"My goal was to create a yacht that many years from now will be timeless and yet still be ahead of its time. I wanted to balance awesome with welcoming,” says Shahid Khan, owner of the stunning 95m Lürssen superyacht Kismet...
A new superyacht project presents its designers with the most desirable of blank canvases.
When you get up to the 90-metre-plus mark, it’s more than a mere canvas, it’s a landscape – as empty landscapes go, this is Kentucky in the late 1600s.
But it’s not just a matter of filling the acres of virgin territory with novelties: there’s sometimes a backstory, too, which brings its own constraints.
“The stakes were high,” as exterior designer Espen Øino puts it bluntly about the initial design phase of the Lürssen Kismet.
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He was also the designer of the owner’s previous Kismet (a 68-metre built at Lürssen in 2007, sold by Moran Yacht & Ship in 2013, and now named Global).
A year after launch the owner realised he wanted something bigger. “The brief was clear: the new yacht had to be superior in all respects,” says Espen.
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One’s initial impression is that there are some similarities in the look of the two Kismets – the groupings of vertical windows on the lower deck, and the rising kink from main deck level.
But the size and scale of the latest Kismet draws attention to the differences. There’s the sharper-nose and the distinctive bowsprit, as well as prominent overhangs over the wheelhouse and owner’s deck.
The dark windows stand out, too, and at a distance it is hard to define where the deck supports are, making it appear as if the decks are floating. She is a bigger beast, of course, but she actually looks more of an athlete than her sister.
“The client was very much involved in the external design of the yacht.
“The external design appearance as she appears today was penned in Chicago, in his half-finished penthouse near the top of a skyscraper,” says Espen.
“Some elements of the exterior were inspired by the Chicago skyline, such as the stainless steel air inlets aft of the funnels.”
A particular emphasis from the owner’s side was on Kismet’s potential not just as a family cruising yacht but as a charter yacht and as somewhere that could be used for corporate entertaining.
These aren’t necessarily incompatible drives, but it does sharpen the design focus, and it means that the outside spaces and the inside guest areas have to brook no compromise, with relaxed and sociable areas alongside more intimate and curated spaces – what’s required is nothing less than the best of all possible worlds.
“The floorplan was very carefully laid out,” says Espen. There was, he says, “very valuable input” not only from the owner himself but also his captain Kyle Fultz and purser Geraldine Fultz, and project manager Rob Moran of Moran Yacht & Ship, who have been working for the owner for a long time. The interior design team at Reymond Langton also worked on the previous Kismet.
The first step was something of a back-to-basics approach: we know that guests on charter will favour external areas, but in what ways do they really use them?
“During the design phase of Kismet, considerable time was spent analysing the way guests would want to spend time on deck during a typical week’s cruise,” says Espen. What this research produced was an emphasis on “a number of entertainment and hang-out areas”, he adds.
Since launch, the yacht has had a busy couple of years, cruising with her owner and his family, chartering for ten weeks last year, and hosting a number of large-scale parties in Florida and London.
She’s made four crossings of the Atlantic, a run to the Pacific and back, and cruised 40,000 cruising miles. There are 27 crew in all, and Kismet feels like a very happy ship.
The entertainment and hangout areas reach their exemplification in the top decks of the yacht. Espen calls the sundeck Kismet’s pièce-de-résistance, as it demonstrates the overriding theme of guest choice.
There’s an informalish dining table, close to the barbecue, with comfortable bar chairs that make it possible to linger for a meal rather than just pick at finger food. Protective screens make it possible to protect this high-up area vulnerable to sea breezes as the heat of the sun wears off.
Forward of this is the huge elliptical pool with a cosier hot-tub forward further still. What you might miss at first glance is that at the after end of the pool is a cascading ‘rock garden’ feature that serves as an overflow from the pool, and integrates with the skylight of the elevator.
It’s an inspired touch that keys the whole of the sundeck’s exterior design together nicely.
The helideck on the bridge deck below transforms into another great guest area, with occasional furniture and sunshades that allow a large group of people to gather, and it can be set up as an outdoor cinema.
There’s a shaded bar area, which transforms in the evening to a disco. The wheelhouse is forward, and in front of this there is a seating area. The whole deck exemplifies the many faces of Kismet – you can gather with a group of friends on the aft deck, or inside around the bar, while if you want to escape with a book, the hanging seats provide some shade and seclusion.
Back on the sundeck, the spiral staircase provides an elegant intro to what Espen calls “possibly my favourite spot on the yacht” – a private observation deck and sunbathing area. You can lock yourself away in silent contemplation as you relax on the sunpad.
It’s a remarkable spot that also provides a DJ station during parties. The corporate entertaining face of the yacht is shown with the comprehensive RGB lighting system that can generate sponsor’s colours. Taken together, these three upper decks are a good example of how that “balance between awesome and welcoming” has been achieved.
