In the automotive world, Rolls-Royce stands heads and shoulders above the rest. Its cars aren’t the fastest, sleekest, or most tricked-out, but that doesn’t matter—what does matter is the name and the product stand for the utmost in luxury. Witness the fact that wealthy individuals ranging from heads of state to heads of multimillion-dollar corporations want and/or own one—indeed, often more than one. As Henry Royce, one of the company’s founders, was fond of saying, “The quality remains long after the price is forgotten.”
In the megayacht world, even the most casual observer has probably heard Feadship likened to Rolls-Royce. While Royal Van Lent and Royal De Vries, the two Dutch shipyards under the Feadship umbrella, have built some fast, sleek, and tricked-out yachts, that’s not the attraction. Like the carmaker, Feadship stands for luxury. And yes, everyone from heads of state to heads of multimillion-dollar corporations want and/or own one—and, particularly in the case of American auto entrepreneur Jim Moran and his Gallant Ladys, often more than one.
So why would Royal De Vries mess with success and invite a handful of designers who’ve never planned a yacht—much less even set foot on one—to submit interior arrangements for the SL39, a new series? Simple: Feadship views the move as being anything but contradictory. Since yacht owners come to Holland to see their floating vision realized, why not add Dutch interior design to the mix? And why not make it even more interesting by hosting a design competition, publicizing not just the winning proposal but also every take on the concept?
The result is a refreshing look at what a custom interior can—and, frankly, should—be. As much as every custom yacht does reflect a particular owner’s desires, there are far too many look-alike designs, in my opinion as well as that of people within the marine industry (including some anonymous folks at Feadship). The “blame” can come from any number of directions: owners who point to an existing yacht and say, “I want that look,” for example, or designers who have such a distinct signature style that it rarely embraces new elements. Regardless, in the case of the winning firm, Fokkema Architecten, sometimes it takes an outsider’s analysis and opinion to show what else lies within the realm of possibilities.
According to Diederik Fokkema, principal of Fokkema Architecten, he and his team never viewed the lack of marine experience as an obstacle. On the contrary, he felt the approach they needed to make wasn’t terribly dissimilar to designing a private townhouse residence or even renovating a major corporation’s sprawling headquarters, both of which the firm has plenty of experience doing: “By nature as an interior architect, you’re used to working in a limited space,” Fokkema explains. Furthermore, his team approached the Feadship SL39 the way it does any other design: looking closely at the client’s identity. “We don’t create our own world and hope that the client will fit, we try to create a world that suits the client,” he says.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.