Masculine Mega Yachts | Showboats International

by Louis Postel | from Showboats International

Tony Curtis woos Marilyn Monroe
Some Like It Yacht! Tony Curtis woos Marilyn Monroe

Masculine Mega Yacht Interiors???

A contradiction in terms?

Not so. Here’s how shifting cultural currents are changing the look and feel of floating palaces, perhaps forever.

The yacht Tony Curtis, playing Joe, claims to own draws his costar Marilyn Monroe, playing Sugar, like a bear to honey in  the 1959 hit Some Like It Hot.

“It looks so small from the beach,” she exclaims in her breathless way, “but when you’re on it, it’s more like a cruiser or a destroyer…It’s exquisite, like a floating mansion.”

Whether Curtis has furnished the yacht’s salon in damask or denim makes no difference to either one of them. Size and speed is what it’s all about — those traditional projections of heroic power, signifying manly success in a competitive world.

Nothing wrong with that, had Curtis been for real, but traditional projections of masculinity — symbolized by ebony panels, brass sea clocks, and heavily-shellacked marlins adorning the bulwark — aren’t the whole story these days.

Leading M/Y designers as diverse as Evan Marshall, Sylvia Bolton, Marc Thee, and Stefano Pastrovich are all seeing departures from the stereotype of what constitutes a manly yacht interior. Hastening those departures are some powerful cultural currents.

Among them:

Bigger yachts entail exponentially more options. Back in the 19 40’s and 50’s some may have liked it hot, but there were few choices other than that. The lady would go into a specially designated room at the shipyard to make her choices. Walnut or mahogany, chenille or suede, nickel or brass — and that was that. Now, for the larger yachts there are just too many options for a shipyard to get involved. You need a skilled designer as well as a high tolerance for information overload.

Chippendale - A Man's Choice
Chippendale – A Man’s Choice

Prior to the  20th century, the ladies made few design decisions, so no designated room was necessary. According to cultural historians, it was men who dominated the decorating game, mainly because they held the design purse strings and ladies were considered much too delicate to make major purchasing decisions. The title of Thomas Chippendale’s 1754 classic The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director speaks volumes about this.

Our understanding of manliness has become far more complex and difficult to define. Ulysses, for example, was strong, daring, clever, archetypically manly, but for all that he didn’t give a heck for his crew and he left them all to perish. Not considered cool today. Another sailor, brave Aeneas, may have founded Rome, but was from many a modern point of view a cad and a conformist par excellence.  Dialing ahead to now, in this century, courage, strength, endurance and other manly virtues have become every day, anonymous acts. No parades, no laurel wreaths. Soldiers, rescuers, researchers, adventurers all melt one by one into the bush. Sailors circumnavigate world singlehandedly with only a blip of a YouTube video to mark the occasion.

What, then, does manliness even look like?

Stefano Pastrovich at work
Stefano Pastrovich at work

M/Y Designer Stefano Pastrovich works from his busy 15th floor studio overlooking Hercule Harbour in Monaco.  From there he can observe his creations such as Wally, Life Saga and Zulu as they cast their hypnotic spells on many of Marilyn Monroe’s spiritual descendants as they stroll along. Pastrovich sees his best work as a happy union between masculine and feminine, based on an equal, loving status, but with emphasis on the feminine as the main influencer of the interior.

“Look,” he says, “A guy with a nice Ferrari calls on a girl for a date. He honks she comes down and as soon as she’s inside, he floors the thing. He wants to show off how fast it can go. Whether there’s glove leather detailing inside means nothing. It’s the same with M/Y interiors which are almost always female, and the exterior male. Ladies shop, they know fabrics, they know how something should when it touches their skin, they know how to make themselves beautiful. A guy just puts on a pair of jeans and that’s it.”

But here’s where Pastrovich confirms rather than undermines our premise: there has to be a happy marriage between the masculine outside and the feminine inside for the M/Y to be a success. We gents must join in the dance to make it all work. “Too often,” he says, “you see a division — one designer doing the outside and one the inside — and they are at cross purposes, each trying to dominate the other. Life Saga represented a real turning point for us in. We designed a continuity between out and in. Now when I talk with new clients, I sometimes draw a sketch of the continuity I’m talking about. I draw a beach house — which is totally enclosed from the elements representing the closed part of the yacht, then I draw the beach, which like a deck on a yacht is totally exposed to the sun and wind. Then I draw a patio in between with tables and chairs, part shade, part sun — that’s the ideal spot for their mutual pleasure and relaxation.”

