With superyacht design now an increasingly important part of many interior designers’ portfolio, prestigious names are setting up specific divisions within their studios to focus solely on this demanding discipline. One example is French design house Christian Liaigre, which has transplanted its signature look – refined, beautifully crafted and timeless – on to the high seas. Guillaume Rolland heads the yacht interior design team, and is also a speaker at Superyacht Design Week at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour (28-30 June); here he explains more about his work.
What’s your design background?
When I was teenager, I studied a little naval architecture on my own, but I finally graduated as an architect in 1995, from the École des Beaux–Arts in Paris. I then worked with Philippe Starck for three years where I was involved with the design of Wedge 2, a 63m motor yacht. I started working at the Liaigre studio in 2002 where I became studio manager together with Frauke Meyer; since then we’ve worked on six yacht projects including Seahawk, a 60m sailing yacht, and Vertigo, a 67m sailing yacht.
Why did Christian Liaigre set up a yacht division?
We felt that it was a pity not to take advantage of past experiences and we were also excited by the challenge of bringing new visions to the field.
Is yacht design changing?
I prefer to say that it’s the owners who change: they are younger and they bring along a new vision from their side.
There is still a lot of inertia in the world of yacht design – people tend to repeat and propose what they know. A new spirit and approach tend to appear very slowly.
What’s governs a typical layout?
The layout is very different from yacht to yacht depending on the size, the navigation programme and the range. Just as with a home, the layout reflects the lifestyle of the owner on board. Crew areas often represent a large proportion – quite often there are more crew members than guests on board.
Is yacht design influenced by hotel or residential design, or is it the other way around?
I would say that yacht design is good R&D for residential design. The challenge of a small space obliges you to find innovative space solutions that can be used in other fields. Generally speaking, the most interesting design solutions are born from the greatest restrictions.
How do you develop your ideas? If there a frequent starting point?
A general brief from the owner is the best starting point. Ideas grow all the time from working out how to make the best use of the space. In addition, we love to respect maritime traditions and we do a lot of research about traditional yachts and historical vessels.
Do you favour certain materials?
Mainly natural materials, because they fade nicely with time.
Do you have a favourite architect or designer?
Andrea Palladio, the 16th-century Italian architect, considered the absolute master of proportions.