What it’s really like to design a luxury yacht

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There are many factors to consider when designing a high-end home on land, let alone one on water. Just ask luxury houseboat designer J. David Weiss, design director at Bravada Yachts and founder of Designova Creative, a yacht design consulting firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. From major considerations such as scale and materials to custom elements including fun additions (helipad, pool or submarine, anyone?) – there’s a long list of things to consider.

So where to start ? “I try to start by allowing whatever bubbles up — their excitement for what the project could be,” Weiss says, “allowing my experience to tick boxes and parameters as clients spring from their dreams.” He then follows up with a tidal wave of clarifying questions. “Their answers are always useful to hear, unearthing little by little the heart of the project.” Once Weiss has a good idea of ​​what the client is looking for, he digs deeper, being careful not to get too bogged down in all the details in the early planning stages. “Trying to boil the ocean this early is a losing battle,” he explains. “All the details will emerge and evolve over time anyway.”

Bravada Yachts

First and foremost, it is crucial to understand the intended use of a vessel. If you ask Palm Beach-based designer Danielle Rollins, structure is key: “On a boat, there’s a place for everything, and everything fits in its place,” she says. “The installations must be very precise because everything is interdependent and fits together like a puzzle.”

Rollins likes to start with a clear palette in mind. “Keeping things in a modified color scheme gives it an instant ship-like look — pun intended,” she enthuses.

“The key is to make sure it’s truly ‘human’,” says Weiss. First, it needs to be comfortable, allowing ease of movement between different decks and areas. Second, it needs to be flexible, ” with adaptable arrangements of circulation and use of furniture”. And finally, it must have “intelligent proportions” between common spaces, private spaces and crew spaces, if it is a ship with crew,” he notes.

bravada yachts invictus david weiss

Bravada Yachts

Comfort is also key: “Anything in the ground has to feel nice because you’re not wearing shoes on a boat,” says Rollins. “Performance materials are key – spills are a given.”

Below, we’ve picked the brains of Rollins and Weiss on what goes into designing a luxury abode on the water.

danielle rollins grace yacht brantley photography

Brantley Photography

How long does it take to build a custom yacht?

Designing an average custom boat (30 to 50 meters) can take two to five months, plus an additional 18 to 24 months to build, but a vessel over 75 meters can take over 48 months to design, manufactured and delivered. . “Semi-custom and production ships can significantly cut that time, almost in half,” Weiss reveals. “But it’s rare to find production ships over 30 meters, so almost all ships larger than that are fully custom.”


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How is it most different from the design of a house on earth?

“There are many more elements and steps with a yacht that need to be decided before starting the interior layout or interior design,” says Weiss. For example, the type and location of bodies of water a client intends to visit will dictate the types of materials used, as well as the shape of the vessel. And all performance requirements (i.e. speed and power) will determine the amount and shape of space needed for the inner workings of the boat, from its motors and batteries to the routing of exhaust gases. exhaust, anti-vibration countermeasures and sound insulation. “Everything has to be done really well,” insists Rollins, because “things take a real hit in the salty air.”

grace yacht danielle rollins brantley photography

Brantley Photography

grace yacht danielle rollins brantley photography

Brantley Photography

Additionally, “We need to consider significant space for sensitive material storage, fuel storage – not just for the yacht, but also for any other small boats or water toys kept in the tender garage or helicopter on board – and other supplies for longer trips,” Weiss notes.

And unlike building a regular home, floating homes have to meet all of the customer’s needs and wants at the same time. “You can’t just add a wing if you suddenly decide to expand your guest rooms,” he says. When completed, the houseboat “must be a unified symphony of features, engineering, beauty, structure, experiences, utilities and textures”.

Another important point: “Although it seems comically simple, you have to imagine that everything going in has to withstand a 12-foot roll in all directions,” says Rollins. “Things need to be weighted down and secured and tied down. The last thing you want is a call saying the sofa went overboard!”

What are three things every luxury houseboat should have?

    Plush upholstery, plush floors and mixed lighting — so it’s not all from the ceiling — plus focal artwork and plush bedding and linens should all be standard in a luxury houseboat, Rollins says. .

    “Visibility for clear navigation and awareness of surroundings is a must,” says Weiss. “This feature also usually means a lot of panoramic windows,” so it’s a plus for security and the customer experience. “Live and PTZ cameras that are easily accessible from the helm and monitor potential blind spots are crucial for good navigation,” he adds. “On a larger scale, bow thrusters and other stabilizing devices, such as Seakeepers or zero-speed stabilizers, are life-saving to meet the challenge of maneuvering these sizeable creatures.

    Describe a boat you’ve designed that you’re particularly proud of.

    ” The boats Invictus and To improve are two of the new 80ft Atlas Series vessels that I have designed with Bravada, and are examples of a truly 21st century approach to the age-old world of houseboats,” exclaims Weiss.

    david weiss bravada yachts upgrade

    Bravada Yachts

    “I also worked with NL and Frank Laupman of Omega Architects to create new DNA for Heesen Yachts in the Netherlands when we won the design quest for the 213ft Galactic Star– the largest and most efficient yacht ever built by the famous yacht builder. The winning vessel, he notes, was “the very first example of the legendary FDHF (fast-displacement hull form) by hull wizards Piet & Perry Van Oossanen in Holland, and was also the first collaboration between our team and Bannenberg & Rowell in the UK, a direct descendant of the groundbreaking studio founded by Jon Bannenberg, the “godfather” of modern yacht design.

    As for Rollins, “I’ve done several boats in my design history, including an impressive 300ft,” she says, but her favorite boating business to date is Grace, an 86-foot-long motor yacht she recently purchased with her fiancé, Tom D’Agostino. “We did a whirlwind interior renovation while the boat was dry-docked in the yard in a crazy three week timeframe that was executed with military precision,” she reveals. “I had everything lined up so that as soon as the old furniture and carpet were out, new carpet would fall the next day, and the furniture would be put in right after.”

    How much does a luxury houseboat cost to build and deliver?

    “A lot of it depends on how decisions are made for detail and scale,” says Weiss.
    “However, the 80 to 100 foot long luxury houseboats that we are currently building with Bravada Yachts in the United States cost between $1.8 and $3.5 million.”

    What are your main sources of inspiration?

    Rollins loves to travel boats from the 1930s to the 1970s – “especially the Feadships, which are my favourite”, she reveals, adding: “Michele Bonan’s work is always a good start, and Ralph Lauren never seems disappoint.”

    When it came to imagining the interiors of Grace, the well-traveled designer drew many creative elements from the Cipriani restaurant in Mexico City. “Its decor nods to the glory days of glamorous steamship travel with highly varnished teak, polished stainless steel, and a streamlined palette of crisp blues and whites,” says Rollins. “I was drawn to the glossy workmanship – a browsing term used to describe the exposed metal and varnished woodwork – and wanted to emphasize the modern clean lines of the interior while creating a relaxed barefoot decor. , comfortable and classic.”

    grace yacht danielle rollins brantley photography

    Brantley Photography

    “It may sound cliché, but I really find inspiration everywhere,” raves Weiss. “I have over 70,000 images saved in my library, and each brings its own flavor into my world. Some of these things include biomimicry, parametric architecture, how light changes in different parts of the world, fantastical new environments and fashioned elements for film and television, and my creative colleagues in the world of finely crafted and crafted watercraft.


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