Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Angela Audretsch's son Archie on Dunia Baru

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Angela Audretsch's son Archie on Dunia Baru

Craft

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Designing unique spaces for children on board superyachts is anything but child’s play.

By Angela Audretsch | 22 November 2018

“For me, yachting is all about family,” Mark Robba, the owner of Dunia Baru, told me last year. My eight-month-old son Archie was crawling around on the teak at our feet, his hands sticky from the fresh dragon fruit he had just eaten. We were in a remote bay in Komodo with nine other children – energetic and excited – on board ranging from Archie’s eight months to 14 years. “I built this boat to be a place for all generations to feel at home. Babies, young kids, teenagers, parents, grandparents … Everyone.”

Having toured my fair share of superyachts over the last decade, I would be the first to say that the idea of yachts and children can feel like an unlikely pairing. Cream upholstery, mirror-finished surfaces, priceless artwork, silk carpets; there is something about conventional superyacht interior schemes that feels decidedly at odds with the enthusiasm, unpredictability – and stickiness – of children. But the truth is, many superyachts, like Dunia Baru, have been designed to be a haven for family, with children even taking centre stage in the design process, while still representing the height of luxury and craftsmanship.

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Archie on board Dunia Baru

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Archie on board Dunia Baru

Everything on board Dunia Baru is solid ironwood or teak and perfectly crafted to withstand the rigours of family life while still being beautiful. My favourite feature during my time on board was the custom-designed convertible seating area, which transformed into a padded, enclosed ‘playpen’ of sorts, allowing babies like Archie to safely play (contained!) in the shade.

“We are tending to see an increase in the amount of time our clients are spending on their yachts, particularly those with children,” Andrew Winch, founder of Winch Design tells me. “They are staying on board for large periods of time as opposed to just a couple of weeks here and there.”

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

The ‘parrot’s cage’ corridor on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

The ‘parrot’s cage’ corridor on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

One Winch yacht that took craftsmanship for children to the next level was 62m Sea Owl. A whimsical work of art on water, she was designed to fuel the imagination in grown-ups and children alike. “She is a portal to a different world,” smiles Winch. “She is one of the most complex and interesting projects I’ve ever worked on. Our interior designers worked closely with family members to personalise each room and encourage the children to explore real and imaginary worlds. Usually, the design is an adults-only conversation, however with Sea Owl, the children also played a part in some of the interior design decisions, having expressed their favourite fairy tales and scholarly books.”

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Pirate-themed room on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Pirate-themed room on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

Sea Owl saw the studio enlist some help from DKT Artworks, a London-based team of skilled artists that specialise in creating decorative finishes and bespoke artworks for exclusive projects. DKT’s brief was to create visual stories around different imaginative themes. In the corridor leading from the guest suites, for example, you will find yourself in a ‘parrot’s cage’ surrounded by jungle. The ceiling of the library features a trompe l’oeil depicting bookshelves in the clouds. On the lower deck is a pirate-themed room and a cabin inspired by Alice in Wonderland. “The key element for all these areas was to keep the design theme dynamic and transforming depending on the use and the time of day,” says Guglielmo Carrozzo of DKT.

“One of the most ambitious commissions we have ever included on a yacht was actually on Sea Owl too,” says William Blomstrand of Winch Design, referring to the ‘living tree’: a 12m tall, three-metre wide wooden mural of a tree in the stairwell, hand-carved with a menagerie of woodland creatures, rising four decks. The drawings alone took 25 days and the carving took eight artisans a total of 1,000 hours to complete. “The client had seen a giant sequoia in National Geographic and thought it would make the perfect centrepiece for his children to enjoy. They love to follow the tree up and down the decks from the roots to the canopy.”

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Hand-carved staircase on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Hand-carved staircase on Sea Owl. Photo: Winch Design

Handing over the creative reins to the kids like this is an exception rather than the rule, but their influence can be seen in specially crafted elements on board many yachts. One designer told me of a private project that included specially-designed pieces of furniture with concealed drawers at child-height where the crew would leave notes and treats for the children to find. It is hard to miss Gene Machine’s custom beach club when she is at anchor, for example; a fun yet complex Finding Nemo mosaic adorns the walls and is instantly recognisable when the platform is lowered. And one of my favourite youthful touches is the brand identity for sailing yacht Ohana. With a name coming from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch and meaning ‘family’ in Hawaiian, Ohana’s sunshine yellow logo was designed by the owner’s eight-year-old son and graces everything from the crew uniforms to the napkins.

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Ohana’s logo was designed by the owner’s eight-year-old son. Photo: Mattia Djaza

Crafting superyachts that measure up to young imaginations

Ohana’s logo was designed by the owner’s eight-year-old son. Photo: Mattia Djaza

“I think we can admit that the designs with children in mind are perhaps even better than without,” says Robin de Vries, senior designer at Vripack, a studio that has worked on several projects where children were involved. “The layout design is much more focused on interaction and being together as a family and the yacht itself becomes less ‘mature’ but much more playful.” Vripack conceived the layout of 50m Project Casa around a young family by adding a ‘breezeway’ in the middle of the top deck, creating a safe space for the children to play safely.

For De Vries, designing for children is all about going back to your own childhood and remembering what you would have liked. “It brings out the child in ourselves and loosens the design limits a bit, giving, perhaps, more freedom to play with,” he says. “It also gives the ability to add gimmicks which you otherwise would never do. The design itself doesn’t have to be that serious.” Carrozzo agrees: “An artist who doesn’t enjoy creating these sort of schemes has probably grown up a bit too much.”

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