After an Overhaul, the designer’s family yacht, Cyan, is sleekly seaworthy and trimmed with African touches.
This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Architectural Digest.
I call her my daughter,” Nina Seirafi says of her favorite 12-year-old. “I’m aware of every little dot on her.” But her adorable little darling is a hefty girl, small only by comparison to an aircraft carrier. She is, in fact, a motor yacht, 160 feet long and a few hundred tons in her bare keel. Seirafi, a young Manhattan designer, loves every inch and every pound. “She’s the project I’m most attached to,” she says. “I feel that she’s a living person.”
People go goofy that way over boats and dogs—and for the very same reasons. Both have minds of their own, both need some affectionate handling, and both are boon companions in good times and bad. The affectionate handling part was Seirafi’s chief concern when she first walked down the gangplank and into the main deck cabin. “I felt suffocated,” she says. “When you leave land and you’re on the water, you’re supposed to feel free and open. But I walked into a dungeon with dark walls and a ceiling with heavy details.”
Previously owned by a Russian businessman, the poor boat had all the dash and glamour of a lethargic Volga ferry. Huge overstuffed sofas, covered in peculiar patterns, dominated the main lounges, and walls of dark mahogany made them as dour as March in Moscow. All that was needed to complete the picture of Muscovite melancholy was a hot samovar and a whistling teakettle. That was the boat the new owners—three families, all longtime friends—bought, and that was the boat Seirafi first saw. The three couples hired Espen Øino, a Monaco-based marine architect, to add a gym on the top deck; they asked Seirafi to erase that Siberian gloom; and they renamed their new purchase Cyan—from the Greek word for dark blue.
They might just as well have called her the Ugly Duckling, however, and Seirafi had a formidable task in giving her some sunny sparkle. Before even starting on the interiors, she and her clients gave the stodgy all-white exterior a makeover, replacing it with a more distinctive, even raffish look: white on the top half and charcoal on the hull. “We wanted a sleeker look and a new identity,” says Seirafi, and charcoal, the key to that new identity, became the yacht’s dominant color, inside and out.
Seirafi’s next job was to bring the outside inside, to sweep away the interior’s overstuffed, overfed furnishings and details. “The boat needed some serious simplification,” she says. Cabinets with multiple angles were replaced with simple tables, for instance, and ceilings that had two planes and heavy details were flattened into one unadorned plane. To bring the outside in—Cyan is, after all, a boat—she substituted the dark floors and ceilings of the public rooms with silver-tinted oak that matches the weathered color of the outdoor teak decks.
All three of her clients have a love affair with Africa, and they asked Seirafi to give Cyan‘s interior subtle touches of the continent. “We didn’t want a direct African look,” she says, “but we did want an indirect presence. A very discreet hint of Africa can be seen throughout the boat.” Corian tables on the outdoor decks, for instance, have open, lattice bases that suggest African sculpture, and throw pillows in all the cabins have African-inspired prints.
The presence of charcoal is more obvious but just as subtle. Two charcoal sofas sit near the entrance to the main deck lounge, and the rug near the entrance is also charcoal. The rug changes color, however, becoming progressively lighter as you walk toward the dining room, until, in the dining room itself, it becomes a silver gray. “It’s a light effect,” says Seirafi. “The idea was to have a change in temperature as you go from one space to another.”
The old master stateroom was a timid landlubber, with heavy furniture and walls upholstered in what Seirafi calls a “weird blue.” She gave the room its sea legs, ripping out the curious-colored wall fabric and lining the walls with mahogany panels instead. At the same time, she replaced the dark wood side tables with tables made of a white acrylic. “They bring a more modern, edgier look to the room,” she says.
The changes to the guest cabins and baths were mostly cosmetic. But the bridge deck salon, the yacht’s large media room, had to be stripped down and rebuilt. “Nothing worked,” says the designer. New mahogany walls replaced the old, and the bar, which had stuck out in the middle of the room, was put in its proper place on the side. “This room has amazing views,” says Seirafi. “It’s a magical, magical room.”
In just a few months the ugly duckling had become a swan, which is the way all stories of designers and yachts should end.
For more information about this blog Click Here!