#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Evan K Marshall

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Evan K Marshall

#humansofyachting

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

The superyacht designer talks about his lifelong passion for boats.

By Dominique Afacan | 16 October 2019

“I grew up boating with my family in and around New York City. My father had owned small cabin cruisers since before I was born. We’d head up to Long Island Sound, Newport or Nantucket for holidays. This was before electronics or anything like that, so when I got bored on the boat I was given a pen and a piece of paper and told to draw something. That was when I started drawing boats. I still have a lot of those sketches starting from around four years old. I was hooked. I didn’t want to become anything else and I drew incessantly.

I took a degree in architecture, then afterwards I did a degree in small craft design at the Yacht Design Institute in Maine and went to work straight away for Sparkman & Stephens in New York. After about three years, I started to see what European designers were doing and decided to visit the Genoa Boat Show. That was 1986.  As soon as I walked in, I was blown away and realised Europe was where I wanted to be.

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

King Baby

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

King Baby

I wanted to get into yacht exterior styling and interesting interior design, but I didn’t have a portfolio to show off my skills as most of my stuff was naval architecture-oriented. So I spent six months after work developing a portfolio of Italian-inspired designs. When they were ready to be presented, I resigned and moved to Paris and started interviewing with different design offices. I ended up working with Andrew Winch for three years and then left to start up on my own.

Understanding our clients’ tastes is something I’ve worked hard at. You have to listen, you have to be sensitive and you have to be open. It can’t always be about what you like. A lot of us have relatively narrow personal taste – when you suspend that and look at things through the eyes of the client – you discover that your own taste also evolves. Like someone that appreciates all different styles of music, I now appreciate all different styles of design.

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

King Baby

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

King Baby

Some yachts today are on a par with high-end residential properties and in some cases they surpass them. We are able to create spectacular results because there are fewer boundaries; these boats are for private individuals, so they are not limited by the constraints that you might have in a corporate setting. For example, if Apple wanted some amazing new headquarters, there would still be a lot of constrictions and sacrifices that we don’t have in the yachting world.

Projects can take two to three years, so you need to have a comfortable and trusting relationship with your clients. I just returned from a refit in Malta – I’ve worked with the client now for almost 18 years; half of the pleasure is being in the company of somebody who has become a friend. After a meeting, we’ll go out to dinner, we’ll spend time in their home and see their family. I enjoy that aspect of the job very much – and you couldn’t do it if you didn’t have that kind of relationship with clients.

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Diamonds are Forever

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Diamonds are Forever

I used to race on boats a lot but I stopped when I moved to the UK. Over the last seven years, though, I’ve been racing regularly with a friend who owns a 1930 Sparkman & Stephens boat. So I am now back in the thick of it doing some sailing. It’s particularly special for me as I used to work right next to the drawings of this boat, as my desk at Sparkman & Stephens was next to the archives, which I would occasionally pull out over my lunch break. It’s been great to reconnect with racing.

I often get inspired by cars and what the automotive industry is doing, and residential design also inspires me. Craftsmanship is also a big part of it. In Italy, there is a strong apprenticeship tradition so you might go to a furniture factory and there’ll be a couple of generations of workers there. Seeing pieces of furniture that are bespoke and well executed is something that many owners really enjoy. They want everything to be perfectly aligned and perfectly made. An important part of our role is understanding how materials behave, so that even if a client loves a certain fabric, you have to tell them it isn’t durable enough for a sofa, or you have to point out that a certain stone might have small imperfections or look slightly different to the sample.

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Diamonds are Forever

#humansofyachting – Evan K Marshall

Diamonds are Forever

Once the boat is finished, there is a troubleshooting sea trial phase which is very important. People tend to encounter yachts in peaceful marinas but we always have to remember that these things are designed to go to sea and can be caught in the elements quite easily. As a sailor myself, I realize the importance of that.”

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