Haute Seas

Bahamian-born and Lauderdale-based, Patrick Knowles is at the tip of the spear when it comes to on-the-water interior design.

With all apologies to Antibes, South Florida is without a doubt the yacht capital of the world. Its marinas and canals drip so thickly with baubles of naval architecture that the Floridian peninsula resembles a gleaming chandelier hanging low over the Caribbean. And the yachts themselves, well, they have a few shimmering chandeliers of their own.

Patrick Knowles would know. The proprietor behind Fort Lauderdale’s Patrick Knowles Design, he has hard-won expertise in some of the most rarefied spaces in the world — private jets, custom homes, and, of course, yachts. And with his expertise comes insight.

One of the first things Knowles needs to know from a client is how they intend to use their boat. Form does follow function, after all. “Vessels for private use and vessels for charter are two totally different animals,” he explains. “It will affect the materials we use and the layout we construe. So having a full understanding of how you want to do your boating is absolutely paramount to getting the best out of your interior design.”

Knowles also advises that prospective owners be transparent about two variables: time and budget. “You want to have a realistic conversation with your designer about money and time frame,” he says. “Oftentimes someone will have a sufficient budget, but want the boat immediately. And sometimes they are more flexible with their time frame, but perhaps the money isn’t there to get everything they want done.” And when factoring in budget, Knowles notes it’s important to be wary of that well-known vagary of South Florida living: traffic. “Lauderdale is Lauderdale,” he says, “it’s where most of the vendors are. So if you’re building your boat in Palm Beach, for example, you need to factor in trip charges for your vendors. Getting up and down the road between the two places can take time, and you can end up paying your vendors for 10 hours a week they spent driving to your boat, and those charges can add up. It’s something to be aware of.”

Yachts, and particularly mega yachts, are famous for their customizations. And if you’ve lived in South Florida long enough, you know this one truism — if the money is right, the sky is the limit. “Fully custom means whatever you want it to mean,” says Knowles. “As an example, we just delivered M/Y Alta, and from signing the contract to delivery it was a 161-day project. And it was no fluff and stuff. We gutted all the heads, and we did every last detail custom, the china, the monograms, custom furniture, custom carpet. To get that all done in 161 days was intense, but it’s what the owner wanted, and obviously they could afford it.”

Of course, occasionally over-the-top customization can go off the rails. Knowles remembers one client who wanted a massive aquarium on her yacht, and the reason she wanted it built to such proportions was because a marine biologist had assured the owner that her favorite seahorses would grow to be 14 inches, a size they never actually come close to attaining. “Disappointed does not even begin to describe how she felt when they didn’t grow so large,” Knowles remembers with a chuckle. “Let’s just say, I’m glad I wasn’t that marine biologist.”


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