GQ Magazine "Inside the Superyacht Boom"
The pandemic has seen a record-breaking rise in the number of superyacht sales, as the ultra-wealthy flock to spend their time at sea. From Vitamin-C enriched water and air-purifying bathroom tiles, to submarine moon pools and snowmobiles, these floating palaces are obscenely luxurious..
Since the pandemic began, the majority of us have experienced the sensation that our worlds are getting smaller, confined as we have been to sofas, screens and staycations. The very idea of wonton globe-trotting seems almost inconceivable, at least without an accompanying mountain of anxiety and paperwork.
Just look at Cassius the explorer, which launched on Christmas Day and is a wildly impressive 62-metre conversion befitting of a Bond villain. A collaboration between C-Quest Yachts, Swedish naval architect Dennis Ingemansson and the London-based interior designers Njord by Bergman Design House, Cassius is a state-of-the-art beast repurposed from an old Shelf Express supply vessel. Flourishes range from the medical spa, cinema and helipad, to Vitamin-C enriched water running through the plumbing, snowmobiles and a moon pool for a submarine.
With Cookson’s guidance, the Njord team designed the interiors with the intention of bringing the natural world outside, inside, so that its residents always feel a part of the landscape. The unusually huge windows show off sunsets, snowy mountain peaks, vast expanses of ice and bring a huge amount of light. “Interior design isn’t a cushion or a sofa, it’s the light, the ventilation, how the space breathes,” she says. “When people say interior design they think ‘okay she’s bringing some throws and maybe add some handles’, but actually, it’s everything. The hues, the colours, how sunlight impacts each different room from sunrise to darkness. Some of the best yachts have had millions of pounds spent on them, yet you go in and it feels almost like a retail unit. The light wasn’t thought through… When people spend time in our designs, whether on land or a yacht, they feel happier, more attractive. The light is complimenting them differently in each room, be that the living area, the gym or the dressing room.”
While the Njord team are not at liberty to disclose which private individual has bought Cassius, they say they have seen a shift in who the average yacht owner is today. “The whole world is changing and rich people are getting younger,” says Berglund. “Where ten years ago, it was a largely middle-aged consumer base, now almost all the yacht owners we meet are younger people, from Silicon Valley or working in tech, video games, cryptocurrency, real estate and the music industry, as well as royals.”
One such client is the American businessman who owns Galaxy along with his partner, one of the other two boats Njord currently has on its books besides Cassius. Designed after the owners’ favourite festival, it is described as a “floating Burning Man”. Inspired by the festival’s community and their incredible love for life and entertainment, Galaxy is the couples’ dream home, featuring an array of digital art, not to mention a “Thinker” statue by world-famous contemporary artist Joseph Klibansky. The main deck on board is the first-ever designed private member’s club on board a superyacht, although it won't be for public use.
“Most owners would charter a vessel like this to offset costs, as millions of pounds of running costs are the norm, but when you truly fall in love with the lifestyle of living onboard, and your yacht becomes your permanent residence, then why would you want or need to? Money is not the decider,” says Colbon, who as the most well-connected woman in yachting, is working with the owner and his team on first-of-its-kind branding that will go beyond the physical design, and bring their vision to life in the most magical of ways.
For the main deck, which includes a dance floor that fits up to 100 people, the Njord team commissioned film industry legend, landscape artist Dylan Cole, to create an other-worldy theme much like the one he designed for Avatar (he also worked on Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy). There’s a projector on the ceiling and even a hidden ET for guests to find, like a ‘Where’s Wally?’. The trippy space theme extends throughout the vessel, with guest cabins based on different planets (Mars, Venus and so on) and a master bedroom designed to feel like the whole galaxy. Complete with its own star-gazing platform, behind the masterbed is a starlight made from dark fabric with penetrating lights. Dim the overheard light, and the star signs of the owner and his partner stand out from the night sky scene. “Like an art sketch, Galaxy will never be done, done,” says Soliman, “It’s changing and evolving as we do phase after phase and each season she looks different. Galaxy is in Europe in summer and Caribbean in winter, so a totally different setting, with the interiors following that setting.”
