With the company established in 2000, the last 17 years has seen Design Unlimited’s portfolio shine, with notable projects including the 64.68-metre Shemara, 36.8-metre Bliss, 53-metre Mirage and 46.2-metres Pink Gin V. With Pink Gin VI currently under construction at Baltic Yachts, here Roxanne Hughes of Breed Media sits down with founder of the design studio Design Unlimited, Mark Tucker, for a behind-the-scenes look at the studio.
You established the Design Unlimited studio in 2000. Tell us a little about your history and what lead you to establish your own design studio.
I have always had a passion for boats and for the sea. I started sailing at an early age, crewing for my dad’s friend in an Albacore dinghy before moving on to have my own Mirror dinghy, the first in a very long line of dinghies and boats. My interest in sailing meant that after studying industrial design at Cardiff, I joined Camper & Nicholson’s Yachts to work in the design office of their shipyard in Gosport. The experience gained at Campers has proven to be invaluable over the years - it gave me a secure technical knowledge of what is actually feasible in terms of build, as well as a great insight into construction methods and joinery.
I then joined Ken Freivokh Design where I worked my way up to becoming a partner before deciding in 2000 that, with 14 years of experience under my belt, the time was right for me and my wife Julie to branch out on our own and Design Unlimited was born. At the beginning of this year, we moved to new premises. The new studio has given us much more space, allowing for expansion and better facilities for welcoming our clients.
What are some of the major milestones over the past 17 years of business?
One of our early projects was Visione which, at the time, was the world’s largest carbon sloop - a great coup for a young studio. This came about through my connection with Jim Pugh from US naval architects, Reichel Pugh and was the start of what has been a very long and productive relationship with Baltic Yachts in Finland. The relationship with Baltic Yachts, formed during our work on Visione, was pivotal in securing the contract for the design of Pink Gin V and forging a fantastic relationship with the owner and his team.
Our work for Sunseeker International was another milestone for the studio. During our early days, we carried out the interior design for an 86’ Sunseeker model which proved popular with their owners and we were then approached by the company to redesign the interiors for their entire range over the period 2006 to 2011; a total of 15 models.
The refit of Shemara was another great project for our studio. This beautiful gentleman’s motor yacht was completely rebuilt to give her a new lease of life and again, we formed a strong bond with the team. The multi-award winning and aptly named WinWin was also a high point for us.
The refit of Mirage was another significant project on our evolutionary ladder. We had previously designed the refit for this yacht when she was Elisabeth F but a contact with the new owner, for whom we had done some interior work on his race boat, saw us commence what turned into a very large refit carried out over three consecutive winter seasons whilst the owners used the yacht during each summer. All interior areas were completely refitted and modernised utilising a cool, contemporary look with Scandinavian touches. Mirage was awarded Refit of the Year at the World Superyacht Awards in 2016.
In numerical terms we have completed 30 custom superyacht projects, 28 production motor yachts and over 20 production sailing yacht designs, and are grateful to our clients for giving us the opportunity to work on such amazing projects.
The next yacht to launch that you’ve worked on will be Pink Gin VI - built by Baltic Yachts. Once launched, she’ll be the largest carbon-fibre sloop in the world. How did that project come about? What are some of the main rewards and challenges when it comes to the Pink Gin VI project?
As mentioned above our initial contact with the Pink Gin team came about through the design of the owner’s previous yacht, the beautiful Pink Gin V. The owner was so delighted with this yacht that he was determined to have the same team working on his new project. Initially, work started on Pink Gin VI in 2012 but the project was put on hold before restarting in earnest in 2014. The launch this summer will be the result of three years’ intense work - the results will be truly remarkable and original. Whilst the details of the project are still under wraps, there have been some incredible challenges associated with building an innovative composite yacht.
Pink Gin VI will feature two hull doors, a first for a carbon sailing yacht, and her closely-guarded interior design will be revealed to all at Monaco Yacht Show in September. Our interior decorator, Nicola Brook, has worked very closely with the owner and her attention to detail means that every last aspect of this amazing project has been carefully considered.
You design for both production and full-custom superyachts. Does your work in each field help the other?
We are fortunate that we have been flexible enough in our outlook to work in both fields. My own sailing experience has meant that I really enjoy the demands of production yacht work, having a smaller envelope into which to fit a functional interior is a challenge which excites me, as is the idea of doing something new in this field. Also, that production yachts have a much shorter timescale for completion means that the results of production work are seen far more quickly.
This discipline definitely helps with the custom superyacht design, although it's nice to use the custom work as an opportunity to give one’s imagination (and often the budget!) more free rein. Conversely, our work on custom superyachts also helps us to push the boundaries of the production yacht world and we have worked with many of our superyacht suppliers to help them develop and refine some of their products for use in the wider production sector of the market.
Tell us what is on your drawing boards at the moment, and what we can expect to see in the future.
We are currently working on some pretty exciting and diverse projects. This year we have a 78’ motor yacht launching from Baltic Yachts, an unusual step for this predominantly sailing yacht builder - the client being an experienced sailing yacht owner - and it'll feature a very clean and modern interior with many interesting touches. We are also working on the refit of a 49.9m gentleman’s motor yacht which will be launched in 2018, we have a range of exciting catamaran projects underway at McConaghy, and a 102’ sailing yacht underway in Turkey. We have also been working on designs for a range of motor yachts for Baltic - a new venture for them, a range of production motor yachts building in China, a 46-metre trimaran and we have a few other things up our sleeves as well!
Hear more about Design Unlimited on their website.
T: +44 (0) 1329 282 44