Bannenberg & Rowell is the most famous name in yacht design. The award-winning interior design and exterior design studio create exacting bespoke design for clients, whether it is luxury yachts, residential projects, aircraft interiors or distinctive custom furniture. We caught up with Dickie Bannenberg, Company Leader, to learn more.
LM: What brought you both together?
DB: When my Dad died in 2002, I wanted to find a new creative dynamo to restart the Bannenberg studio clock. I found exactly that in Simon Rowell who, in 2003, bravely left his previous life in high-end hotel design to enter the world of yachting. I rebranded the studio as Bannenberg & Rowell in 2009 to reflect just how much Simon has brought to the company.
LM: What sets you apart from other design studios?
DB: First and foremost, I hope, the creative strength of our work. This is backed up by meticulous design information packages and a willingness to listen closely to our clients and make the process an enjoyable one.
LM: Who are your customers? (e.g. oligarchs, millionaires, celebrities)?
DB: Inevitably we get our fair share of the first two categories, but probably not many who are household names.
LM: Do you personally oversee every project from start to finish?
DB: Yes, Simon and I remain involved in every aspect of our projects from the moment we sign with a client to the day their yacht sails away (or they move into their house).
LM: Is luxury all about the size of the vessel or the specification?
DB: I have to admit that Bannenberg Snr banned the use of the word ‘luxury’ in connection with yachts. Of course, a bigger yacht is broadly making more of a statement than a smaller one but it really is all in the detail, quality and level of the interior fit out.
LM: What is the most extravagant yacht you have ever created?
DB: Predator, a 72 metre motoryacht built at Feadship was extravagant in the particular sense of how the space was used: the owner chose to have just two guest cabins. The remainder of the accommodation on board was devoted to him and two spectacular saloons with museum-quality furniture commissioned from Pollaro in the United States and hand made Nepalese silk carpets.
LM: What is the vessel that you are most proud of?
DB: Galactica Star, a sleek and sporty 65m motor yacht delivered by Heesen in 2013, embodies many facets of the design approach in our studio. She is unswervingly contemporary in design, but remains approachable and liveable in spirit. The yacht has also received six separate design awards, including the Prix du Design (or “Best in Show”) at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2013.
LM: The Heesen Yachts Elandess II is one of your designs. What makes this model so special?
DB: Elandess II (or Raasta as she is now known) was our first project with Heesen, so was an important milestone. She is based on the successful 47 metre platform which has worked so well for the yard. It was the first yacht for an English owner who was not afraid to be bold with textures and colours, and has a particularly impressive owner’s Stateroom and bathroom which belie her overall length. The yacht is proof of the versatility of a semi-custom platform and how, with careful collaboration with the client, designer and shipyard, something very bespoke and personal can be created.
LM: How long have you been associated with the Dutch shipyard?
DB: We have been working with Heesen since 2006 and have completed designs for one 37m, four 47m yachts and the 65m Galactica Star. We hope to continue the sequence!
LM: What materials do you think will play a key role in yachts of the future?
DB: From an interior perspective, there will (and has to be) more use made of the more sustainable and less rarefied materials: some of the most precious veneers are becoming increasingly scarce and there are several beautiful and intriguing alternatives which are available, if you are prepared to look and open your mind. In the same vein, exterior decks need not be planked in teak and owners and yards need to consider the synthetic alternatives which are almost indistinguishable : people just need to overcome the mindblock of “only teak decks will do”.
LM: Is the superyacht market overcrowded or is there always space for more boats?
DB: The Superyacht market is still on its way back to better health after the crises of the past few years. It’s now overcrowded but there was a time when shipyards were able to turn work away or quote delivery times many years ahead. They may wish that was still the case. The market is improving. Berths and marina spaces need to keep pace, particularly in developing yachting markets like the Far East.
LM: Do you personally travel by superyacht or do you consider this to be ‘taking work home’?
DB: Rowell usually travels on the superyachts during photo shoots, and we very occasionally go on a sea trial on one of our yachts, but that’s as far as it goes.
By Simon Wittenberg MIOJ