Ship Ahoy! A New Superyacht Interior


The design of superyacht interiors is a métier for specialists. Bannenberg/Rowell Design of London are such specialists. They designed the interiors of the Lady Petra, the super yacht of Petra and Frans Heesen, of Heesen Yachts from the Netherlands.

“In 2009, at the Fort Lauderdale show, Frans made a big impression on us when he gave easily the most human, amusing and interesting speech at the ISS awards evening. He talked about the process of designing his own yacht and the pivotal role played by Petra. At that stage, we had no idea that he was considering a new project. Both Frans and Petra spent some time on our two 60m projects at the show; Bacarella from Trinity and Elandess from Abeking & Rasmussen. It was only when we were contacted a few months later by Fabio Ermetto, Sales & Marketing Director at Heesen, that we learnt that they were about to embark on a new project and were keen to work with us. Fabio explained that Frans and Petra were looking to do something striking for their whole family to use and enjoy.”

Dickie Bannenberg, of Bannenberg/Rowell Design of London is commenting on the creation of Lady Petra. His design company is a specialist in designing superyacht interiors, with an impressive record. He and Simon Rowell continue to build on the reputation that father Jo Bannenberg established world wide. The design of superyacht interiors is a métier for specialists. These designers are not only required to take strict nautical regulations into account, but the dimensions, curves and technology of the vessel as well. It is their job to create, within the given parameters, optimum luxury and comfort to meet the generally high expectations of the client. It’s a creative process in which clients and designers are sparring partners try aiming for the best results.

In the world of superyachts, creativity goes hand in hand with craftsmanship – something that for years seems to have been absent in most branches of interior design. For every vessel a specific interior is created within the relatively limited space of the hull and within the strict nautical regulations. It is safe to say that every superyacht is a work of art in itself. The Lady Petra is no exception: it was built at Heesen Yachts in the Dutch city of Oss.

Dickie tells about the creative process of the Lady Petra: “We met up with Frans and Petra Heesen, and their son Mike, in February 2010 and had a couple of hours looking at work in the studio and talking about materials and finishes. Having successfully passed that test, we very pleased to be asked by Frans and Petra to start work on their project. I’m not sure that there is a more mind-concentrating task than designing the yacht for the owner of a shipyard.

Whilst the layout was largely developed by the time of our appointment, we discussed and implemented some quite significant changes to the owner’s bathroom and main saloon.” “We were given pretty much a free hand to start work on the concept, with the only over arching guidance of creating something bold and exciting – hardly a cause for a long-faced designer. We wanted to establish an identity very early on; we mentioned to Frans when we saw him at the World Superyacht Awards that we were developing typography for the yacht, by then confirmed as being named Petra. He looked slightly askance and suggested this might be something for the final few months. It’s quite the reverse with us and we like to weave this into the design process right at the front end. In this case, after some rather bookish research, we developed some lettering based on early 20th century Dutch letter types, constrained within a tile-like border.”

The first design presentation to Frans, Petra and Mike was at Heesen Yachts in June 2010 when the designers showed their ideas for the Lower Deck accommodation. Guiding inspiration came from some diverse sources including 20th century Dutch industrial design, optical geometric studies and forms generated by industrial components such as formers and frames. They explained how these would come together to form a dynamic interior concept, but one which at the same time was approachable and inviting. There was some potential for “scaring the horses” as they say, but we found the Heesen family very open-minded and supportive. As Frans had intimated a few months earlier in Fort Lauderdale, it is Petra who decides yes or no: she was enthusiastic about the design direction, only clipping the Bannenberg & Rowell wings with the application of a particularly vigorous shade of bright green.

Dickie continues: “Some of the proposed joinery in the bathroom, in particular a faceted timber frame which angulates itself across the portlights and over the vanity unit will be a test of Heesen’s ingenuity but, now on our third project with the team there, we know they won’t be remotely phased and we really look forward to this journey with the Heesens. the family and the yard.”

“With Lady Petra delivered to the Heesen family after an evening of beers, lasers and music, we can stand back a little and take in the result. The yacht, for all her Dutch industrial design DNA, has a calm, de-saturated interior with extensive use of brushed spruce and white and grey marble. This is offset by lustrous Macassar Ebony doors and detailing, and combinations of polished and satin-finished stainless steel.” In a departure from the established layouts of the Heesen 47 series, the forward main deck is reserved for a huge family/media room where everybody on board can sit on two custom-designed angled sofas optimised for viewing the 100″ plasma screen. Or somebody can run on the treadmill. Or work at the desk.

Frans and Petra have their owner’s suite aft on the bridge deck providing a glorious private space with its own access onto the aft deck. They have their own breakfast room on the port side, and a spectacular bathroom on the starboard side where, with a nod to Frans’s carpentry youth, the shower has a wall of circular timber pieces, backlit, and encased in glass. Lady Petra was completed with the installation of pieces from the Heesen family collection including several striking artworks introducing a vivid contrast to their surroundings.