High Style on the Water

High Style on the Water
Setting a New Standard, a Designer Recrafts her Family Yacht, Audacia

When she first saw it at its berth in Nice, its interior was swathed in purple. Purple draperies. Purple sofas. Purple walls. Even purple paper covering the dining table. Purple, purple, everywhere—deep purple, light purple and all the purply shades in between. “Room after room after room was purple,” says New York designer Joanne de Guardiola. “I’ve never seen so many imaginative uses of purple.” So much purple would have been odd anywhere, but on a yacht, sleek and gleaming white on the outside, it was downright peculiar.

Like all good designers, de Guardiola has a kind of X-ray vision, however. She could see that beneath its funereal wrapping, the boat’s interior had the fine bones that distinguish any intelligent plan. “If the bones are good, it’s fabulous,” she says. “When they’re not good, you have problems. But I knew these bones were great. They had just been hidden by a bad decorating job.”

“My husband asked if I could transform this boat, and I said yes, I could. I said that I could make this work fabulously well.”

De Guardiola was therefore able to tell her client, an investment banker who was unable to leave New York, that the boat, a Feadship motor yacht, built in 1987 and 152 feet long, was a good buy. And since her client also happens to be her husband, Roberto de Guardiola, he believed her. “My husband had never owned a yacht, but he grew up around the ocean—he’s Cuban—and he loves boating. He asked if I could transform this boat, and I said yes, I could. I said that I could make this work fabulously well.”

Her shocked friends were not so certain. “You bought that purple boat!” they exclaimed. But it did not remain purple for long. Down in a swoop came the floor-to-ceiling purple silk draperies in the main salon. Ripped away were the purple silk coverings on the walls. Exiled to the junkyard were the purple sofas. When all the purple was gone, de Guardiola started to impose her own design.

The main salon on the main deck, a long, rectangular space that opens onto the dining room, is the boat’s living room. The designer decided to simplify and streamline it by making it one long area—“playing to its strength,” to use her words. That meant the removal of tables and the placement of crisp white leather sofas along the walls, which were newly paneled with teak. The result is a space that allows the eye to sweep, unimpeded, from one end to the other.

“The sofas give the room a very modern Italian look against the conservative teak paneling on the walls,” says de Guardiola. On top of the sofas she placed blue-and-white pillows that all but burst their seams in a geometric frenzy—an arresting pattern of circles and squares. “It’s a bold but utterly simple pattern,” she says. “I wanted something in that room that would pop!”

Something that would pop was the last thing on the mind of the previous designer, who had also covered the ceiling with irregular, pie-shaped panels—unsettling in a room in which the floor moves up and down. De Guardiola put in a new white ceiling, into which she set a rectangular teak trim that helps define the space. She finished her scheme for the main salon with a navy-blue carpet, a sharp contrast to the white ceiling and the shiny white sofas. “I wanted the room to have a strong blue-and-white palette,” she explains.


The salon on the upper deck was a bigger challenge. The space had originally contained two rooms, but de Guardiola decided that it would work better as one—in the daytime a casual and relaxed reading area, just a few steps from the spa, and at night a disco and bar. “We entertain nonstop,” says de Guardiola, “and we have so many dinner parties!”

Turning two rooms into one left two support poles exposed, and since she couldn’t move them, de Guardiola did the next best thing: She ignored them. Banquettes along the walls provide the seating, which here is dark blue leather, not white. The ceiling had the same irregular pattern she encountered in the main salon a deck below. Once again she replaced it with simple white panels and a teak trim. Hidden inside the trim are recessed lights, which, with a flip of a switch, become rotating disco lights at night. But even those flashing lights cannot overwhelm the room’s dominant object, a multicolored Frank Stella lithograph next to the bar. “I love the colors,” says de Guardiola.

The master suite had only one small bath, hardly fitting for a respectable yacht, and de Guardiola combined it with a study area to make two yacht-size baths, one for her and one for her husband. To find the right marble for those rooms and several others, she searched marble yards near Viareggio, the Italian port in which the boat was being refitted.

The de Guardiolas have 13-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and the designer had a happy surprise when she was redoing her daughter’s cabin. Hidden beneath the wallcovering was a mural of Venice’s Grand Canal, not quite a Canaletto, but attractive nonetheless. Her son—who once persuaded her to design the interior of his pet gerbil’s cage—asked her what options he had for his own cabin. “Your options are navy blue,” she replied. He liked those options, and his cabin is nautical enough to suit an admiral—almost all navy blue, with white stripes on the pillows and the draperies.

Other decisions were made with equal determination, and the whole redesign—planning, ordering and actual worktook only four months. In November the boat left Italy for the Caribbean. With a new design and a new name, Audacia, it is almost new itself. But it still has a little purple—pillows that de Guardiola placed next to the spa. “They are,” she says, “my homage to the previous décor.”

Audacia is available for charter. For more information, visit www.moranyachts.com.

Moran Yacht & Ship