How things feel is a luxury these future warriors of Wall Street and Wimbledon can ill afford. As fourth graders they may indeed have loathed the scratchy wool sweaters Mom forced them to wear — but there was no other option but to “grin and bear it”, at least till one rounded the corner out her sight.
Nevertheless, the pleasures of touch and texture will inevitably find a way to embrace the thickest of skins.
“Feel the hand,” says the salesman in the Menswear to the young man buying his first suit. The lovely drape of the wool crepe dawns on him as a true awakening….
Not itchy at all!
The suit’s hand-sewn lining allows the garment to move with the youth’s athletic build, moving like Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire. Without a word being spoken, the salesman starts putting away the cheaper models he has picked out, the ones with their unyielding glued-on linings, their Kevlar stiff wool plucked from a sheep’s derriere. Clearly, his customer is sold on the sensual suit. From the look on his face, the suit has become — ipso facto — his second skin.
Just as the young man understood the pleasures of texture immediately when he actually felt the hand, yacht owners are making it known to their interior designers that texture more than counts — it rules. The rewards of a beautiful hand, the richness it adds to the yachting experience are nevertheless subtle; easier to feel than see. A third skin of fine textures layered around one’s second skin is beginning to define the luxury yacht experience. Marshaling all one’s resources to create a “wow” visual first impression is fast becoming secondary.
How are M/Y Designers rising to the challenge of interpreting this new notion of luxury? How are they going about tailoring yacht interiors to behave as beautifully as the young man’s suit? Regardless of what people are wearing — a Valentino or a Speedo and towel, the design of the third skin enveloping them must simultaneously flatter, delight, energize and sooth all on board. Manufacturers are responding to this complex challenge, as well. They are now offering designers a cornucopia of custom silks and chenilles, velvets and cottons, cashmeres, linens and leathers, wools, specialty indoor/outdoor synthetics, warm woods and veneers, along with matte-finished or otherwise roughed-up marbles and granite.
One of the epicenters of the texture trend is Italy, where the artisanry around fabric, stone and leather has been refined for centuries. There, we spoke with two leading M/Y designers, Stefano Pastrovich near Genoa, and Antonio Romano, a partner in the Hot Lab studio in Milan.
“Texture is one of the things that can transform a boat in five seconds— it is very simple, just some cutting and gluing,” says Pastrovich. His work on the Mystere 50m and Xvintage 99m are two recent power yacht projects where the understated magic of texture he feels are most pronounced.
“Not only can texture transform a yachting experience overnight…. at least where ceilings are concerned painting is a far more expensive option than using textiles. With textiles it is much easier to hide the joints between panels.” As though for emphasis, a rising tide of textile samples from the many of the world class mills nearby appears ready to engulf Pastrovich at his desk there and then.
“Fabric is a particularly critical factor on furniture. While in your house, you at least have your shirt on; while on the boat can have next to nothing. One needs to consider how the fabric contacts the body directly. Peeling oneself off leather or a glossy hard-finished chair can feel uncomfortably sticky. Stone floors can feel cold and gummy on bare feet as well. If you tour the Mystere at Monaco, you can feel how we broke up the marble so its surface not completely smooth. Then we brushed it with sand. When you walk on it barefooted you feel like you are still on the beach.”
Pastrovich tends to reduce the amount of visual information in his interiors, but where punch is needed he frequently turns to richly colored, highly textured fabric. Because fabric “advances” to the eye more than a painted surface, less can indeed be more. “People on board don’t want to work too hard. You need to leave them some blank space in which to relax. For example, in a small bath I will use only use a single color and one material; very simple, such as all white walls to set off a black carbon fiber toilet seat. As a designer, you still need to call attention to certain areas and to explain why they exist. On the Xvintage, a Chinese red umbrella serves as a giant billboard: Lounge chairs here…Whereupon, an array of cushions directs people’s eyes to where we would like them to look once they sit down.”
Hot Lab’s design for the interior of M/Y Noor 37m earned this magazine’s 2011 award in the semi-displacement category. The studio’s Antonio Romano is clearly a perfectionist about M/Y textiles and interior textures. “The yachting industry still has a long way to go,” he says, “…before we arrive at the level of a Bentley, the attention to detail with which they match wood veneers with leather, for example. They are only doing a meter or so…and they have the technology, but still it is something to aim for. “
“Right now we have three yachts in progress. All three of their interiors are based on texture. Texture will do the talking, so to speak. Our clients have excellent taste. They are not interested in impressing their guests, having them go through the boat exclaiming ‘Wow! Wow!’ and then the whole thing is just as quickly forgotten. Rather, our clients want those same guests to come on board and relax, get comfortable first. Only after some time has passed, someone might ask ‘what is this?’ about a particular detail or texture and only then be truly awed.”
“The preciousness of the glazed fish leather we have been using is a good example. Only when you run your hand over this leather can you appreciate its uniqueness, its sensuousness. The same holds true with the Maccassar ebony on the ceiling of another project — there is an arrowing quality to the veneer that guests can easily miss the first time, but when they finally discover it, they become enthralled.”
“The 45 meter we are working on at RMK Marine in Turkey weaves together at least twenty different tones and textures, all very light and smooth: polished silver leaf on the mullions in the saloon and dining area will complement the anigre veneers and white cashmere upholstery. LED’s will backlight the mullions at night to bring out the texture even more. The side cabinets will have white leather tops edged with blue stitching like a sports car. There are no handles on the cabinets. Instead, braided leather covers the drawer faces making them easy to grasp. The coffee table will be in mother of pearl with an ebony center. Its top can be lifted to reveal glasses and champagne chilling in an ice bucket. Really, we should call it a champagne table, or mini wet bar; not a coffee table at all. All this rests on a parquet floor tinted (not stained!) platinum grey, and a tufted wool carpet detailed with an aerial view of Milan.
“Our clients aren’t just asking for light or dark and that’s it. They are looking for a level of detail that becomes increasingly apparent the closer they get.”
That level of detail is not always obvious to the naked eye, much less as seen in a photograph. M/Y Leading designers such as Pastrovich and Romano have the courage (and encouragement from owners) to forgo the wow visual in favor of subtle textures. Their interiors for saloons, staterooms, and decks constitute a third skin for people inclined to change their second skin many times a day — from beachwear to crepe suits that flow the body. Have these designers succeeded? To quote that long ago salesman in the Menswear, just “feel the hand.”