Beyond Beige | Showboats

The new neutral colors, which can be used in combination with many textures and accents, are anything but bland and boring.

 EPSON MFP image

When Richard Gere spots the samba-ing Jennifer Lopez in the recently released film Shall We Dance, he can’t help but stare at her beautiful, beige-clad belly. So much for the idea that beige equals bland, blah or boring. In yacht décor, the new beige is in fact a purposeful palette of neutral, natural hues from sand to seal, jazzed up by the use of imaginative textures that add depth and richness.

Adventurous use of color in yacht interiors has its place and deserves praise. But adventure isn’t the only interior décor story. Beiges and other neutral hues reflect and complement the lightness and brightness of the surrounding seas. These subtle tones lend ethereal presence even to the heaviest vessel.

When exploring the new neutrals, consider Lori Weitzner’s stunning new collection for the Bergamo Fabrics: silks shot with veins of gold, rippling with shimmering tidal marks, reflecting a Caribbean moon. Sensual, complex and magical, her silks whisper an invitation to be touched (see sidebar).

Creams and beiges are even more compelling when accent colors and lighting play supporting roles. Philadelphia-based designers John Kelly recently outfitted a private vessel in black-accented neutrals that give definition and line to interior space. “There’s so much you can do with accents,” he says. “In addition to cordings, nailheads and fringes, you can affect textures with up-lights, down-lights and accent lights.

Outside Los Angeles, craftsmen in the quietly purring J.  Robert Scott factory outnumber machines. Sally Sirkin Lewis, who runs this show, is one of today’s leading designers and home furnishings entrepreneurs. Her company has recently teamed with Benetti to create interior concepts for a line of semi-custom yachts (see sidebar).

The palette for yacht interiors that Lewis proposes is quite a departure from the typical formal or “gentleman’s club” look. Rather than dark veneers, regal blues and regimental green and gold, Lewis offers light colors with an air of contemporary sleekness reminiscent of the beach houses she designs in Southern California.

“Neutrals are elegant,” says Lewis. “They provide a room with a feeling of spaciousness. I’m drawn to the serenity they create. They don’t compete with the people or artwork in the room, allowing them to take center stage. A yacht’s natural environment consists of infinite blue and turquoise seas, magenta sunsets, deep green mountains and rocky gray shores. “Why,” she asks rhetorically, “would anyone want a busy interior competing against that beauty.”

Upholstering in neutrals exposes the geometry of a given furniture piece and emphasizes its craftsmanship and quality, according to Lewis. “I often use ebony or a single accent color to spice up a neutral interior. The accent – perhaps a vase of red tulips – provides an interjection,” she says. For the Benetti project, Lewis is relying on black granite and ebonized woods to contrast the neutrals. But she is also known to add a touch of yellow or a punch or periwinkle. Asked to identify this year’s hot neutral, Lewis says at the moment, brown is very fashion forward.

When we last saw U.K.-based designer Donald Starkey, he was wearing a yellow shirt. Nevertheless, Starkey is all for beige. Is it boring? “No,” he insists. “If we mixed up all the colors of the spectrum, we’d get a neutral.” His latest neutral-scheme yachts include the teak-paneled Feadship Dream, the blue-hulled Sarah from Amels and Abeking & Rasmussen’s Excellence III. But Starkey warns against going overboard with beiges. “Rather than the basis of a design,” he says, “beige is a help along the way. Clients may have favorite colors you can’t use as the basis for the color scheme, but with a neutral background, they work as accents.

Every trend has its countertrend. Some people tend to lose their bearings when navigating an interior for monochromatic textures and patterns. Fort Lauderdale-based designer Claudette Bonville thinks that most designers who use beige do so because “it’s safe.” Bonville says, “If you are building on spec, you figure that more people like vanilla than raspberry sherbet. So you give them vanilla.” Bonville’s favorite anti-beige combo is aubergine paired with lime green.

But for those who believe their interior décor should be the backdrop to life at sea rather than a dramatic performance all its own, neutral certainly set the stage.

 A Shared Vision

Italian yacht builder Benetti and U.S.-based interior furnishings manufacturer J. Robert Scott have announced an inspired new collaboration for the shipyard’s 45-meter Vision series. The companies jointly have developed a new yacht interior concept based on timeless yet contemporary themes.

This décor collaboration allows new Vision owners to style their yacht’s interior by selecting from an exclusive range of modular design features, furniture, textiles and surfaces in two lines, Premier Luxury and Grand Luxury, according to Andrew Frumovitz, CEO of J. Robert Scott. “What we have done is create room settings or living environments that work perfectly for these yachts. The choices appear limitless, yet it will be impossible to make a mistake when working from the design palette,” Frumovitz said.

Figure 1

Classis styles simplified by J. Robert Scott are well suited to yacht interiors. Below, a rendering of a Vision salon for Benetti.

The J. Robert Scott look is often filed under the label “California Style.” It was founded in the 1970s by Sally Sirkin Lewis, and interior designer who developed furniture and fabric lines to support her décor style, a combination of classic European Deco and Constructivism tossed up with California cool. The J. Robert Scott leitmotif is lightness, both in hue and in mass. Lewis calls it, “the power of neutral.”

J. Robert Scott’s design catalog for the Vision series includes a new pale wood finish called Benetti Sand. Carpets, surfaces, upholstery, leather and window treatments are suggested for each style path, although in reality most of the items can be mixed. Benetti inaugurated the Vision series in 2002. To date, three of the yachts have been delivered and another three are under construction. These composite yachts are designed by Stefano Righini with interior layouts by François Zuretti. Average replacement cost for a new Vision is 19.2 million euros.