In an industry where the sky is the limit, Patrick Knowles says he feels it's a privilege to be a participant. An interior designer for more than 21 years, he started in residential and commercial design, with a few detours in the hotel and millwork industries. "I was trying to find out what it was that would get my attention. Even though I spent a significant amount of time in other areas, I was looking for an area that would really be exciting," Knowles says. His brother was acquainted with one of the partners of a yacht-design firm and arranged an interview. "It was really by chance that it happened, because I certainly wasn't looking in that direction," he explains. "After I was introduced to yachting and interviewed for the job, I realized that this was going to be more of a challenge."
Knowles has worked on some of the world's most extravagant and luxurious yachts, with clients whose requirements are specific, demanding, and sometimes impractical. He says he feels his most important job is to guide his clients on the best path to take: "I give them the knowledge they need along with the best advice and direction. But if I think we should go left and the client is dead-bent on going right, I will support them 100 percent."
Knowles has had many challenging projects, and here he shares some of the biggest, some of the most fun, and one that was a nightmare.
For Knowles, the fun starts when design requirements are impractical and frivolous. "The owner wanted a space, an escape, that was unlike any other part of the boat. The ceiling has shooting stars, and the clouds and moon on the floor are like a storm brewing. When you turn the lights down low and the fiber optics and the color wheel change, it becomes very ethereal." Hence the name of the room: Galactic Lounge. "The room was the most challenging and became a very complex room to deal with, but it was a lot of fun."
Best N Show: Dining Area
A 33-foot-long saloon, while open and spacious, could look more like a trailer house. The trick was to separate without isolating. "The owner loves the act of dining and entertaining, the bottle of wine and the mood of it, the personality of the environment. The requirement was to have a large room while at the same time feeling intimate while dining. When you draw the sheers and enclose the dining saloon, you're in a different world. And we made the temperature of the lighting in the dining saloon different from the other part, so you really felt as if you were private. If they have cocktails in the main saloon before dinner, the stewardess will come in and tent off the dining area so she can get it set up beforehand while they're being entertained. You can make the light in the dining area darker so they can't see her in it."
Inevitable: Breakfast Bar
Knowles is sometimes challenged not by the project itself, but its location: "When you board the boat on the starboard side through the entrance, you immediately go into the breakfast bar" (right). Knowles created an environment that is not abrupt, disjointed, or out of place, but one that flows. "The breakfast bar was designed as part of the owner's suite that gave the owner an area in which he could have quiet time while dining, or as a quiet retreat in which guests could be brought in for an intimate setting. You feel like you're in a quaint, quiet, warm environment, like a pub."
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.