A Lesson In Transformable Interiors with PRINCESS YACHTS

Last Friday I visited London Boat Show at a client’s invitation.  It was a design research trip for one of my current projects to look at how luxury yacht industry approached the biggest design dilemma that all designers faced when working on a small site where space was at a premium, i.e. a small house, a studio apartment, a boat etc.  The problem in question was none other than “Storage Space”.

How to maximise storage capacity without affecting the actual living space on a site so small that every single inch of the floor area could not be lost to storage even though they were necessary to hide all that clutters and “stuff” that were an inevitable part of everyday living.

Unlike my trip to Monaco Yacht Show two years ago, this time I concentrated on looking at small luxury yachts, i.e. intimate ones for a small family accommodating 4 to 8 people, dimensions ranging from 13m to 27m in length, not the size of superyachts, where there were ample space.  Obviously this was because what could be more difficult than to design and construct a luxury interior for a site that was not only small, but also full of double curvature surfaces with no right angles anywhere, and had to float so weight limitation played a major role in determining what could be done on a yacht this size?

And what a stimulating trip it was too!!  I came out completely inspired and overwhelmed by the amount of information gathered that it took me a few days to digest before I could sit down and summarise what I had learn… (Well, that and the fact that I had a deadline to submit a concept design report for another project first before I could reflect properly)  So, the blog was neglected yet again, even though my New Year resolution was to improve on my time management… aiming to write once a week.. and on time.. not shelving things for weeks before getting round to writing about them like last year!!

Amongst the numerous exhibitors at London Boat Show, were three UK based major luxury yacht manufacturers exhibiting, all of whom I talked to and bombarded them with so many questions that probably got very annoying towards the end, but it was fascinating to learn how each manufacturer approached their architectural and interior design concept so differently, even though the sizes of their yachts were roughly within similar range.  They all catered for different clients’ requirements and expectations, hence the difference in the form of the yachts too, but I would not go into that because of my lack of expertise in naval architecture… I would just keep to what I thought was transferable to “on-land” design and construction such as…

PRINCESS YACHTS “FLEXIBLE LIVING” Interior Design Concept

The amount of storage space available and the level of adaptability of Princess Yachts interiors were unbelievable especially on their two smallest models, the V39 and V48 sportscruisers, once one started looking for them.  None of these spaces were visible initially, of course, as they were so subtly detailed that they were all very well hidden from first glance, as to not distract the views nor disrupt the fluidity of the interiors.

Here every possible solutions were deployed to turn every single “leftover” space to good use, ranging from an innovative solution such as a dining table which could be transformed into an extra double bed when lowered to combine with the built-in  seating, with added extra mattress pads.

Dining Table on V39 can be transformed into an extra double bed once it is lowered and additional mattress pads are placed on top

Even in an awkwardly shaped space such as the triangular shaped forward guest bedroom on the V48, Princess Yachts design team still managed to create a comfortable yet flexible sleeping arrangements with ample storage facilities both underneath and between the beds, featuring a pivoting mechanism which allowed the 2 single beds to be swiveled inwards to combine into a double bed, or swiveled outwards to separate into 2 single beds, like the movement on a pair of scissors, hence the aptly named “Scissors Beds”.  This was the first time I had seen a pivot system used to separate and combine the beds rather than the usual sliding or zip and link system.  In this particular case, the mechanism worked perfectly well in maximising the space use in the triangular shaped room.

Scissors Beds on Princess V48 when separated exposing storage drawers underneath.
Scissors Beds on Princess V48 when combined to create a double bed.  Photograph courtesy of Princess Yachts

A more obvious solution, such as storage drawers underneath the bed and seats was also widely used, but here it had been detailed much more precisely with latch handles to stop the drawers from falling out when the boat moved.  The handles were flush mounted to the surface so they would not catch on one’s clothes when one moved around in such a small space.

Latch-able Underbed Storage Drawers in Master Bedroom of Princess V39

Another space saving solution that I thought was fascinating was the barbeque station on the Flybridge of Princess 43, which featured a fold away water tap for the sink, allowing everything to be hidden away underneath a lid, completely out of sight, when not in use.

Barbeque Station on the Flybridge of Princess 43 when not in use
Barbeque Station with Sink on the Flybridge of Princess 43
Fold away water tap when Barbeque Station is not in use.

There were many more space saving solutions on board Princess Yachts that I found really inspiring, but I would not want to bore you all with too many details.

Out of the three yacht manufacturers that I saw, Princess Yachts interiors were the most efficiently designed and, for me, had the best interiors with the level of custom detailing that could easily put world leading architects and interior designers to shame.  To me, this was what good design should be, not just about looking good, but actually how well it performed… 

Apart from the highly practical design, I also liked the clean line and sophisticated use of neutral material palettes, which resulted in elegant and timeless interiors that still reflected the maritime theme.  It felt like being on a luxury yacht, much more personal and intimate, unlike other super yachts that I visited in the past, which felt more like being in a trendy floating hotel.  (remember Ocean Paradise?)

In fact, after having visited London Boat Show, I realised that there were many aspects of yacht construction that high end architects and interior designers could really learn from, especially in the prefabrication and modular construction arena because the yacht industry had already perfected these construction techniques to such an extent that prefabrication did not look cheap anymore.  In fact, each module was so precisely constructed that one could hardly notice the joints, unlike those visible in most prefabricated buildings.  On a yacht, the construction looked as if they were custom fit on-site, but they were in fact prefabricated.

For more information on Princess Yachts interiors, please visit http://princessyachts.com

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