Feadship left it up to each design team to come up with an owner profile; Fokkema and his staff envisioned a couple who are family-oriented and enjoy relaxing and interacting informally onboard yet who also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and therefore want to host to business guests. As a result the need to balance formal and informal settings to serve both business and family needs created a complex challenge that kept the team working from January to May last year on the design.
During that period they also studied “quite a couple of yachts,” Fokkema says, and they were struck as much by what they didn’t like as by what they did. For example, while they embraced the idea of having large windows in the master stateroom to bring in abundant sunlight, they were disappointed overall by what Fokkema deems “the inflexibility of most designs and the way they looked.” “Most yacht interiors seem to have adopted the vocabulary of the classic interiors of apartments onshore,” he explains. “It’s almost as if the average yacht is just a floating apartment as opposed to being an archetype in itself.”
So how does one go about making a yacht its own archetype? In its innovative approach, Fokkema Architecten used both natural wood colors and sand tones throughout the various rooms and, even more novel, made most areas flowing and open, yet flexible in purpose through the use of sliding walls and rotating furniture. For example, if the owners’ family and business associates are onboard at the same time and a meeting needs to be conducted, glass doors between the main saloon and dining area can be closed. (It’s interesting to note the firm’s design brief emphasizes this to create “more privacy for the family,” not the business partners, as most of us would expect. In fact, it goes on to state, “Business associates will only have to penetrate family life as far as the dining room. The dining room side of the glass separation panel can also be used to project presentations on.”) A centrally placed, curved settee in the saloon can pivot to face aft, allowing family members to enjoy the view, or face forward toward the double-sided glass partition, where they can watch a movie.
There are even sliding glass doors on the bridge deck, which when closed separate the informal skylounge (where the owners and guests can enter clad in their swimsuits after sunning or soaking in the Jacuzzi tub outside) from the bridge, giving privacy to both the owners and the crew. When they’re open, they provide the opportunity to watch the crew as they navigate the yacht to the next destination.
While Fokkema Architecten and the other competitors submitted their design proposals over the summer, it wasn’t until the end of September, at the Monaco Yacht Show, that Feadship revealed the winner. Naturally, the team was thrilled—though the members did have their moments of doubt. “Throughout the process of a competition, you always wonder what the other competitors are doing,” Fokkema admits. “Did they find a better concept or approach? But we soon felt that our own love for watersports and analytical approach, with out-of-the-box thinking, would form a unique combination.”
While Royal De Vries is leaving the interior design of each SL39 up to owners to choose, the door remains open for anyone to select Fokkema Architecten’s (or the other competitors’) creations. While this semicustom approach is similar to that being espoused by many yards around the world these days, it’s also, Feadship points out, reminiscent of the original concept behind Rolls-Royce, which was to create each car on a “rolling” chassis and let owners team with designers of their own choosing for the rest of the vehicle.
Here’s hoping someone will embrace that chance to truly imprint a custom style, ensuring the full worth of their efforts will remain long after the price is forgotten.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.