A deck below on the owner’s deck, full use has been made of Kismet’s vastness, with the outside spaces offering something that continues the option-heavy choices of the decks above. There’s a formal dining table shaded by the overhang from the deck above and more glass screens, and served by a bar and buffet to port and starboard.
On sunny days the screens keep the wind off, but they extend right round the space. Once enclosed, guests can be suitably air-conditioned in what had been dubbed the yacht’s ‘winter garden’, and there’s certainly a relaxed, end-of-day and out-of-office feel to the place. There’s more seating aft.
Forward, the owner has access to a private deck area that offers a hot-tub and sunpads. The owner gets a great view from this private space over the clean expanse of foredeck. With the mooring gear fully enclosed on the main deck below, there was an opportunity to utilise this space in as many ways possible.
It can serve as a demi-basketball court once a hoop is erected (there are court markings on deck) and nets go up to keep the ball inboard. And it also serves as a second touch-and-go helipad. Finally, it can be shaded and tented to create an informal evening dining area.
Right forward at the stainless steel bowsprit there’s a base for the imposing 6ft tall and 15ft long removable sculpture of a jaguar – a reference to one of the owner’s sporting interests, the Jacksonville Jaguars (there are jaguar motifs everywhere on board).
This beast was created on the world’s largest 3D printer in Belgium, and is mostly deployed on match days. The eyes of the jaguar can be lit, which is presumably a feature employed on winning match days. The cat lives alongside the rescue tender when not in use.
The main deck has its own space aft, which serves as a spacious welcoming area with bars either side of a dining table. But the real attraction is aft, often a main deck area that becomes lined with seating inside the guardrails. On Kismet, there are semi-circles of seating either side of a firepit that converts to a coffee table. Once again, Kismet has myriad options for guests.
For the yacht’s interior, Reymond Langton Design’s brief was to answer two needs – to create something that gave a sense of perspective on the new 95-metre vessel, and (as with the exterior spaces) to let the yacht function as a family retreat and an entertainment hub for larger groups.
Once again, the demands aren’t necessarily conflicting, but they need to be managed if they are to be fulfilled successfully. It’s the set-piece spaces of Kismet’s interior that really impress – particularly the architectural drama of the double-height spaces on the main and owner’s deck entertainment spaces.
Pascale Reymond calls the overall design philosophy “a rich contemporary interpretation of Art Deco themes”. The bold geometric shapes and vivid contrasts of Art Deco have been successfully used for a generation of modern superyacht interiors.
It’s a flexible form, capable of reinterpretation in a contemporary style, with a modern art vibe that never tends towards abstraction. It works for the small stuff, and the big stuff, too – and it doesn’t get much bigger than the sweeping staircase between the salons on the main and owner’s decks.
If it weren’t for the monster video walls either side, you might have been whisked back for a moment to the first-class lounge of a 1930s liner. The ornately decorated glass walkway with a view down to the main deck is an inspired touch.
There is another staircase too (opposite which is a lift to take you from the main deck to the sundeck), which frames the elegant lobby areas on the main and owner’s decks, but it’s the main staircase that serves as not only a visual feast but as a division point of the different areas.
The staircase rises over a piano bar, with a more formal lounge and bar, and a welcoming lobby, aft of that. Between the main deck foyer and the piano lounge there is a cinema room with overhead projector and semi-circle of seating. The space also doubles as a cigar room and sports bar – a further example of Kismet’s Protean charms.
Immediately above this space on the owner’s deck is the formal dining area. It makes grand use of the full beam of the yacht, and there is a further lounge aft. The owner benefits from a superbly appointed office to starboard off a centreline corridor.
There is plenty of space to play with and it has been put to good use, with a separate boudoir. Styling in the bedroom is inspired by Coco Chanel, which fits the Decoish vibe nicely, while the centreline gas fireplace adds a reassuringly homely vibe. Pascale Reymond calls the suite a “self-contained retreat at the heart of the yacht”.
The main-deck guest suites are divided into three twins (that convert to doubles) and two VIPs forward, with the VIPs having more of an Art Nouveau styling theme. On the lower deck, there is an occasional guest cabin, as well as a gym and superb wellness areas for guests, including an ice fountain.
Mosaics and styling details add a touch of Zen and of the mystical east to the yacht, while a sea terrace to starboard opens up the guest space. The spa is one of Kismet’s standout areas, and is proving particularly popular with charter guests.
There are so many places for guests to lose themselves here. Among Kismet’s crew is a masseuse and beautician, a hair stylist (there’s a hair and beauty parlour), and a yoga teacher.
“Walt Disney once famously said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’. When you experience Kismet, you know this to be true. And for that, Lürssen should be extremely proud,” owner Shahid Khan says.
The latest instalment of Kismet’s story with an Atlantic crossing after a summer in Europe that has included a cruise of Norway. Another season of dreaming and doing awaits.
• A version of this story appeared in SuperYacht World Issue 50, July/August 2016