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‘People Don’t Want to Be Inside’: How the Outdoors Became Yachtmakers’ Most Coveted Design Element

One of the most interesting superyacht previews this year was Benetti’s 148-foot Motopanfilo model, which introduced the brand’s Veranda deck. The Italian builder’s unconventional design eschews the traditional main salon, instead creating a less-formal living area that’s exposed on three sides. The main-deck lounge “is a space that has fallen behind,” says Giovanna Vitelli, chair of the Azimut-Benetti Group, who declares the company’s reinterpretation as “the new standard-bearer of a more relaxed lifestyle.”

Benetti’s latest design concept and the smaller Oasis deck that preceded it are just two examples of how clients are looking to replace starched salons and prim dining rooms with larger, easier-living exterior spaces. This also includes a preference for foldout rear decks, reimagined bows, and balconies that extend when activated, all of which are in evidence on Bilgin’s 263-foot Leona, which showcases how to design every conceivable square foot across the yacht toward enhancing the outside environment.

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That trend “has really gained steam,” says Dickie Bannenberg, of yacht-design house Bannenberg & Rowell. “Now it’s all balconies, beach clubs, and shell doors everywhere you look. And it’s not just on 200-foot boats, either—it extends down into production models.”

Andrew Collett, team principal at U.K.-based design firm RWD, which conceived both the Oasis and the Veranda deck configurations, says the change in tack is driven by a new generation of owners who are “seeking spacious areas that blend indoor and outdoor living, with clear views of the water.”

The pandemic intensified demand for airier layouts, says Collett, much as tuberculosis impacted modernist architecture in the 20th century, when residential blueprints began to include hospital-inspired sanctuaries with balconies and clean, well-lit interiors. And while he says that some of the aesthetic shift predated the pandemic’s lockdowns, it’s also true that “Covid heightened the appreciation for open-air environments and privacy. Now we’re just aligning with new preferences for health consciousness.”

Sanlorenzo’s X-Space maximizes the use of exterior living areas across all five decks.
Sanlorenzo’s X-Space maximizes the use of exterior living areas across all five decks.

Advances in materials such as shaped metal and specialized multilayered glass have helped close the gap between inside and outside. Most significantly, open areas can now be created beneath decks without the usual structural supports. The Veranda, for example, eliminates the need for a large aft bulkhead and others on the sides, which typically enclose a conventional salon, now permitting unbroken space instead.

As with carbon fiber’s popularity in smaller boats, “the evolution of glass-related technologies makes possible what really wasn’t achievable in the past,” says Bernardo Zuccon of Studio Zuccon, designer of Sanlorenzo’s 57Steel Virtuosity and many other glass-laden superyachts. “Since structural glass is at times stronger than steel, we’re seeing the extreme enhancement of transparent surfaces. That allows for great versatility in our designs.”

Glass’s technical renaissance—and how the notion of boundaries has changed thanks to it—is evident on gigayachts including the 297-foot Dar, the 263-foot Excellence, and the 263-foot Artefact, but nowhere more so than the 141-foot catamaran This Is It, with a superstructure and hull made of more than 50 percent of the material.

Other recent launches, including Sanlorenzo’s SX112, feature entirely open aft decks with cutaway sides, while Sanlorenzo’s X-Space and Baglietto’s T52 maximize as much exterior square footage as their designers could justify across their tiered decks.

“People don’t want to be inside,” says Bannenberg. “They want healthy outdoor living, and the designers are adapting accordingly.” Which means, for increasingly innovative superyacht concepts, the sky’s the limit.

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