The New American Yacht: Luxurious Yacht Interior Design

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Interior designers, regardless of medium, have learned that decorating for the upper echelon is both an art and a science, and must be studied, practiced, and executed with diligence and pride. Dee Robinson, founder of Dee Robinson Interiors Custom Residential & Yacht Design, has studied the art of luxurious yacht interiors for more than 20 years and has established herself as a principal in the industry.

He combination of the vessel’s overwhelming size and grandeur with Robinson’s attention to refined detail creates a new-age genre of yacht design.

Robinson has more than 200 new yacht construction and refit projects to her credit, and her portfolio ranges from 70-foot semi-production models to 180-foot completely custom steel yachts. It could be easily argued that she is the most venerable designer in the industry, and she has been decorated with numerous accolades, evidence of her unique and unparalleled eye for artful design. In 2000 Dee Robinson Interiors won ShowBoats “best semi displacement motor yacht over 38-meters” for her work on the 150-foot Bellini, and in 2003 she was honored with the “Best semi-displacement motor yacht under 38 meters” for the 124-foot Anjilis. Just last January, Robinson was honored with a Stars of Design Award, granted to solely the crème de la crème of Florida-based designers in a variety of fields. Robinson’s work continues to improve and garner praise, as she is willing to take on any challenge, and her skill has set the standard for other yacht interior design specialists to follow.

To date, Robinson’s most impressive, modern, and innovative work is Lady Michelle, a 161-foot magnificent 4-deck motor yacht by Trinity Yachts that launched in 2007. The combination of the vessel’s overwhelming size and grandeur with Robinson’s attention to refined detail creates a new-age genre of yacht design. “Our challenge was to develop an American interpretation of European yachts the owner enjoyed on previous charters.” Robinson explains. “We responded by emphasizing design integrity and the quality of materials and innovative space planning rather than by relying on layers of decorative details. This approach inspired the architectural centerpiece, the staircase.” She says this casually, but the staircase is anything but casual; it is an architectural wonder, integrating three decks from one centerline location while still maintaining views and sightlines at each landing.

A long time veteran of the industry, Robinson has a vast knowledge in the evolution of the quintessential American yachtsman, and has seen yacht design trends ebb and flow with the changing tides. She reflects, “The American yacht boom began in the 1980s, and those who were in the market for large luxury yachts really had no choice other than to have their vessels built in Europe.” As such, the design trends were largely influenced by European periods such as the English Edwardian, known for its imbalance of wealth and poverty (think Titanic), to French Art Deco, filled with gleaming chrome, specific attention to shape and structure, and high gloss finishes. This was followed by the Italian influence, which found yachts filled with colorful leather and lacquered cherry. Though those trends paid homage to vintage styles and Asian influence, none of the design approaches appease the requests of the new breed of sailors and yachtsman she caters to today.

“I created a lot of those over-the-top formal interiors over the years. But times have changed, and I think sophisticated yacht owners are ready for something more relaxing-something more appropriate to a vacation aboard a yacht,” Robinson says. “My clients today are demanding yacht décor that bears their own imprint and suits their personal lifestyle. Often this is a mix of styles and a preference for showcasing the architecture of the spaces and fine art or other personal collections.”

The new typical yachtsman is decidedly younger and has a new mentality where equal emphasis is placed on both the journey and the destination. With this in mind, Robinson incorporated large side windows and curved glass sliding doors provide sweeping views throughout the large Lady Michelle, which provides accommodations for up to 12 passengers. The impressive master suite is complete with an owners study and his and hers bathrooms with a spa tub, while guests have their choice of three king staterooms and one twin, all with en suite baths.

Onboard, Robinson created a distinct youthful style that is elegant, energetic, and refined yet also relaxed. This look is achieved through her artful ability to blend sculptural furnishings with intriguing textures, and the final product has an uncluttered, relaxed, and serene ambiance, mimicking the calm waters of the ocean and sea. The main salon features rich cherry mahogany joinery set off by fine fabrics and custom carpeting. The cabinets have woven leather inserts, and a pop-up flat screen TV divides the seating area from the open dining salon. The striking sky lounge offers a semi-circular sofa by De Sede, trimmed in Raleo flower-block panels carved in anigre wood, creating an ambiance of utter elegance. But Robinson is quick to explain, “Megayachts are not just floating villas. They are impressive machines that create a self-contained safe and serene environment as well as a personal statement.”

This “personal statement” presented her with a challenge when designing the interior of Lady Michelle, because she not only had to cater to the owner, but also to possible charterers. “Because the boat was built for charter as well as personal use, my clients wanted a style that didn’t impose itself on anyone, yet it had to be unique, memorable, and functional,” Robinson said. She achieved this by highlighting the vessel’s architectural elements such as the aforementioned staircase comprised of glass and steel floating off a quilted background of hand-turned blocks of makore wood, as well as the stunning blue and white marble bathrooms and the media/sky lounge on the upper deck.

The teak-lined exterior deck also provides access to an impressive array of water toys and amazing outdoor spaces, including an enormous sun pad, large wet bar area, and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Through the automatic glass doors sits a generous circular dining table large enough to seat a dozen people.

Lady Michelle is by far Robinson’s most inventive work yet and has set the standard as the new American yacht; many have hailed the vessel as a poster child for the new trend in yacht interior design. Though it is occupied by its owners for the majority of the year, Lady Michelle is available for charter for those who wish to enjoy their journey as much as their destination.

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