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Thu 9 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Travel trends

Transforming an empty shell into a luxury travel tool? With the demands of VIP’s, interior designers are in for a bumpy ride.

Transforming an empty shell into a luxury travel tool? With the demands of VIP’s, interior designers are in for a bumpy ride.

There was a time when traveling was considered to be a novelty, and something which only the financially privileged could afford. Yachts and, in particular aircrafts, used to be fully functional, providing passengers with only their basic needs.

However, fast-forward to the present, and it’s now a completely different story.

To travel by sea of air has now become affordable for a larger number of people and due to intense competition posed by competitors; more and more companies have been searching for new and improved ways to impress their passengers by providing more comforts, sophisticated entertainment, and increased luxuries.

A wave of luxury

When it comes to the interior design of yachts, whether it is a bespoke bed, a custom-made lamp shade, or hand-embroidered pillow cases, it’s a ‘what the client wants, the client gets’ scenario.

“For us, each client is a challenge. Design and innovativeness is definitely what our base looks for - our type of clientelle looks to be distinct and looks for a designer that can translate his or her tastes into physical beauty,” said Gladys Landa, owner and designer at Innovative Interiors, Inc.

“A beautiful design with a hard to reach designer, or difficult to get through process just takes away some of the taste and excitement of a new yacht or interior.” she added.

Some yacht manufacturing companies, such as Cyrus Yachts offer the option of complete end to end design, offering clients a broad range of options whereby an owner can choose from a variety of different layouts woodwork, or even engine type, providing a production process, which starts with the hull construction and ends with the interior finish, all in-house.Alternatively, it leaves the client to choose their own interior designer.

“The owner of our latest Cyrus 34 meter launch ‘Cyrus One’, for example, has brought his own interior designers from the company Digital Space who was inspired by the owner’s love of spacious hotel room designs from around the world,” said Jan Vitters, manager of Cyrus Yachts.

“He did not want to have any sideboards in the salon, being of the opinion that they are only ever used to hold objects that you don’t really need anyway. The sofas, four doubles in white leather, can be shunted about on a circular rail and pushed together to make a three-quarter circle or spaced out with gaps between. The table supplied by the owner himself, rises up at the touch of a button and then six side extensions fold out, one after another; it then lowers back to its original height. Instead of a formal dining room forward, as found in most yachts, there is another circular sofa group with two armchairs around a glass table, with a flat screen TV on the wall,” he added.

The high-flyer

The process of designing a luxury aircraft is undoubtedly a different experience to the interiors of a yacht.

“When designing an aircraft interior for the VIP traveller, it is important to create an environment that is a destination in itself - one which entertains and offers up-to-date technology that is delivered in an environment of luxurious comfort and style,” said Ceri Rocca, designer and stylist for vehicle interiors, The Style House.

“Mood-lighting and tinted panels provide a touch of theatre, whilst dramatic fabrics and oversized patterns look chic and provide the perfect backdrop for a whole palette of colours. As people are more fashion conscious now, there is opportunity to step out of the more usual interior use of colours, such as plain hues of cream, silver or grey, and experiment with earthy tones like green and brown, combined with hints of shocking pink will all help to add a bit of fun to the travel experience,” she added.

Although, there needs to be a good mix of subtle surprises and extravagant flair in the cabin, different seating positions are essential for added comfort.

“Space is always at a premium, so the layout needs to enhance the sense of volume. This can be achieved by designing a clutter-free environment with clever use of luggage space and storage, sleek and well designed seating, and good lighting to create a different ambience,” said Rocca.

“Small touches and unexpected luxuries are just as important as the passenger’s interest needs to be kept throughout the journey. Hidden glass holders, a secret library, game pod, seat warmers or massage tools embedded in the chairs are good examples – I’ve known some VIP’s that have even requested a Jacuzzi and double bed,” she added.In standard passenger aircrafts, one doesn’t expect certain luxuries, leather seats, feather pillows, or comfy leg rests for example, however, this is just one of the many requirements in the designing of a five-star aircraft.

“While clients’ preferences differ, they all own jets for the same reason: to optimise their most precious commodity - their time. They want their flight experience to be comfortable, convenient, aesthetically pleasing and one which reflects and accommodates their lifestyle,” said Roth.

“The interiors must offer them all of the conveniences they need and want while traveling from one destination to another. Whether that means state-of-the-art voice, data and entertainment systems, a custom cigar humidor, a baby bassinet or expanded seating areas, we will provide it, paying close attention to the fine details and aesthetics that make the difference in an ordinary flying experience to an extraordinary one. When someone is spending anywhere from US $100,000 to over US $1 million to refurbish an aircraft’s interior, it is imperative that we exceed their expectations on all counts,” he added.