8,700 km from Monaco is M/Y designer Sylvia Bolton’s studio in Seattle, WA. Renowned for Dream Catcher, Mazu, Alexis and many other interiors, Bolton feels that modern style fits men perfectly. “Though ladies are braver about exploring modern and men more occupied with toys and radar and electronics, the modern style itself has the oomph factor men are looking for. It’s cleaner, simpler, less complicated, the colors very soft or all white. The overall effect is casual — like a resort — but also very powerful.”

Clean design, clutter-free design doesn’t mean there can’t be art, there can’t be personal expressions and accessories. “The main thing is to keep the clutter organized. And the earlier we start planning for it, the better it goes. For example, one client had a collection of 200 fishing lures. We displayed them in their own panel under glass. Another client had a huge amount of family photographs. We turned them all a uniform sepia color in antique frames on one wall in a walkway. A usually boring area soon became everyone’s favorite spot.”

Marc Thee of powerhouse design firm Marc-Michaels Interior Design does everything luxury, from French restaurants in China to private jets as well as mega-yachts — Abbracci, Mia Elise, Belissima, and Bossy Boots among others.

Reached at his main studio in Winter Park, Florida, Thee had this to say about what he sees as an increasing involvement of men in today’s M/Y interiors: “While many men will name their mega yachts after their wives, out of all project types we do at the firm, the male is the most involved in their yacht design. Very often the yacht is a symbol of the success he has achieved.”

“The manliness trend is very much menswear inspired with emphasis on colors like classic palominos, saddle shades, creams, navy’s and things that have been in style in menswear forever. Hounds tooth, chalk stripe, chevrons, etc. are menswear patterns but they are kept to a minimum on these M/Y’s. Since yachts usually exist in warmer climates, the color palettes tend to be on the light side and take into consideration oceanic tones. In any case, a typical menswear palette used to be very saturated in color…such as deep forest greens, wine reds and colored leather. Everything has cleaned up. The whole era or ornateness and heaviness is gone and people are enjoying living cleaner and more minimally.”

Gregory Marshall's staircase statement for Mega Yacht Big Fish
Gregory Marshall’s staircase statement for Mega Yacht Big Fish

Bora Bora. Lady Linda. Opus II. Evan K. Marshall’s M/Y interiors capture the new manly design in ways that are quite personalized for many reasons but one really stands out. Before Marshall puts even the roughest of sketches on the proverbial back of the envelope, he first gets to know his clients as best he can, spending considerable leisure time with them, preferably well outside his London office or theirs. He joins them at clubs, or on the links, or in their homes getting to know his clients in casual ways, while at the same time extracting key information — information that will ultimately lead to a very formal set of blueprints.

“We just look, listen and ask questions. ‘I can say, for example, ‘I just love that sculpture,” and the man might reply, ‘Oh, really. I hate it, but it’s my wife’s and I just can’t get rid of it.” For Marshall, this offhand remark can be a critical element in building up a picture of the client, filed away with additional data: how extroverted is the client, how meticulous, etc. “Sometimes a client will say ‘let’s go really modern because the boat will be easier to sell. But when we test out some modern furniture, he might feel that it’s way too low. So we may need to make a slight shift in our approach.”

“In general,” adds Marshall, “the man takes a greater interest in the exterior styling. They’re both involved with interior, but with the wife taking the lead, particularly in spaces dedicated to social occasions, cocktails and dinners. Men are more interested in an onboard retreat where they can get away to watch Formula One, for example, and smoke cigars.”

Are M/Y interiors man-centric? Hardly, as Marshall and the others have told us.  But what’s different about them these days is that they reflect the fact that men have become more comfortable expressing themselves through design, and more comfortable working with women to achieve that beautiful space between sun and shade so dear to Stefano Pastrovich.

Meanwhile, the stereotypes of what constitutes manliness and manly interiors have gone begging, perhaps ever since Marilyn Monroe famously exclaimed in Some Like It Hot “I don’t care how rich he is, as long as he has a yacht, his own private railroad car, and his own toothpaste.”

Text: Louis Postel
Text: Louis Postel