4 Preliminary Steps When Starting a Yacht Interior Design

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I firmly believe that interior design on a new yacht should start no later than when the hull is started. The following steps should be considered preliminary and  set the look and feel of the interior, so it would be better to start them earlier, maybe as overall discussions about the project start.

Please keep in mind that the following are a  very much simplified overview of this process. Each one of these steps has many, many sub-steps, but it is a good starting point for a project.

When starting a design for an interior for a yacht , I usually start with the styling for  a sea rail detail  This is a prominent design element, it interacts with many other elements and helps set the overall look and feel of the cabinetry. Then I would start to design cabinet details around the sea rail. As I start I would generally consider the following as I  start to work out a concept: 1) what look would suit the customer? 2) what look would suit the overall boat styling, 3)what are the budget concerns or constraints, 4) what are the capabilities of the shop that will build and install the interior. Lets look at these steps in more detail.


1) Suit the Customer

A custom table meeting a very specific  request from a customer.

A custom table meeting a very specific request from a customer.

I like to sit down with the customer and discuss their likes, dislikes and personal  preferences. Hopefully they have brought some pictures of styles that they  like. Maybe they even mention a particular style such as; Arts & Crafts, Shaker, Traditional look with flutes, Mid Century Modern, etc  all of this helps. Do they prefer more soft goods, (fabric and wallpaper) or more architectural elements (wood work) to set the tone?  Will the boat be used as more of a second home and be lived on for weeks or months at a time or more to entertain friends and business associates ? All of this is important and helps set the tone.

2) Compliment the Vessel

Now that I have an idea what the customer likes, which to me is most important, I would look at the boat.  What is the general style? Maine lobster boat, North sea trawler,  1980’s  tri-cabin, rakish express cruiser, these would all influence the styling. The Lobster boat and the Trawler may both be “calling out” for a more traditional look but I would tend to us smaller more refined details on the former and likely somewhat heavier more robust details on the latter. You really have to look at each boat and just get a feel for what would be appropriate,and this is not one particular look but a loose range.

3) What is the Budget

Is this a new custom one off, a customization of a new semi production boat or maybe a refit of an older vessel? What is the customers budget? What is the value of the boat? How will the boat really be used? What makes sense for this particular project?  The type of wood, specific hardware, style, design and difficulty of construction can make a huge difference, so these need to be looked at carefully in regard to the overall goals.

4) The Builder

Before finalizing the construction details I would want to talk to the people that are responsible for building and installing the interior. What is the skill level of their crew. Do they have specific techniques that they are set up to do efficiently? Do they have special equipment, such as a  CNC router, that make some difficult tasks much easier? If so do they have a competent  operator and programer on staff? Not considering these factors can lead to frustration and headaches for everybody. Designing details that are above their capability will likely end up with a result that costs too much and might not achieve the intended result. On the other hand not taking advantage of their skill set and work flow might have the same basic result, but only because they have been constrained. You wouldn’t know what they are truly  capable of without some in depth discussions with them.

Putting it All Together

After getting through the above I will put together a “look and feel” proposal that has recommendations for wood(s), style, some hardware and fixtures. Chances are this will go through quite a few changes …… but you have to start somewhere. This can be a lot of  work, but, if you skip the above steps you will have a hard time getting a  coherent, functional, well planned interior that meets your needs and wants.

interior concept

Initial concept board

 Next Steps

General concept details

3d models

A sample cabinet

Approved details

Wood selections      link to it’s just wood

Interior mock-ups       link to cardboard and sticks

Start clear concise drawings      link to clear drawings



Pacific Yew Inlay on Douglas Fir

Pacific Yew Inlay on Douglas Fir














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