5 tips for creating amazing exterior spaces and beach clubs onboard yachts

Fort Lauderdale yacht interior designer, Karen Lynn Poulos, shares 5 tips for creating amazing exterior spaces and beach clubs onboard yachts 

Some of the most important areas besides a yachts interior onboard a yacht are its exterior areas. Typically it’s where owners and guests and their company spend many hours entertaining, dining, sunbathing and relaxing with the all amazing surroundings, sights and sounds and beautiful views of sea that yachting has to offer. Onboard most yachts there are typically an exterior deck or two or three and a space like the aft deck and sun deck or flybridge area. Many of the yachts exterior spaces I have visited or eventually refit are often not well designed or thought out but have such endless and amazing possibilities and can always be improved upon. Just as much attention that goes into designing the yachts interior should go into the yachts exterior. 


Here are some of my tips 

  1. All exterior seating should be very comfortable for lounging and functional like a outdoor living room or a beach club. All exterior built in seating can either be removed completely to open and clear the deck to accommodate loose exterior beach club style loose furniture that can stacked and stored on the deck and be covered and tied down with bungis when the boat is running. The other option is to layout if (newbuild) or modify the layout (if a refit)of the exterior spaces and design all the built in exterior seating deeper to create sun beds and lounge areas that are built in or fixed to the deck. In cases of a refit, I almost always modify all built in seating making it as deep as possible. I also study the cushion fit and then fabricate new cushions which are ergonomic designs for maximum comfort and designed with a high quality exterior fabric. I also like to mix up high quality cool loose exterior pieces of furniture with the exterior built in seating to add some interest to create a cool vibe. 

  2. Incorporate textures and colors to make the exterior decks pop and feel like an outdoor lounge. Adding woven textures that look like wicker that are made to withstand the salt and sea are great additions to a yachts exterior. This can be done by adding baskets with towels and sunbathing lotions or also in the exterior furnishing selections. Also there is a great selection of high quality stainless and teak exterior yacht furnishings that are classic and add texture. I also like to add pops of color, texture and pattern in the exterior cushion design, throw pillows, table decor and table linens. One of the most dramatic ways to add warmth and texture is to add teak decking or outdoor carpets on the deck floors which cozy up a yachts exterior. 

  3. Add special touches of lighting like lanterns and effect lighting. Please check into companies like Gloister and Kettal that have teak and stainless lanterns that are solar powered and are high quality. These lanterns are a great addition to your exterior beach club spaces onboard when in port or at anchor and create a beautiful lighting and atmosphere on the exterior decks at night. They can be easily stored and also will perform well in the salt and sun. Also an addition of rope lighting can be added in built in on all the exterior areas which creates nice atmosphere and soft glow at night. Backlighting an exterior bar is also a fabulous effect that adds to a chic lounge feel. And finally let’s not forget underwater lights on the boats hull which are a very dramatic way to illuminate the boat at night to create the WOW factor. 

  4. Add some cover onboard the yachts exterior. Cover or shade is very important for many people onboard yachts because it protects them from the strong suns rays and offers a cooler area to relax and dine then in the direct sun. A covered area on the exterior of the yacht can be created in the form of a extending an existing covered deck area or adding a hardtop a sundeck or flybridge. Another cool solution for shade onboard yachts is to create the areas to be shaded with sail shades, umbrellas, or retractable awnings which also offer removable, storable, flexible shade solutions that also look amazing! These areas can be dressed and set up when the boats at anchor or in port and removed and stored when the boats not in service or doing a crossing. 

  5. Incorporate plants or greenery to your exterior spaces on the yacht exterior decks. Create a living garden with some colorful pots adds that special touch and is always appreciated by many. A very classic palm tree in a artistic pot can be a nice touch in several areas on the decks. Another option is to create greenery wall, zen garden or an herb garden to add some elements from nature and green color to the exterior space. I know live plants require some care but think of all the enjoyment and benefits especially in an herb garden which can be used by the chef for preparation of tasty cuisine for owners and guests. If the idea of greenery seem to difficult to maintain or is not possible, high quality silks maybe substituted from a company like NDI. I know of one owner who actually had a green garden space on board his yacht for his and his guests dogs to run and play! 


5 Tips for a Successful Yacht Interior Refit by Fort Lauderdale Yacht Interior Designer

Fort Lauderdale yacht interior designer Karen Lynn Poulos, shares her top recommendations for making the best of your next luxury yacht refit project.

Assembling a team of professionals that you can trust and that you have an excellent relationship with is paramount to the success of any yacht interior refit project.

