior, I also eschewed glossy finishes and hard angles in favor of soft edges and lots of wood,” he says. “You should feel like you’re on a yacht—less penthouse, more beach house.” 

Marie Soliman, the cofounder of Njord Interiors, burst onto the superyacht scene in 2019 with several imaginative designs, including one for the 273-foot Eden. “I’m an interior architect who brings a different energy than what is expected of a typical yacht designer,” she says. “Our clients like our ideas because they’re youthful, sometimes provocative, and often playful.” 

Soliman finds that owners who are more concerned with ambiance than resale value are usually those most comfortable breaking with tradition. Her designs are typically client-led, with Soliman fashioning a stylistic language around the owners’ passions: Eden’s light-filled expanse, with a pebbled salon ceiling that not only mimics rippling water but also opens up the space, is designed to reflect the owners’ love of the ocean. Floor-to-ceiling windows and massive skylights help frame the unconventionally elegant mise-en-scène. 

For David Weiss, an American designer who sees a revolution in the making, a cross-pollination of ideas is essential. He takes a bold, cinematic approach inspired by filmmakers and production designers. “People that have shaped our experiences with Star Wars, Avatar, and Marvel are my compatriots,” he says, calling their creative ethos a “no-rules space as far as design goes.” With regard to the finished product, Weiss believes the end result “should bring a realm of fantasy to the interior, with a new reality to the experience in general.” 

Marie Soliman’s unconventional salon for Eden.

Marie Soliman’s unconventional salon for Eden.

Courtesy of Bergman Design Interiors

For a young California-based client’s 417-foot craft, Weiss situated the bay for the Venetian tender running transverse through the yacht, complemented by a private reception area where guests hop on and off. The top deck houses a sky bar surrounded by a rotating display of the owner’s motorbike collection, while his car collection is down near the tender garage—and there’s more innovation to come. “We’re working on a mechanism to slide a motorcycle down the aft superstructure so the owner can ride his favorite bike off the dock,” he notes. 

This surge in experimentation, driven by a young and financially flush demographic, is particularly well-timed, according to Weiss: “It’s not just that there’s more appetite for it now, but more ability to execute it as well.” 

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