“We do not offer a Hot Lab style,” Antonio says. “We simply take the owner’s sense of style and translate it into his yacht.”
Antonio studied industrial architecture at Sapienza University in Rome. There, in a city famous for magnificent buildings and powerful history, he eagerly attended classes in transport design, taught by the great architect Giovanni Zuccon, who drew on his considerable yachting experience when teaching. At the time, the young Antonio had the single-minded ambition of becoming a motorbike designer, but by the time the class went on a trip to Damascus to view the Ferretti shipyard, Antonio had been converted from seventh-day biker to a born-again yacht lover.
After graduating, Antonio moved to Milan to work for an industrial design studio. There, he met two kindred spirits, Michele Dragoni and Enrico Lumini. With a common interest in yachts, the three young men went to the Genoa Boat Show with designer dreams. Convinced that they would have to start modestly, they spent most of their time looking at the supplier’s stands, harboring notions of designing anchors or deck chairs. Eventually, they plucked up the courage to ask Raffaelli to view one of its yachts. When the staff at the stand inquired as to their status, they cheekily responded that they owned yachts and were graciously showed on board. During their tour, the trio was informed that Raffaelli was looking to design a new 20-meter model. The three quickly mentioned that they were designers…and the rest is history.
Drive, ambition and passion — along with a small hint of youthful cheek — were fundamental in the formation of Hot Lab, who successfully designed the interior of the 66-foot Raffaelli ONTERA. Although Hot Lab used charm and guile to grab its first opportunity, strong credentials and impressive designs, appreciated by both shipyards and yacht owners, have propelled it forward. Orders began flowing in, including an order for an interior of the 95-foot Filippetti BISCUIT.
“One of the biggest challenges in setting up a yacht design studio was [getting] recognized,” says Antonio. “The yachting industry is full of super important names and superstar designers, and so it is especially difficult to be recognized as three 26 year olds.” What the Hot Lab trio lacked in experience, they more than made up for in business acumen; the three had structured their growing company with great care. Enrico assumed the responsibility of interior design manager, Michele was named exterior design manager and Antonio was responsible for marketing and strategy. This approach proved wise, freeing up Enrico and Michele to deliver top-class design work while Antonio worked closely with press, and — more importantly — with clients to ensure happiness with the results.
In 2010, Bilgin Yachts launched its 37-meter NOOR, a stylish superyacht with an elegant and contemporary interior designed by Hot Lab. NOOR was awarded a golden Neptune for her interior at the 2011 ShowBoats Design Awards. This success brought Hot Lab great prestige, and also brought more clients, including the owner of the 45-meter Trinity KEYLA, which was set for an extensive refit at the RMK yard in Turkey. KEYLA’s owner contacted Hot Lab and said “Win an award for me, too,” then, he commissioned the company with KEYLA’s new interior. Hot Lab did as it was told and, in 2014, KEYLA took home the prestigious Best Refit award at Boat International’s World Superyacht Awards.
According to Antonio, many of the orders Hot Lab has received have come from yacht owners. “We do not offer a Hot Lab style,” he says. “We simply take the owner’s sense of style and translate it into his yacht.” The interior design of the COLUMBUS 40S HYBRID was one such prestigious project commissioned directly by the yacht’s owner. This scooped up no less than three honors at the ShowBoats Design Awards in 2014.
Well-known yacht builders also have recognized the creative ability of Hot Lab, and not just for interior design. The trio has designed a range of yachts for the dynamic new owners of Mondomarine, including the 141-foot M43, the 49-meter M50, set for launch in 2016, and the magnificent 196-foot M60. Hot Lab’s largest project to date was commissioned by Oceanco. The 110-meter PRIMADONNA, which offers an array of innovative features, is for sale as a fully engineered project.
Only ten years after an enterprising trip to Genoa Boat Show, Hot Lab is a bustling hive of activity. The staff of nine is working on projects in six countries with four yachts in construction and all of this managed from the Milan office. The three graduates have matured into a tight-knit, professional unit and one thing is for sure: we will be seeing much more of them in the future.