From the Editor: December 2003

This month I've mostly been thinking about...

This month I’ve mostly been thinking about interior design. Not because Chez Isitt is in need of a lick of paint, some MDF radiator covers, and a nest of occasional tables. Nor because my office was decorated 15 years ago with some insane-asylum-surplus wallpaper and furniture. No, I’ve been concerning myself with interior design because I’ve just returned from the Genoa Boat Show.

And you have to take your hat off to the Italians. Not only do they know how to throw a damn good boat show, but they also know how to render cynical, wizened old boating hacks speechless with bug-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment. I looked at a dozen or so new boats at Genoa, mostly from Italian yards, and some of them took my breath away. The WallyPower 118 is probably the ultimate expression of what is happening in Italy at the moment, but the extraordinary thinking behind some of the WallyPower’s features is already being seen in smaller, more affordable craft.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of the 118’s angular Stealth-bomber styling, but the accommodation is remarkable. And such minimalist-chic interiors are the New Black. Non-boaty friends of mine have often quizzed me about boat interiors. “Why do they all have high-gloss veneer and halogen down-lighters?” they ask. “Why don’t they go for something more imaginative?”

But now, it seems, the Italians are offering something new. Some boatbuilders (not all, but some) have rewritten the rule-book on boat interiors. The project leader of the Azimut 68S, exhibited for the first time at the Genoa Boat Show, told me that they had taken every interior design concept from the past five years and thrown the lot in the bin. Then they started from scratch. And how refreshing it is, too. High-gloss veneers are out, curves are out, Middle-East-chic is out. Instead we have selective use of satin-finished dark woods, stainless steel and glass, free-standing furniture, earth tones. Less is more, and some of these boats look like they were designed by Anoushka Hempel rather than Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Of course, where the Italians lead, others follow… in a couple of years. So will we start to see retro-moderne in mainstream British boats? Will it be any more practical than what we have already? Does anyone care? And will the boat-buying public really accept a shift towards interiors that reflect modern taste rather than conspicuous consumption? Time will tell, but you can be sure that the next few years will be interesting.

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