Assembling a team of professionals that you can trust and that you have an excellent relationship with is paramount to the success of any yacht interior refit project.

  1. ASSEMBLE A TEAM: I have been fortunate enough over many years designing yachts and project managing refits to have assembled a wonderful team of tradespeople that specialize in yacht interiors and yacht refits in the areas of yacht carpentry, yacht refinishing, yacht flooring and carpeting, lightweight and speciality yacht stone and custom yacht furnishings, upholstery and window treatments. I can depend on them for anything and they guarantee their work for my clients which is an added bonus. We have a long term working relationship and I have made agreements with my teams and each vendor, provider and company involved to ensure rules and guidelines for my projects are followed, such as my approval process for change orders, insurance, payments, and timelines. I can trust them and they can trust me and together we perform well for my yacht refit clients. I recommend anyone wanting to do a refit on their yacht to assemble a team you can trust and that will go that extra mile for you. 

  2. SET A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT: One of the most important and first things I ask my yacht interior refit clients is “what is their budget?”. This is probably the single most important question since it tells me a lot about the type of materials we can use and what we’ll be able do in the yacht’s interior. I work on all my yacht interior refits with a fixed target budget set forth by the client from the start of the project. I work with all my vendors on fixed estimates only so there are no open time and material bids from my team. I have worked this way for the past 18 years on my yacht interior refits and find it successful. I think time and material bids are dangerous, are open ended and can be detrimental financially to the client, they have led to many yacht refit failures and should never be used. If there is a fixed budget and fixed bids, things are under control. If there is a change in the work being performed or a change order, I require the trade person to provide a fixed estimate first and I get it approved by my client before it’s executed so that extra cost is added to the budget only with the client’s full knowledge and approval. We see many yacht refits in industry that get started however they never get finished because 1. there was never a budget set 2. the project was bid out on time and materials which is a set up for failure as costs quickly spiral out of control. 

  3. DEFINE A SCOPE OF WORK FOR THE YACHT INTERIOR REFIT: It is imperative to the yacht interior refit that there is a written scope of work which is very detailed and clearly defined for each trade and what jobs they are performing. Once you have the very detailed scope of work, this makes it very easy to get the fixed estimates from each of the trades as described above for the purpose of setting a budget. It also provides the details needed for the yacht owner on what exactly he is paying for and what’s being done onboard. 

  4. ESTABLISH A TIMELINE: When doing a yacht interior refit, I like to write a weekly production schedule with the target completion date in mind for the yacht’s interior refit. This helps to project the weekly items that need to be performed and also it is helpful to send this to the Client who is usually not in town so he can be informed as to what’s happening onboard his boat. It also is important for the designer, owner, and captain to have realistic expectations and an updated timeline for the amount of work being performed and understand the lead times of materials and designer items. Timelines may need to be adjusted if there are delays on getting payments from clients or the designer is unable to purchase materials for installations. Timelines can also be delayed if client questions go unanswered for too long, so it is very important that all parties are working together towards the completion date! 

  5. HAVE OPEN COMMUNICATION WITH THE CLIENT: Having a good line of communication with the Client and getting the approvals and payments needed on time is a very essential aspect to a yacht interior refit. Without open communication with the Client and timely payments, there can be severe delays to a project’s timeline. The project delays can be related to unanswered questions that arise that need to be answered quickly in order to avoid progress interruptions to the production schedule. There can be a delay to the materials being approved or being purchased if the Client is not responsive which can shift back the team of installers working on jobs being completed. There can be a delay on approvals to be made by the Client for change orders being executed which can slow down the progress of the yacht’s refit and delay the completion date. There can be delays caused by the Client not making payments in a timely manner when they are due. In summary, a yacht interior refit requires participation and responsiveness of the client as well as the organization and abilities of the yacht interior designer and her team.

Fort Lauderdale Yacht Interior Designer Karen Lynn Poulos is the owner and director of Karen Lynn Interior Design. With 18 years of experience in the yachting industry, as well as aircraft and residential interior design, Karen knows what it takes to complete a yacht interior refit successfully.

The Advantages of using LED Lighting in Yacht Interior Design


In the recent years our design firm has done many Halogen to LED conversions onboard many yachts. It can be an initial expense up front but over time it is saves the Clients money and is much more efficient. The three main advantages of LEDs in yacht interiors are 1.They are much cooler and the burden on the AC is far less therefore the generators are not working as hard. 2. No risk of fire like in the old style halogens 3. The bulbs last much longer and you are not having to constantly replace bulbs which long term saves money. M/Y Falcon 53M Trinity interior design/ lighting design in LED featured by Karen Lynn