Since 1998, Patrick Knowles Designs has been well-known in yachting circles for its interior designs, but principal Patrick Knowles and his team have also been designing private-aircraft interiors. Regardless of which clients he’s working with, Knowles strives to understand everything about them: not just their penchants for colors and textures, but their overall lifestyle. These have been the key to creating award-winning designs on new-build projects and refits alike from builders such as Burger Boat Company, Trinity Yachts, Feadship, and ISA, among others. Here, Knowles discusses how he approaches each project, and what makes for a successful working relationship.
Q: Some people believe that working with repeat clients is always easy, since you already know their tastes. Do you agree?
A: Yes, actually I do agree with that statement. When meeting and working with a new client for the first time, there are many, many details and bits of information the designer gathers by just getting to know the client—information that is critical in understanding the tastes of the client, their personalities, the way they live, and the way they enjoy their environments, among many other things. Such information, once gathered or learned, becomes the foundation of the designer-client relationship, and such information is not necessary to be gathered again. On that principal alone, the learning curve on proceeding projects with that client is greatly reduced, which streamlines the entire design process.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge of working with a new client?
A: The biggest challenge in working with a new client is not necessarily getting to know them, but rather, getting to know the “nuances” of them. There are many instances in which a client might express their point of view or preference on a certain matter, which might at first appear clear and straightforward to the designer, but on further consideration of the client’s answer, many new questions might have been created in the process….a common scenario in the process of getting to know someone new, whether in a professional or personal relationship. Once I learn the nuances of a client, often the answers or comments they offer along the way are instantly understood, resulting in prompt action on our part to address such comments. The better I get to know them, the more I can “finish their sentences.” Such knowledge of the client becomes an asset in the working relationship, which typically yields a more valuable and productive partnership.
Q: Some designers inject their personal taste into their creations. Do you? If so, how, and if not, why not?
A: I personally prefer not to infuse my personal taste into designs I create for a client, as such designs are tailored to meet their requirements, not mine. I personally enjoy challenges presented by new clients. As a matter of fact, when in the interview process with a prospective client, in my mind I am wishing for them to request me and my team to create something which we had never created before…as opposed to requesting something that is familiar to us. To me, this scenario presents a new page, a clean slate and a multitude of challenges to hurdle on behalf of meeting the client’s request. I view our service as a conduit for the client to get what it is they are searching for. We, in effect, become their hands in creating their vision, based on experience and expertise, as oppose to our personal preferences. Once a clear path or mission is unanimously defined, I would then introduce my personal taste as needed. However’ such personal opinions are not given in the initial phase of the design process, as I feel it is important for the DNA of the design to be that of the client’s, no of mine.
Q: While no one likes to play favorites, do you have one or two projects that are particularly special, or that you feel turned out particularly well?
A: I would say that every professional has favorites. Not all projects are the same and based on that alone, no two experiences are the same either, and the experience of a project is what forms our overall opinion of such projects. There were a couple of new build projects I recently designed for two different owners, both of whom were new clients to me at the time: one for a 58-meter (190-footer) and one for a 63-meter (207-footer). Both clients were relatively young and had a list of very specific requirements, most of which proved challenging in the initial phase of the project and such challenges were with us throughout the duration of the project. As I mentioned earlier, no 2 experiences are identical and in the case of these 2 projects, each one had its primary challenge. One yacht’s challenge for me was the initial selection of 32 veneer species for the interior, all of which the owner loved, and after several months, I was able to convince them to whittle down the selection to 21 species, all of which were used in the yacht in significant capacities. The task for me was not only challenging, but also daunting. I must admit, the final outcome proved to be a fantastic display of wood in a very controlled and elegant presentation.
The other yacht also had many challenges, however there was a specific challenge in the form of a 10-meter /30-foot tall light fixture spanning three decks in the core of a spiral staircase. There were over 250 glass elements to the fixture and again, the end result was nothing short of spectacular! Based on these two challenges, I would have to say that these two yachts have a special place in our collective hearts here at Patrick Knowles Designs.
Q: Among recently completed projects of yours, Mi Sueño was interesting for having a wine-tasting area. It was an unexpected touch and a good solution to the problem of having extra space available. Among the projects you’re currently working on, are there any design elements that will similarly take yacht-watchers by surprise?
A: Yes, as a matter of fact, there is something really exciting and different we are currently designing, a 60-meter new build due for delivery in 2011. On the sundeck, in addition to the proverbial sunpads and bar, there is also a large hot tub for 12, and a helipad…which by today’s standards is not that unusual for a yacht of this size. However, on the same deck, under the arch to port, there is an all-glass gym and changing rooms with 12-foot ceilings and upper transom windows for added ventilation. In addition there is a sauna, steam room, and massage room to starboard, also under the arch, which is divided by a breezeway that connects the forward part of the deck to the aft part of the deck. This unique arrangement will be sure to catch her guests and those who visit her by surprise.