A Conversation With Cristiano Gatto

by The Art of Bespoke in Design Experts

When it comes to the world of luxury design, nothing quite compares to the opulence of a personal yacht. Providing not only the means to travel to some of the world's most glamourous destinations, it serves as a its own pleasuredome on the seas. A place to entertain, to unwind, to enjoy and experience the beautiful life.

The creative heart of a close-knit group of young professionals, Cristiano is the front man of Cristiano Gatto Design Team, a firm with yacht design at the forefront of what they do.

Having graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Venice in 1992, and originally specialising in sculpture, Cristiano soon began to fall in love with the relationship between industrial design and contemporary art. And having worked for such illustrious studios as Nuvolari Lenard, he discovered an affinity for luxury yachts. 

With an ethos to approach each and every project as a sculpture, with the overall design in mind but also the refinement the smallest details, we spoke with Cristiano himself to understand how he combines a talent for sculpture with spectacular interior design fit for the seas in Heesen's Home.

Cristiano Gatto

AOB: Heesen is well known for its innovative designs, meticulous engineering and superb manufacturing – how do you carry those characteristics into the interiors?

CG: We have been working with Heesen Yachts for many years now and I can say that Heesen's approach [to design] perfectly fits with ours. While thinking out of the box to bring refreshing and innovative ideas to each project we design, we adopt a meticulous approach that forces us to define the project to the minutest detail.

We adopt the yard's standards to all building procedures and methods with regard to the interior outfitting. When we design an interior for a one of Heesen's yachts we have clear idea in our minds as to how it will be realised, which building techniques and standards will be adopted by the yard, and we develop our design accordingly.

AOB: Do you take the exterior design of the yacht as a cue for the interior design?

CG: Absolutely, yes. For instance, with Home, the large windows were a key influence in our design, allowing for a lot of light and the sea itself to almost become part of the space.

Generally speaking we always try to create an interior design which is cohesive to the yacht's exterior style and feel. Home is no exception.

AOB: What is specific in designing a yacht’s interior? Does special attention have to be paid to the materials, the type of lighting, or the size and scale of the furniture?

CG: Yachts are meant to sail in the endless immensity of the sea and this is a major consideration for us as we approach a new project. Each design involves emotions and feelings and brings a poetic and artistic dimension with it. We think that what we define as a 'good' design is made of carefully designed details, hence the attention we dedicate to each and all elements.

As for priority, no detail is too small. A meticulous choice of excellent materials, wisely distributed lighting system and right scale of furniture are at the heart of what we consider a 'good' interior design.

AOB: Joining the project at an advanced stage of the yacht’s making meant that you had to work with existing structures on the yacht – how did this affect the end result? And did you have to come up with strategies or solutions to overcome any hurdles caused by the existing structure?

CG: Designing the interior of a yacht always requires one to lead with the limits and restraints of a complex structure: compartmentation, headroom, cabling, systems and equipments, so on and so forth. As for Home, we didn't have to overcome any specific hurdle, meaning that we could really explore and focus on our role as designers.

AOB: That sort of free rein must have been enjoyable. With the ability to then focus on the design, what is the role of bespoke design and custom-made elements in a yacht interior, and which pieces were made bespoke on Home?

CG: When we design a yacht interior we want to introduce a series of elements that make it exceptional. We therefore explore the very essence of ‘bespoke’. Elements and custom designed furniture and decorative items are introduced to create something that is truly unique, and tailored on the yacht owner's taste and way of living.

On board Home we used pieces of furniture by Paola Lenti such as indoor and outdoor sofas, poufs, sun beds and coffee tables whose essential, ergonomic shapes add a relaxed feel to Home's rigorous design. Another piece which surely worth a special mention is the stainless steel chaise-longue by Franco Poli standing out in the main saloon. Apart from its functional aspect this object is a piece of art in itself.

AOB: That chais-lounge is certainly a stand-out piece. Are there any bespoke pieces that you would recommend including in every yacht interior?

CG: No, the essence of luxury yacht design is in its complete uniqueness.

AOB: Of course, that's what you pay for. So what ideas did the client bring to the project to create this sense of uniqueness?

CG: Home's interior design stems from a fruitful collaboration between the Owner and us in a to-and-fro process. The owner asked for an easy and clean design that matched his lifestyle and tastes. Working in this almost iterative process, in the end it is almost impossible to say which ideas were ours and which were his.

Working in this way, and developing projects as such is what we find extremely exciting and stimulating; it’s a melting pot of ideas and fantasies and bringing these together to create a spectacular and unique environment is why we do this.

AOB: Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems as though the client requested a more minimalist interior – with the result being a colour scheme that is predominantly white. How did you decide to pair this with deep reds and burgundy accents?

CG: Though it can look simple at first glance, Home’s interior design is not minimalist and actually encompasses a great deal of complexity.

Whilst we stripped away all unnecessary decorative elements, we wanted to focus on what needed to be there. As you are not bogged down in complicated visuals, you get the chance to explore and appreciate all subtle details hidden within a single piece of design.

This is elucidated upon with the 'all white' effect which declutters the overall design and helps it breath. We added a few colorful detail to juice up the atmosphere and as for colour choices, it was simple: deep reds and burgundy are the Owner's favourite colours.

AOB: Other than the colour scheme, what other elements did you add in order to achieve this look?

CG: To create a fresh yet ineffable, intriguing atmosphere we were attentive to light, both natural and artificial. Natural light inundates all environments on board during the day and is reflected by different materials which, despite being coloured with the same pure white, create different shades and textures.

At dusk, the atmosphere changes. The lighting system adds drama to the beauty of the interior areas. By placing lighting fixtures at different levels, horizontally, vertically and even diagonally, and controlling each lighting point in total autonomy we use the light to define or enhance a space. Different combinations can be used to create different moods or highlight a design feature depending on what the Owner desires.

AOB: Speaking of desires, how did you come to choose a rare Belgian marble to use throughout the interior? We haven't seen it used anywhere else...

CG: We always look for exquisite or rare materials. Marble is my favourite material by the way and by virtue of my academic training as a sculptor I know and appreciate its characteristics and specificities. We managed to procure the last existing slabs of a rare Belgian marble from the quarry and used them to clad two day heads, to introduce a true sense of luxury.

AOB: Home features a silent cruising mode to improve the atmosphere when dining and socializing. Did the strong emphasis on eating and drinking aboard Home inspire the interior design of the yacht, and its dining spaces in particular?

CG Home is a very silent yacht and our design took this aspect into great consideration. On board Home, as on any other yacht, furniture, fittings, doors, cabinetry, decorative items and accessories are designed to become part of a structure that undergoes strong stresses. Home's hybrid propulsion allows for silent and almost zero vibrations cruising in electric mode and also her furnishing and decoration are designed, built and assembled to dampen any unnecessary noise.

Conviviality is a major issue on board Home, so we might indicate the bar on the Sun Deck as a main socializing point. Its dimensions and organic shape turns it into a focal point. Having said that, we didn't stress the importance of eating and drinking aboard as we gave the same attention, or emphasis, to all kind of activities.

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In a yacht you have a sculpture to the gods of the seas. A pure celebration of exuberance, of opulence. A coasting den of pleasure sat atop the mechanical heartbeat within. It's not hard to see how Cristiano's love of contemporary art and industrial design find a perfect marriage in the interiors of the world's greatest yachts, and, with a keen eye for the subtleties of life on the sea, how he can create such stunning designs.