When it comes to outfitting new or existing superyachts, custom furniture plays an important role in creating an onboard look and feel that perfectly reflects the owner’s individual taste.
By commissioning bespoke pieces, it is possible for designers to realize the exact vision of a carefully thought-out design, while also making use of special pieces that are a joy to behold and use.
“Being ‘unique’ is an essential prerogative for the high-end market,” says the team at Italian company Paola Lenti, which specializes in creating furniture for relaxation spaces on yachts. “Especially in yachting, it is essential to be able to allow the customer the highest level of customization – we have always been able to achieve this thanks to a happy marriage between modern industrial techniques and the most exquisite Italian craftsmanship tradition.” Once the Paola Lenti team receives an initial design brief, they set to work creating marine-tailored pieces crafted from the highest quality materials.
“The greatest challenge is certainly to produce modern pieces that are destined to last over time, respecting man and nature in the choice of materials and giving the products that artisan taste that makes them different from all,” they say. “This is all while maintaining quality necessary for a high level product conceived to be used in particular conditions such as those on yachts.”
For Summit Furniture, a typical scenario in a custom superyacht commission is that a client will want a bespoke version of one of their existing range, although one-off pieces are often produced too. The conversation will usually begin with a designer approaching the Summit team with a particular scheme they want to be executed. “Custom commissions mean that you can create something that fits a precise brief, purpose or function and the aesthetic of the client/designer,” says Hilary Gustafsson, Managing Director of Summit Furniture. “When it comes to the actual piece and finish of custom commissions, we tend to push the envelope from what is standard – we can easily accommodate that kind of bespoke request.” Communication during the creation process is an important part of getting custom commissions right. “The biggest challenge of a bespoke piece is meeting the precise visions and expectations of the client and it’s all about being clear about what will be delivered, especially when you are working with natural materials,” says Gustafsson. “At these levels, you look for perfection and our quality levels are very high which is why we are popular with superyacht clients.”
The commissioning of custom furniture often has the added bonus of being a very enjoyable and personal part of the superyacht ownership process that clients can be highly involved in. “Bespoke furniture is about the realization of a dream,” says Mark Boddington, Founder and CEO of Silver Lining Furniture, which has worked with more than 70 yachts of over 180 feet (55 meters) in the past 30 years. “Clients today want an experience in building a yacht, not just an acquisition – they enjoy the interaction, playing their part in the creation process that they can share with family and friends.
Once the team at Silver Lining has established a brief from the owners and gained insight into their particular vision for their yacht, they set to work on an interactive creative process. “We will begin a journey of discovery, to inspire and show what’s possible – in design creativity, in advancing craftsmanship and traditional and advanced materials,” says Boddington. “We start with a General Arrangement, identify key pieces to the owner and their family, such as a desk, a dressing table, main dining table, etc. Depending on the project we can work on a single design or in some cases over 40 pieces of furniture and wall art pieces.”
Many pieces of custom superyacht furniture are the epitome of form meeting function – workable yet stunning to look at. Fletcher Tables have produced their unique expanding Fletcher Capstan tables for a number of superyachts including Northrop & Johnson charter yachts Baton Rouge, Encore and Ilona. The tables are made from the world’s finest hardwoods and can be expanded as needed in a mesmerizingly fluid way.
“Our tables are particularly difficult to manufacture, as they are a fusion of precision engineering and exquisite furniture making,” says Nicholas Fletcher, Managing Director of Fletcher Burwell-Taylor. “When a client is commissioning a superyacht they are looking to create something unique, exciting and beautiful and the furniture and fittings have to be of the highest quality in the making and finishing.” Because of the nature of these kinds of products, exclusivity is part of the appeal. “We are very low volume and produce something that is both unique and superb quality, hence we get to work on some of the most exclusive yachts and houses.” Above all, attention to detail is crucial. “The key thing for superyacht custom furniture is to consider every single little detail and I personally scrutinize and check every component of the table, even if it is never seen and hidden in the mechanism,” says Fletcher. “Everything has to be perfect and live up to the client’s expectations.”
One obstacle faced by many manufacturers of custom superyacht furniture is the setting in which their pieces will be used, and subsequently, it is important to tailor pieces to the unique marine environment that yachts operate in. Challenges might include humidity, fluctuating temperatures, salt air, high UV levels, weight considerations and the ability to relocate pieces around the yacht if required. “Our sundeck collection has been tailored to superyacht use and the related practical implications and everything can be easily moved around and is foldable/stackable,” says Gustafsson. “It is important to design while keeping the functionality of a yacht in mind.”
Many designers of custom furniture are also noting changes to the way clients use their yachts, and this has had an influence on the pieces being produced. “Yachts are becoming much more informal, rather than boardrooms at sea, and are homes to explore the wonders of the world; increasingly they are styled as understated rather than overstated – subtle rather than bling,” says Boddington. “Many superyacht owners are also now very aware of the environment and of a sustainable and ethical supply chain and wanting to make a difference. “ The briefs reflect that owners are looking for pieces that require minimal maintenance and are made from natural products.”
With so much scope to create something that is truly personal, custom superyacht furniture is as unique as the yachts they live on. There is no doubt that the creative process and investment that goes into these pieces is well worth the end result.