All Decked Out
By Betsy Sherman Walker
Four local women and their businesses use keen designs and luxe signatures to make a yacht feel as comfortable and elegant as a home
“When you think you’ve seen the biggest one in the harbor,” says Ally Maloney, “you turn your head — and there’s another.”
Maloney, a yacht-oriented interior designer who founded Maloney Interiors in downtown Newport in 2014, is referring to the bumper crop of superyachts that line up along Newport’s waterfront during the summer months — like thoroughbreds at the gate. When it comes to luxe yacht design, she says, there will always be another client who wants more: something larger, more customized — and more unique. “It always amazes me,” she adds, “when they say, ‘Let’s go bigger!’”
A superyacht or megayacht, Wikipedia will tell you, “is a large and luxurious pleasure vessel.” In the world of A-list clients desiring A-list boats, outfitting a yacht — decorating is an inadequate term — is a process like no other. For one thing, it’s not just the clients who crave what’s best. For the designers whose yachts routinely top the lists of award-winning projects, both the challenges and rewards of the process can be addictive.
Cheryl DiGennaro, who founded Newport Yacht Interiors in 2013 and works exclusively in yacht design, says that the challenge — whether for a brand-new yacht or a refitted classic — can be intoxicating. “My goal with every project,” she says, “is to wow my clients.”
At the other end of the yacht interior design spectrum is the niche outfitter. Amalia Mullaney’s S&S Fabrics has beena fixture in the local industry since 1987,when her parents, having bought Shore &Shore in 1985 (and shortened the name),moved it from Newport to the MelvilleMarina District in Portsmouth.
S&S makes customized interior and exterior canvas upholstery, wind and rain covers, curtains and bedding; as well as throw pillows and shams, carpeting, dining, and bath accessories. With a workforce of 18 measurers, cutters, and stitchers on site, Mullaney, who is Head of Design and Sales Manager, says S&S can handle any size order for any size boat. “We’ll make a single cushion for a12-foot tender,” she says, adding that S&S is equipped to move up to “any boat size from full refit to OEM,” a trade acronym that stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. In layman’s terms, built from scratch.
And then there are Kimberly Pucci’s high-end dolce vita goods, primarily leather, artisan-crafted with a decidedly Tuscan vibe. A year into Covid, lookingat the busy waterfront from her showroomwindow in the IYRS complex on ThamesStreet, Pucci calculated — correctly —that her line of bespoke accessories for thehome, Kimberly Pucci Casa, could lendjust the right touch of razzle and dazzle tothe deck, stateroom, or saloon of a yacht.Crafted from sustainable hand-wovenleather, some with a metallic sheen,exquisite to the eye and buttery to thetouch, Pucci sells personal gear — carry-ons, oversized totes (capable of carryinga magnum or two of champagne), andsmaller clutches.
Pucci’s Atelier also makes bespoke pillows and upholstery, rugs, bedding and table settings — right down to the napkin rings — all in her signature palette (tending towards warm browns, oranges, and granite-y blues). “Our woven metallics are like little jewels,” she says on her website, “and bring a sense of lux to every private space in your life, home, boat or plane.”
Size-wise, the breakdown is this: A super yacht is any boat longer than 100feet. There is also the mega version (200-plus), as well as the giga, which appears to be anything in the realm of infinity and beyond. Maloney and DiGennaro are right at home outfitting an OEM megayacht or giving a pre-owned yacht a facelift. Maloney has a 40-foot minimum when considering a job, while DiGennaro has outfitted numerous Picnic boats —the comparatively diminutive 30-footHinckleys, outfitted to the nines for daytrips and harbor cruises. The Picnic types— as well as sailboats — are also a staple for S&S.
The golden rules
In this high-profile environment, there seem to be three golden rules. Rule One: Bond with your clients.
