#humansofyachting – Adriana Monk
Adriana spent years as a lead designer in the luxury car industry, before following her passion for yacht interiors. She set up Monk Design in 2008.
“I spent over a decade as a luxury car designer, ultimately as Jaguar Land Rover’s chief interior designer. I loved it, but after so long, my enthusiasm was waning and I wanted to do something to challenge my creativity. During my time in the car industry, we all had pictures of Wally Yachts on our walls for inspiration – so yachts were very much on my radar. At Rolls Royce, one of our research trips was to the Pendennis shipyard in the UK where I actually saw a 100-foot carbon fibre superyacht being built. I was super impressed and the seed was planted to work with yachts next.
I had no experience of yachting, so I took a course in naval architecture, then I signed up for a sailing course in Hamble and got my day skipper licence to understand the technology and terminology behind it all. I went to the Monaco Yacht Show and managed to meet Luca Bassani, the founder of Wally Yachts, who eventually offered me a job in their Monaco studio. I packed up everything, left my comfort zone and jumped into a new world of design. It was incredibly inspiring and very humbling. I was with Wally for two years before I decided to set up on my own.
Wally Yachts. Photo: Wally Yachts
Wally Yachts. Photo: Wally Yachts
When you’re a car designer, you are part of establishing future trends and telling the world what they will like. With yacht design, it is much more of a collaborative process. Many clients have a very clear vision of what they require and ask you to come up with options. Often their time is very precious, so you have to be very efficient when it comes to presenting design options and solutions. Recently, for example, we did renderings of an interior and presented two different options. Both the colour schemes and all the fabric samples were ready and waiting and we also used a virtual reality headset so the client could immerse himself in the design and see what it felt like, even when the yacht was heeled over at 30 degrees. It was a huge amount of fun, both for us and for the owner.
I am seeing more and more owners who are concerned with sustainability. They don’t just want to carry that ‘green’ label though, they want to see the efficiency that comes from it. Most of them realize that this hobby and their lifestyle on the water is dependent on a beautiful clean ocean, so there’s a real momentum that comes from that.
As designers, we are at the forefront of helping establish sustainable solutions. The more restrictions we have, the more we need to challenge our creativity to come up with solutions. In my opinion, thinking sustainably opens doors to new opportunities and things that haven’t been done before. And for me, it’s also about supporting businesses that make that extra effort. There’s a healthy back and forth between designers and suppliers that helps to create change.
I find inspiration all over the place. A while back I stayed at a very cool hotel in Mallorca, for example. Both the client and I were impressed with the monolithic concrete sinks in the bathrooms and we decided to do something like that on board. The result was a 2mm thin layer of “béton cirè” as a surface finish applied to a carbon fibre substrate. This provided us with the unique raw effect of concrete all within our weight limitation. As material choices become more important, it is satisfying when inspiration and innovation lead you down a new path.
Art is another big one for inspiration. David Nash had an exhibition of his charred wood sculptures, for example, and the texture of the wood was so beautiful, it inspired us to apply the finish to an automotive concept car. Soon, we started seeing it across a number of projects and in a lot of different applications. It’s gratifying when you realize you were part of that movement and trend. Our job as designers is to consider the larger canvas whilst embracing the intricate details: to keep thinking in new ways, exploring new territories and always having a unique approach. That’s why a client comes for my services.
Superyachts are homes at the end of the day and I am seeing people put a lot more of their personal touches inside, which is a great thing. Families do get their kids involved in decisions and they provide valuable feedback. Travelling around the world and providing children with home-schooling is becoming more and more popular and therefore learning facilities have to be provided. Some of the things these kids get to experience is pretty spectacular.
The superyacht industry provides a unique platform to express my creativity, push the boundaries of sustainability and pursue my passion for design. I feel very blessed to work in such a fascinating industry.”