A material world

Specialising in private VIP and commercial aircraft, Rocca believes that, passengers are much more aware of the aesthetics of their surroundings, so the colours and materials that these backgrounds comprise, can be as crucial to the travel experience just as much as leg room, and customer service.

“Sometimes the interior can look too cold and rigid so by softening the lines with plush cushions, interesting textures and upholstered pieces, the cabin will appear more relaxed but still retain that stylish edge with the use of interactive gadgets, internet access, entertainment systems, smart sofas and artistic features,” said Roca.Overall, in the world of luxury aircrafts there is a greater emphasis on aesthetics, comfort and convenience whereas previously, a more functional attitude prevailed.

“Today, for example, the demand is for fully-equipped galleys for in-flight meal service featuring fine china, silverware, crystal and linens. There are multiple lavatories and seating that can be converted into sleeping areas. Additionally, in high demand right now are sophisticated entertainment and communications systems, incorporating satellite communications, high speed data transfer, DVD players, LCD flat screen monitors, I-Pods, subwoofers, and much more. Finally, many clients are seeking interior jet designs that mirror their homes or corporate office interiors in terms of décor, color schemes and materials used,” said Roth.

“The materials we use at International Jet Interiors vary from client to client and include a wide range of fabrics, leathers and woods sourced from points worldwide. We have had requests ranging from exotic woods indigenous to the Ivory Coast, to custom-dyed calf skin leather, metal plated in combinations of rose gold, spun gold and even alligator trim,” he added.

However, in order to create a high level of luxury, an even higher level of design expertise is needed to ensure all products; fixtures and fittings are manufactured to fit safety regulations.

“Recently there has been a rise in the use of more technological materials such as carbon fibre, which has advantages such as being lightweight and very strong. There are a number of regulations and certification standards that the design has to conform to. Materials therefore, must be fire-tested as well as crash-tested, and this can be a long and expensive process,” said Rocca.

“High quality materials that are hand-crafted and custom-made are used - naturally the better the quality and function, the longer it will last. Carpets are specially woven to fit into each individual aircraft, and furniture with beautiful timber veneers are created (timber cannot be used in commercial aircraft),” she added.

In addition, weight restrictions can also be a major set-back for designers of luxury aircrafts.

“Meeting all of a client’s needs and addressing the weight-factor is always a design challenge. One way we do so is by incorporating lightweight seats and divans,” said Roth.

“Another challenge is to provide comfortable seating without sacrificing style. Our use of multi-density fire blocking foam, contoured to achieve comfort seating and our application of the world’s finest leathers and fabrics enables us to create seating that offers comfort, functionality in terms of reclining and swiveling capabilities, and offers a luxurious look,” he added. Going green

As well as the obvious fire safety concerns and weight constraints, one thing both private jet and yachts designers and manufacturers have in common is the desire to go ‘green’.

“Interior designs are very fluid, dictated by market trends, economic factors and even environmental factors. With that said, we all have a responsibility to our environment in terms of conservation and preservation. Wherever possible, we consider the average lifespan of a jet interior and apply materials with this in mind. With respect to technology, we look at the leading edge and advise our clients not to incorporate yesterday’s technology, but rather make the investment in the latest systems,” said Eric Roth, president, International Jet Interiors.

“Within our own organisation, we are making the transition to ‘go green’ in our facilities, introducing energy-saving systems and policies to do our part to reduce the carbon footprint and preserve natural resources,” he added.

Within the eco-friendly interior scene however, interior designers are not short of materials to choose from.

“There are many new ‘green’ products coming out in the market everyday, from wall covering to fabrics to cleaning products. Generally, we use some of the finest materials in the market, usually natural materials such as silk, linen, cotton, leather. In very large boats, silk is often used as well as faux silks. Some manufacturers make very luxurious looking faux silks as well as faux leather, etc. I like using both depending on the project. I also like using waterproof leather. It helps with wet bathing suits and any spills,” said Gladys.

The ultimate VIP experience

To sum up, there are a number of travel trends, and bespoke concepts available in the luxury interior market today, all based on the aspirations of the VIP passenger.

Where the basics such as closet space and storage are still necessary, with the use of the latest technologies, innovative materials, and a creative use of space – these all help in the creation of the ultimate luxury travel experience.

“Whether spending GBP £1 million or GBP £10 million, I believe in offering passengers exciting and innovative ideas that open up a wealth of possibilities, whilst helping to move the luxury experience to a new level of grandeur,” said Rocca.

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