Element, the largest yacht built by Cantieri di Pisa, with interiors designed by Frédéric Méchiche, employs minimalist forms for a sophisticated, modern look.
Architecture and construction by Cantieri di Pisa
Interiors by Frédéric Méchiche
Photographed by Cantieri di Pisa
Published by Power & Motoryacht
Published by Nautica On Line
Uncomplicated and neat describe Element’s interior. The salon features rectilinear furniture housed in a long, uncluttered space. Linen edges both the inset sea-grass flooring and the bamboo window blinds.
Element, the largest yacht built by Cantieri di Pisa, employs minimalist forms for a sophisticated, modern look.
Designed by Cantieri di Pisa & Frédéric Mechiche
Written by Diane M. Byrne
Photographed by Cantieri di Pisa
Published by Power & Motoryacht February 2003
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, well-heeled Parisians turned to designer Jean-Michel Frank to ensure their homes reflected a unique style. Inspired by neoclassicism and primitive arts, Frank took an approach to interior decorating and furnishings marked by spare, rectilinear details and the use of unexpected materials—picture vellum-sheathed walls as well as bleached-leather and sharkskin furniture coverings. Because of his originality, Frank is widely credited with reinventing decorative arts, and today he continues to have a powerful influence on contemporary designers and progressive-minded individuals.
In similar fashion, when Cantieri di Pisa began building its various motoryacht series more than 30 years ago, it introduced an austere exterior styling that stood in marked contrast to the traditional designs being offered by other shipyards. Whether those who bought the Italian yard’s yachts—ranging in size from about 39 feet to more than 100 feet—were nonconformists or just craved something a little different, the styling met with success.
It would have been easy for Cantieri di Pisa to adapt its styling in the ensuing decades; after all, that’s what most yacht builders do. But the yard’s managers and in-house naval architects believe there’s a lot to be said for having a consistent, signature look: low-profile, streamlined, even architectural, particularly in comparison to the prevailing rounded shapes of today.
So it’s no surprise to learn, then, that a Frenchman looking for an out of the ordinary custom motoryacht turned to both Cantieri di Pisa and an interior designer who took his inspiration from Frank. The result is Element, which at 140 feet is the largest yacht built by the yard and also its first trideck.
You can tell you’re in for something different just by looking at how the name is painted on the transom: all lower-case letters, in a typography that’s at once uncomplicated and neat. It gives the impression that Element is, well, elemental.
That’s certainly an appropriate description for the way the interior design flows from room to room—and, even more noteworthy, complements the exterior styling. Think about the custom yachts you’ve seen; chances are more than a handful come to mind where the rococo interior decor just didn’t harmonize with the aggressive exterior lines. Not so aboard Element. The architectural emphasis flows right on through the aft deck doors into the saloon (which also contains the dining area). In fact, the influence of Frank is evident immediately. Instead of employing traditional planks of paneling to cover bulkheads and creating a seamless look by aligning the grains, the design team—comprised of the yard’s in-house department and the owner’s interior designer, Frédéric Mechiche—produced a block-like pattern with grains opposed for effect.
The choice of wood is also quite different: limed teak. It’s at once an understated yet sophisticated look—understated because the wood is not covered in coat after coat of glossy lacquer, and sophisticated because the block pattern and the prominent grains combine for an artistic effect.
Since this same look flows throughout Element, it was important to ensure that the furnishings and accessories didn’t detract from it. Whether you look around the combination saloon-dining area, walk forward into the master suite, go down the stairs to the five guest staterooms, or walk up to the panoramic sky lounge, you’ll notice that settees and chairs are covered in unembellished white fabric and that desks and end tables are architecturally simple pieces as well, stained black. Blinds in the saloon and sky lounge are thin and bamboo-like, not the customary wood slats or shades. In addition, you won’t find traditional knobs and related hardware for doors and closets; instead, they’re replaced by old-fashioned keys, which remain in place.
Even with all of this emphasis on simplicity, the design and construction teams did grace Element with a few imaginative touches. In the full-beam VIP stateroom below decks, for example, what appears to be just a solid bulkhead to starboard actually conceals an entertainment center. By pressing a portion of the limed teak at eye-level, the guest can unveil a flat-screen TV, which pivots out for optimal viewing from either the king-size bed in front of it or the seating area on the other side of the room. Because this room is so well-arranged, it feels as if it’s larger than the main-deck master—although the master certainly doesn’t feel cramped, particularly because it has an amazing ten feet of headroom (headroom is about seven feet everywhere else).
Another clever touch lies outside the sky lounge—or, to be more accurate, between the sky lounge and the sundeck. It’s essentially a half-deck level, outfitted with a small seating area. The location makes it an ideal spot for enjoying breakfast or just private time. Element’s transom is fitted with a large door for the tender garage; once opened, the door becomes a large bathing platform and is reachable from the main deck by either internal or external teak stairs. And despite what is traditionally found on many European-built and European-owned yachts, the crew’s quarters—four cabins, a large dinette furnished with cooking appliances, and a separate laundry—are on par with what an American yard and American owner would want.
Another welcome feature: the size of Element’s engine room. It’s generous, particularly given the size of those on some Italian-built yachts. While there isn’t walk-around access to the twin 3,700-hp MTUs, there is a separate, full-beam workroom just aft, something that’s becoming more common on yachts in this size range. According to Cantieri di Pisa’s sea trials last summer, Element achieves a maximum speed of 28 knots and a cruising range of about 2,000 miles on about 9,000 gallons of fuel.