Njord’s third vessel, Eden, is also a different world unto itself, only here, the brief was tailored to the domestic. Even bigger and more expensive than either Cassius or Galaxy, Eden is a proper floating home that was designed for the extremely private owner, his wife and children to live on full time, with health and wellness at the forefront. Details include an infinity pool, floor to ceiling windows and a £1m piano, made bespoke from liquid bronze poured into an egg-shaped mould, not to mention a large gym and meditation space. For Soliman, the most difficult thing so far has been the bathtub, which has been in the works for six months already. “The client wants it to be made entirely from quartz because it’s so good for the skin and health, so we had to find the specific stone for it to be carved from, as she soaks herself everyday to suck bad energy out. They have also requested the Vitamin C filter to be inbuilt, so it will be millions of pounds just to get that bathtub right. The whole reinforcement to take the load of the stone itself is a project on it’s own.”
Eden’s owner was Njord’s very first client and is the reason the business exists at all. Back in early 2021, Soliman and Berglund were focussed entirely on their award-winning interior design firm, Bergman Interiors, servicing high net worth individuals’ on-land homes and the hospitality sector (Bergman is behind one of GQ’s favourite gyms, the Anthony Joshua-backed BXR). When the pandemic hit, the pair, who are a married couple as well as being business partners, felt the impact immediately, as projects were paused and suppliers disrupted. “I almost had a nervous breakdown, I thought all the money we invested from our savings would be lost,” says Soliman.
“Then, in the summer, a client whose homes we had done both in London and overseas asked if we could refurbish his yacht. He said, ‘You know how I live, what I eat, how I train, you even know how I like my underwear folded, you learned it all when doing my other places. I used to love my yacht, it’s the family toy we used to use every weekend, but now we’ve been on it for six months straight, the lighting doesn’t work, I don't like the storage and what’s happening in the master bedroom? I need your help’. We said we’d look into it.”
As luck would have it, a few weeks later, Soliman and Berglund found themselves on a Zoom interview panel alongside Colbon, a Manchester-based yacht industry veteran with the ultimate big black book of contacts. After successfully pitching Colbon, Njord, which takes its name from the Norse god of wind and waters, was born.
Njord exists as one of three arms under the newly configured Bergman Design House (formerly Bergman Interiors), which has been split up so that each subsidiary can focus on a niche area in design. Where Njord is all about yachts, Soliman and Berglund’s Bergman Design and Bergman Residences focus on land projects, be that hotels or private homes, from an Aston Martin-inspired mews house all the way to proper palaces with palm trees and tigers. Then there’s also the newly minted Zen Whispers, a hospitality-focussed venture in the Middle East.
The couple, who met at Hirsch Bedner Associates, started the business out of their living room, but now have offices around the world as well as their West London headquarters, with large-scale projects on the go in Chicago, New York and Vancouver. Here in the UK, they are currently working with hotel The Other House and on the Formula One Residences at Silverstone, which look set to be finished next year.
For Njord too, things are only set to get busier, thanks to the superyacht boom, but also the Instagram-first reputation the team have already created for the brand. “The next year will be really interesting,” says Colbon. “We’ve never sold so many yachts and everyone is panic buying now.” Looking ahead, Soliman, Berglund and Colborn also want to incorporate Bergman’s hotel know-how with crossing over into cruise ships. “Floating tourist destinations or hotels are set to be the next big thing, as well as floating apartments. Sunrise in Gibraltar is a good example, and in the Middle East they are building floating homes,” Colbon continues. “We’re here to service the new generation of owners. This isn’t about the retirees from Florida who just want to sit in a Caribbean pond. This is about young money, silicon valley, and quick wealth like Bitcoin. Since Covid, everyone wants to be on water, everyone wants to have that freedom. We’re a part of that.”
For the full article on GQ: https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/lifestyle/article/superyacht-boom