Interior designer Nathan Hutchins is working with the Pendennis Shipyard in Cornwall on the renovation of the 1931 motor yacht named Marala. Simon Wittenberg caught up with him to find out more about his work.
Luxurious Magazine: Please can you tell us about some of your career highlights and how you got into interior design.
Nathan Hutchins: I have always been fascinated by buildings and places, and how good design can really transform the spirit of a place. After studying architecture, I pursued my design career initially looking for projects that were fast-paced so I could get on-site and see things being built. One of my personal favourite projects is The Alpina Gstaad – a wonderfully detailed and well-crafted boutique hotel in Switzerland. I got to work with some extraordinary materials and craftspeople to create a truly unique and cosy Alpine getaway.
LM: After working with hotels, barges and trains, this is your first yacht interior design project. What made you want to embark on such a challenge?
NH: The uniqueness of this vessel is captivating. It has so many layers, so much history and personalities, thereby making it a real draw for me. I love unique projects.
LM: How easy is it to renovate a classic motor yacht, as there are ultimately not many straight lines?
NH: Classic yachts have almost no straight lines. It is very deceptive, but everything is subtly shaped. It’s quite a shift to understand such fluid spaces. As Marala is an older vessel, we had to demount quite a bit to find the true state of play.
LM: How long will it take to complete the project, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
NH: In terms of inspiration, we really listen to our clients, not a style look book, but how they want to enjoy their beautiful vessel. From here, we can start to create a construct for the design. It’s more of an overriding concept that captures the spirit of the design and emotions of the experience of being on board. Once the client is seduced by the concept, we can then start designing in earnest and look at the layouts and key elements for all areas.
On Marala, we did a presentation on board. We set up the renders and materials in each space and walked around the ship, mimicking the experience of arriving by tender and going through each space as you would realistically sequence it. We looked at the finishes and imagery as we stood in each area, which was a really great way to connect with what Marala will become when she’s finished.
We then set to work documenting and working with the world-leading craftsmen, fabricators and specialist suppliers, as well as the fit-out teams at Pendennis Shipyard to figure out how to deliver it.
In terms of a timeline, a project of this significance takes a lot of careful consideration and collaboration. Marala arrived at Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth in August 2019 and is scheduled for completion in the autumn of this year.
LM: What kind of materials do you use, so that they don’t look out of place in a yacht that hit the water in the 1930s?
NH: The materials I have used on Marala need to be robust, so the exterior doesn’t patina or tarnish. They must also be maintained on board by the crew, whilst movement is also key. Everything must be bolted down. We will have a few exquisite finishes inside, such as straw marquetry and vellum lacquer for example, and these are used where they are somewhat protected, but are still visually impactful.
LM: Working on an almost historic piece of art, what are the key considerations when undertaking a renovation of this kind?
NH: As we demounted interior panels, we would find earlier layers of paint. Eventually, we got back to some of the original panelling and flooring with incredible old growth of Douglas fir. It was really thick and marked with the patina of the history of the ship.
Working with Pendennis Shipyard has allowed us to lean on their expertise. As leaders in luxury superyacht renovations and builds, they have facilitated expert craftsmanship and industry contacts to ensure the process has been smooth and the work of the highest standard, even during the pandemic.
LM: Marala has previously carried passengers, such as Frank Sinatra and Salvador Dali. Does it create added pressure to achieve total perfection when a yacht has such a rich heritage?
NH: Knowing the yacht has been loved by so many previous passengers and crew does mean we have to be meticulous in delivering a ship that will be regarded with the highest affection by those who get to enjoy her in the future.
LM: What are your plans for 2021? Are there any other exciting projects in the pipeline with Pendennis that you can let us know about?
NH: This is our only floating project this year! I’m hoping we can travel more freely in the latter half of the year as we’ve got projects on-site in St. Barts, Barcelona and Morocco that I miss, whilst locally we are finalising a fit-out on a stunning Mayfair Residence.
LM: How do you define luxury, and what do you like to do when you’re not working on interior design?
NH: Luxury is about bringing people joy and making them feel good, which means creating a place that brings a quiet smile, comfort and engrains it in their memory. I love getting out into the wilderness. Seeing nature in its rawest forms is a real pleasure.
LM: Has COVID-19 affected the way that you work, as renovation is physical work rather than being sat behind a screen?
NH: It’s made it much harder to collaborate. In fact, meetings that would take an hour face-to-face, now take multiple emails and calls. Spatial margins and high levels of technical service integration require an odd assortment of people to input into a project like this. So much of what we do is tactile and subtle. We’ve had to really focus on sampling and materials.
Fortunately, Pendennis Shipyard has been able to adapt their process in light of the pandemic, and the shipyard put in place a number of measures to allow those working on Marala to work safely and efficiently despite restrictions. This included mandatory health checks, and the facilities to do virtual tours of the project as it progresses.
Nathan Hutchins – Where and How?
For more information on Nathan Hutchins and Muza Lab, visit www.muzalab.com.
For further information about Pendennis Shipyard, visit https://pendennis.com.
To find out more about Marala’s history and follow her restoration, visit https://yachtmarala.com/.
Read more interviews conducted by Simon Wittenberg and the editorial team here.