“You absolutely have to vet the owners before you pick out the fabric,” says DiGennaro, who estimates she has worked on close to 700 projects over the years. “It’s their yacht, their lifestyle, their comfort level. All of those demands have to be met.”
Maloney, who counts 105 projects on her CV, says, “I love working with my clients. Some I have worked with for six-plus years — again and again and again.” And no job is too quirky. She was once even asked to create “elaborate dog cushions to match the interior of the boat — people love their puppies!”
Pucci, who worked in Florence after graduating from the University of Rhode Island, says that putting your name on what you are selling brings another dimension — authenticity — to the client connection. Her line is Tuscan to the core. “The most important thing I learned [in Florence] was to appreciate craftsmanship,” she says. To this day the strength of her brand is her “ability to personalize luxury goods for a client. You are the face of the brand,” she says, and as a result, “the interaction with clients has to be [all from] you.”
Rule Two: Be passionate.
When Maloney mentions one of her pet projects —Jessica, winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2019Newport Boat Show — the tell is in her voice. She travelled to Turkey to work with the building team, overseeing such details as the wood trims and finishings, the fabric selection; right down to the tiles for the shower stalls. “That boat turned out so beautifully,” she says. “It was such a fun and special experience.”
Similarly, DiGennaro is particularly proud of her design work on Calliope, a32m (approximately 105 feet) Numarine expedition superyacht, built in 2018 in Turkey — where the dollar is strong and the skilled workers abundant. Calliope (the muse of eloquence to the ancient Greeks) took a year and a half to build.
“Every detail of every inch of that yacht was really well thought out,” she says. She co-designed the interior with Numarine and the owners, who wanted a French Impressionist theme. When the work was completed, the yacht included back-lit quartz panels in the dining walls and in the sky lounge bar surface, and Italian marble in the master bath. “We used luxury fabrics, silks, linens, leathers, embroidered fabrics that embodied the Impressionist style of brushstrokes, textures, and patterns,” she says. The way it turned out, DiGennaro says, “embodied what the owner said to me.”
Calliope was an alignment of good communication and dedication to design. Newport Yacht Interiors made the short list in the 2019 International Yacht and Aviation Awards, held in Venice— and was a finalist in the International Superyacht Society Design Awards, which convenes in Monaco.
Rule Number Three — the secretsauce: Think three-dimensionally.
“When doing my super yachts,” saysDiGennaro, “I’m taking a dozen littlepuzzles — but making it fit into oneenormous puzzle. Making sure everyluxury detail is given proper attention.Even “working out the bedding,” she adds,“can be like creating a sculpture.”
Maloney says working on the smaller boats can get tricky. “Every nook and cranny has to be used. You have to work with space and scale — have to include all that’s needed.
”Dealing with humidity and saltwater24/7/365 is a critical design factor, requiring outdoor-grade canvas and fabrics. Most smaller boats don’t have air conditioning, Maloney says, so humidity can destroy even the most indestructible of materials, and saltwater corrodes light fixtures and galley appliances.
Over the years Mullaney has upholstered and cushioned the seats, settees, and bunks — as well as provided wind dodgers and biminis (sunshades) — for Sabres, Freedoms, Tartans, and powerboats from MJM Yachts, which is rooted in Newport. For S&S, saltwater is also the enemy, and mattresses, it appears, are a never-ending challenge. There are other factors as well. Pucci’s handsome oversized bags, for example, have the same capacity as a carryon, but have no wheels, since they might damage the expensive wood decking.
Pucci has partnerships with the Ferretti Group of Italian luxury yacht builders, whose designs include the Pershing Sports Yacht, Riva, and Itama.
The attention to detail would sink a lesser mortal. But at that solemn — and exciting — moment when the bottle of champagne breaks against the bow of one of these brand-new super beauties, the designers, enjoying a sense of ownership— without being owners — can send them off to preen and promenade around some of the best-known harbors in the world.
How intoxicating is that?
As Maloney says: “There is something special and dazzling about a yacht.”