Southern Exposure’s Q & A: Shelley DiCondina, Yacht Interior Designer

South Florida-based Yacht Interior Designer Shelley DiCondina has been transforming the décor and design of luxury yachts for more than 20 years, maintaining functionality without sacrificing elegance.

SB: What prompted you to enter the marine world?
SD: I began my career in design about 25 years ago. My life has always been near the ocean, first the Pacific, then the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. It just made sense to me to be a yacht interior designer. Boating and design have always been part of my life and my parents always told me if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

SB: What is new in your line of work this year that mariners should keep an eye out for?
SD: There is so much happening in boating and yacht décor. One of my favorite tasks is changing old halogen lights to LED. There is no right answer as there are so many things to take into consideration when doing a refit and changing the lighting. Another area is that we are changing how we do things in the bedding and soft décor. Everything is less fussy, there are a lot less pillows, and bedding/linens are premium such as gorgeous European and Egyptian cottons with unique embellishments that are meant to be seen and enjoyed—and all are washable. We rarely do traditional bedspreads, now it is all about the linens.

SB: What are some of your signature styles that set you apart from other industry individuals in your field?
SD: My personal style is keeping function on the forefront and making sure it all works and is as comfortable as possible. That means for all day and all night! You won’t see one of our boat pulling up to a marina for guests to get off and spend the night at the hotel. We design for comfort and utilize every inch. Our interior style is soothing and reeks of relaxation. Our clients and their families are busy people, and I want the boat to be the place they unwind, appreciate each other and all they have earned.

SB: Tell me about the design process. What is your favorite and least favorite part?
SD: At Yacht Interiors we have developed our own unique approach to the design process. The first thing we want is for our clients to understand that we are experts in our field. Whether it is space planning, furniture designs, or art and décor; we are the real deal. Yachts are all we do.

For new construction projects, a builder often introduces us to the new client, who is in need of detail drawings and custom pieces. If it is a refit we meet the client in person, on board, review our process, get an idea of the scope of the project and discuss our initial thoughts. When we are selected as the design team we request a deposit to develop a unique interior proposal for that specific yacht. Budget is discussed as well as scheduling exceptions. Whether it is a new construction or a refit I find that the most enjoyable perk of all the hard work is developing life long friendships with clients. Our clients are amazing people that just happen to love the oceans as much as I do.

SB: What would be the smallest project you’ve undertaken? What about the largest?
SD: The smallest project we were asked to do was locate portholes for a California couple that had purchased a yacht under construction after the yard had gone bankrupt. Can you imagine, no one on site working on the boat knew where to put the portholes? We have complete autoCAD capabilities so we looked at the drawings, placed the portholes in about 20 minutes and sent the drawing to the client.

Our typical and favorite project is complete design responsibilities on new construction that also include a turnkey budget. I really enjoy finishing a yacht after a year or two of construction and all that entails—hanging art, making beds and placing the accessories etc. It is so satisfying to design, complete and mini-resort what you know will be a family’s favorite destination for years to come. They will celebrate holidays, birthdays, summer break, get engaged, renew friendships and just enjoy life. What an honor to help create that environment!

SB: Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?
SD: My inspiration comes from many things. I submerge myself in the world of fashion, whether it is clothing, residential or cultural trends—I am always looking to the future and what is happening.

SB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SD: Yacht Interiors by Shelley is more than just a design studio, we are currently expanding our studio to offer comprehensive outfitting for owners and crew. Our 4,000-square-foot studio will be undergoing a refit to make the yacht outfitting process more accessible for all boaters. Who knows, we may even add a new name to the door.

Nathalie Gouillou, Southern Exposure August 2015