Joanne de Guardiola Designs a Classic Yacht

This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Architectural Digest.

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When she first saw it at its berth in Nice, its interior was swathed in purple. Purple draperies. Purple sofas. Purple walls. Even purple paper covering the dining table. Purple, purple, everywhere—deep purple, light purple and all the purply shades in between. “Room after room after room was purple,” says New York designer Joanne de Guardiola. “I’ve never seen so many imaginative uses of purple.” So much purple would have been odd anywhere, but on a yacht, sleek and gleaming white on the outside, it was downright peculiar.

Like all good designers, de Guardiola has a kind of X-ray vision, however. She could see that beneath its funereal wrapping, the boat’s interior had the fine bones that distinguish any intelligent plan. “If the bones are good, it’s fabulous,” she says. “When they’re not good, you have problems. But I knew these bones were great. They had just been hidden by a bad decorating job.”

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De Guardiola was therefore able to tell her client, an investment banker who was unable to leave New York, that the boat, a Feadship motor yacht, built in 1987 and 152 feet long, was a good buy. And since her client also happens to be her husband, Roberto de Guardiola, he believed her. “My husband had never owned a yacht, but he grew up around the ocean—he’s Cuban—and he loves boating. He asked if I could transform this boat, and I said yes, I could. I said that I could make this work fabulously well.”

Her shocked friends were not so certain. “You bought that purple boat!” they exclaimed. But it did not remain purple for long. Down in a swoop came the floor-to-ceiling purple silk draperies in the main salon. Ripped away were the purple silk coverings on the walls. Exiled to the junkyard were the purple sofas. When all the purple was gone, de Guardiola started to impose her own design.

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The main salon on the main deck, a long, rectangular space that opens onto the dining room, is the boat’s living room. The designer decided to simplify and streamline it by making it one long area—”playing to its strength,” to use her words. That meant the removal of tables and the placement of crisp white leather sofas along the walls, which were newly paneled with teak. The result is a space that allows the eye to sweep, unimpeded, from one end to the other.

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“The sofas give the room a very modern Italian look against the conservative teak paneling on the walls,” says de Guardiola. On top of the sofas she placed blue-and-white pillows that all but burst their seams in a geometric frenzy—an arresting pattern of circles and squares. “It’s a bold but utterly simple pattern,” she says. “I wanted something in that room that would pop!”

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