Q&A with Patrick Knowles
For followers of the megayacht world, the name and designs of Patrick Knowles come up often. As he approaches his 300th interior design project (he does both yachts and terrestrial residences often for the same clients), Knowles tells PMY about his fortuitous introduction to the world of megayachts and how he keeps his clients returning.
PMY: What brought you to the megayacht industry?
Patrick Knowles: I arrived in the yacht design industry in 1989, after having worked in the aviation, commercial, hospitality, and residential fields. My introduction…was by chance. One of my brothers introduced me to a friend of his who happened to be the financial backer of a yacht-design firm in the United States. I worked for that firm for four years before venturing out on my own in 1993.
PMY: Did you have a relationship with the water while growing up?
Patrick Knowles: I was born and raised in the Bahamas in a large family. My father was an avid fisherman who had his share of sportfishermen over the years, which meant that a typical weekend was spent on the water—fishing, spearfishing, or diving.
PMY: What is the difference between styling a yacht and a home on land?
Patrick Knowles: There are many elements to contend with in yacht design that simply do not exist in residential design: The [yacht] environment is mobile and subject to volatile conditions that can ravage the best interiors if they are not well planned or designed. By well designed and planned, I am referring to the attachment of virtually all things movable, which requires many behind-the-scenes design processes early in the project to accommodate such attachments, [which] when executed correctly, appears to be an effortless task.
PMY: Describe your design process.
Patrick Knowles: This is quite simple…I listen, listen, listen. With a new client, I spend a significant amount of time with them just listening to what they want. After I feel I have captured what they desire, I proceed with the conceptual design process—interior spaces in black and white or sepia, produced myself by hand. I purposely produce void of color at this stage as color can be a distraction. We then proceed with adding the fabrics, finishes, and furniture.
PMY: What was your most memorable request?
Patrick Knowles: To create a room dubbed the “galactic lounge” when LED and fiber optic lighting technology was in its infancy. The room had a 180-degree view on the aft end of the second deck of a 172-foot yacht. There were fiber optics woven into the carpeting as well as overhead with shooting stars and twinkling galaxies. Holograms of the yacht and its name were in small details throughout the room. What was also special is that the entire balance of the boat sported a classic interior.
PMY: What have you learned over 300 designs?
Patrick Knowles: I have learned that no two boats, clients, or project dynamics are identical. There are many that are similar but none alike. Also my livelihood is supported by the requests of very wealthy individuals to create something that is NOT by any interpretation a necessity. By fully understanding that, we strive to absorb the burden of the project on behalf of the client, in an effort to create an enjoyable experience for them during the build or refit process.
PMY: How would you compare your interior design style versus other designers?
Patrick Knowles: I strive not to compete with my competitors, but instead I zero in on my clients’ needs, which I design to fulfill. In many cases, it takes original designs created specifically for them.
PMY: After spending your days designing and staring at and visiting yachts, do you still consider boating relaxing?
Patrick Knowles: My wife and I have a small day boat we use every chance we have to escape from the hectic world of conjuring up new, fresh, and creative environments. To me, boating with my wife is the refreshing recharge I need from time to time to go back to the blank drawing board.
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.