While Jean-Michel Frank probably never imagined his style would be so admired decades after his passing, he probably also never imagined it would gain admiration beyond his country’s borders. Similarly, the founding fathers of Cantieri di Pisa could never have imagined their small wooden boatbuilding operation would one day become an international player in the custom-yacht arena. Element shows how the unexpected can sometimes result in something everyone can appreciate: simple pleasures.
Cantieri di Pisa. Phone: (39) 050 220551.
Length overall: 140'0"
Classification: Lloyd’s X 100 A1
Fuel Capacity: 9,250 gal.
Water Capacity: 1,370 gal.
Engines: 2/3,700-hp 16V4000 MTU diesel inboards
Generators: 2/80-kW Kohler
Watermakers: 2/1,000-gpd Idromar
Air Conditioning: 370,000-Btu Condaria
Electronics: 2/Furuno radars, Furuno GPS, Simrad wind instrument, Furuno echosounder, Plath gyrocompass, Plath autopilot, Skanti VHF
Interior Design: Frédéric Mechiche, Cantieri di Pisa
Naval Architecture: Cantieri di Pisa
Builder: Cantieri di Pisa
In His Element
For Frédéric Méchiche, designing an ultra-luxurious yacht interior couldn't come more naturally.
Written by Ian Phillips
Published by Interior Design, 7/1/2004
Frédéric Méchiche clearly remembers the first time he saw Element at the Cantieri di Pisa shipyard in Italy. "Out of the water, she looked like a multi-story building," the interior designer says. "Quite incredible."
It's easy to understand his wonder. So big that her hull and lower deck were built in one shed, the main deck in another, and the upper deck and sundeck in a third, the completed motor yacht comes in at 138 feet long and 27 feet wide. She can sleep 12 passengers, plus a crew of 10, and cruise at a speed of 28 knots.
Méchiche, however, is no stranger to big boats. He's completed seven others—in France, the U.K., Greece, and Italy. (Element often docks in Monaco.) Stylistically, the interiors have ranged from classic club chairs and mahogany paneling to a futuristic composition of black, white, and brushed stainless, and this breadth of experience has led him to develop a number of general rules. 'The name Element just happens to encapsulate his philosophy. "It's important to keep things simple," he says. "You should never lose sight of the sea. Even the most luxurious yacht should give you the same pleasure as a little fishing boat."
That translates, first of all, into a relaxed elegance just as likely to date from the 1930's, the 1950's, or today. But ease shouldn't imply sloppiness. "It's different from a house, where each room can have its own ambience, and family heirlooms can mix with new acquisitions. On a boat, you need more coherence," he explains, citing the ebonized oak used for Element's furniture and cabinetry from bow to stern. "The ebonizing adds energy and keeps the design from being wishy-washy."
Méchiche has also become expert at overcoming such nautical drawbacks as low headroom. Element's is frequently only 7 feet, so he clad the plane in squares of cream leather and chose similarly light-toned sea grass for the floors. He further emphasized verticality by inserting squared-off "pillars" between windows.
Beneath many of the windows, he installed runs of cabinetry to store tableware and conceal flat-screen TVs. Virtually invisible, the teak doors are discreetly equipped with push-latch mechanisms.
Discretion, Méchiche points out, is precisely what his clients were after: "Something extremely comfortable and spacious but not at all ostentatious." The master stateroom, for example, has two en suite heads with travertine basins and a cabin that measures an impressive 170 square feet.
The master stateroom shares the main deck with the salon, ' dining room, and galley, the latter designed after lengthy consultations with the cook. A stainless-steel island provides a central spot to prepare large fish for grilling. Encircling the top of the island, a handrail gives the cook something to hold onto when the boat heels.
On the lower deck are a second stateroom and four additional guest cabins—two twins and two doubles—as well as the captain's separate quarters. The lower deck's other facilities include an ultrasophisticated engine room decked out in white lacquer, white resin, and chrome. "You can walk barefoot in there," enthuses Méchiche. "It's absolutely sublime."
The lounge on the top deck is appointed with leather-covered sofas. In order to ascertain the precisely right height for them—"to make sure you could see out the windows"—Méchiche worked with full-scale mock-ups of the furniture.
Equally meticulous about lighting throughout, he installed recessed spots with a narrow beam spread, sculpting the yacht's interior and making it more dynamic. Long-life incandescent tubes, placed behind the bamboo window blinds, create a glow in the evening.
Fabrics and finishes received their share of attention as well. In the salon, for example, Méchiche mixed the coarse sea grass on the floor with the linen on the sofas and throw pillows. For walls throughout, he selected teak veneer, cut it into squares, textured it, and applied a transparent stain, followed by a clear varnish, to create the effect of cerused oak. "I imitated furniture from the 1930's—the wood appears to shimmer," he explains.
That level of refinement makes itself evident in a panoply of details. As Méchiche likes to say, "We worked on every square millimeter." Indeed, he not only designed the table and bed linens but also had the on-board stationery specially engraved. The engraved silverware bears a simple e for Element. Fittingly, the pattern Méchiche chose was initially designed for the ocean liner Normandie.
SEA GRASS (SALON): CRUCIAL TRADING. SOFA, PILLOW FABRIC (SALON), BEDCOVER FABRIC (GUEST CABIN): ELITIS. CUSTOM BED LINEN (MASTER STATEROOM): D. PORTHAULT. STRIPED FABRIC (STATEROOMS, GUEST CABIN): NYA NORDISKA TEXTILES. SINK FITTINGS (GUEST HEAD, GALLEY): DORNBRACHT. GLASSWARE (GUEST CABIN): BACCARAT. TRAY (GUEST CABIN), BLANKET (LOWER STATEROOM): HERMS. CHAIR SILK (LOWER STATEROOM): JIM THOMPSON.