The new trend for imperfect perfection
From rustic, reclaimed woods to on-board gardens and beach house-style interiors, a growing number of today’s superyacht owners prize a more rustic finish, often inspired by nature.
The concept of luxury is constantly changing – and in the superyacht industry, where a new generation of environmentally-aware owners are entering the market, that concept seems to be shifting more than ever. The term ‘organic luxury’ is coming up more and more across design studios and shipyards – used to describe the more rugged, rustic finishes preferred by many new owners.
It’s a trend that Robert Walsh, the founder of wood flooring company Ted Todd has been noticing for some time. “I think there’s a move against the traditional ideal of perfection,” he explains. “The next generation coming through respect imperfection more. They want things that feel more real, more natural – they don’t necessarily want to live on a boat that’s full of manmade materials.”
For Walsh, it’s a trend that his company is well equipped to deal with. After all, they are the experts when it comes to sourcing interesting reclaimed woods, whether it’s teak from a grand colonial house, French oak from a Reims chateau – or Columbian pine from the Old War Office in London. “Old woods come with stories, which is where they come into their own,” explains Walsh. And it’s true. There’s a certain privilege to sauntering across wooden decks that were once privy to the private conversations of Winston Churchill back in the day.
Of course, this is the superyacht industry – and Walsh is clear that this so-called tag of ‘imperfect luxury’ could be misleading. “Just because a wood has got more imperfections doesn’t mean its rough,” he explains. “It’s about elegant imperfection; we’re not talking about imperfections just because somebody has been careless.” Far from it, as the yachts using these techniques and materials demonstrate.
M5, a striking yacht designed by Vripack for their outdoors-loving South American clients is a prime example of just how smart and elegant this unconventional style can be in practice. The studio spent hours sourcing just the right woods, stones and textiles to create the rustic beach house ambience befitting of their client. “We opted for re-used oak from New York warehouses to cover the floors,” explains Marnix Hoekstra, creative director. “It immediately provides the yacht with personality, which you can’t get by using a new material.”
Jack Canning, a designer at RWD has also noticed changing client preferences. “There has been a gradual shift to more owners wanting a pared back, honest and natural pallet for the interiors,” he explains. “We feel this is because the boundaries between inside and out are becoming more blurred, with floor to ceiling windows and flush thresholds, allowing the finishes to flow from interior to exterior spaces in a seamless way. This is a really exciting shift, towards something akin to a beach house.”
There is certainly reason to believe that owners are embracing nature and their natural surroundings in this way more than ever before. The rise in travel to remote destinations and off-the-beaten-track boltholes is a surefire sign that owners increasingly want to immerse themselves in beautiful environments. Whether that involves penguin spotting in Antarctica or heli-skiing in Norway – at the heart of these experiences lies nature – with all its glorious imperfections. Is it any wonder that those same owners are wanting to reflect that kind of beauty inside their boats?
Joost Mertens, fleet manager at Vripack, believes there are further considerations that are influencing this trend. “Today’s clients want their yacht to make sense,” he says. “No fancy interiors that need constant maintenance and expensive treatments after a bit of use.” He does concede, however, that a lust for the great outdoors could be adding fuel to the fire. “Our clients are more active today and like to do exciting things, more outdoors than indoors.”
For some clients, it doesn’t stop at reclaimed woods and beachy interiors. Many are going to the effort of creating entire gardens on board, such as Benetti’s Ocean Paradise, with its zen garden and bonsai trees, and VSY’s Stella Maris, with its soaring vertical garden, the work of designer Espen Oeino. Meanwhile, interiors brands such as Nature Squared are having their moment in the spotlight as their materials – the likes of eggshells, bark and tropical seashells are transformed into luxury objects or finishes that sit perfectly within these so-called ‘imperfect’ environments.
So does this spell the end of pristine, perfect superyachts? Not quite, says Canning. “Of course, polished high gloss and synthetic finishes still have their place for some of our clients, but it does seem that overall, designs are evolving to reflect more casual lifestyles. Mertens agrees. “There are still clients that demand lavish lifestyle materials. This shift is a niche and not necessarily a trend on its own that changes everything. Yet.”