Meet The London Design Firm Disrupting The World Of Superyachts
“I think the biggest compliment we’ve received is, ‘Oh my God it looks different!’” describes Albin Berglund of working with yacht owners, the top slice of society who are not easy to please.
Berglund, along with Marie Soliman and Sarah Colbon, has just launched Njord, a new yachting arm to the established London design firm Bergman Interiors, which takes its name from the Norse god of wind and waters.
With over 25 years of combined experience, Soliman and Berglund have been innovating the often staid world of luxury interiors and architectural design.
But recently, they noticed a sector-yachts-that seemed to attract people with limitless budgets despite limited variations in the design and execution of the Herculean boats.
And it was with this knowledge that they joined forces with Sarah Colbon, a long-time marketing and management executive in the yachting industry with a bursting little black book and created Njord.
“I've worked with some of the major and iconic yachts,” describes Colbon of her experience. And she’s right-the likes of Black Pearl-the 350-foot, three-mast superyacht built by Oceanco and managed by Divergent Yachting that consistently tops media lists of the world’s most-impressive vessels.
Exciting the client who has everything is not easy. It’s not simply a matter of choosing and installing the most expensive items at every bend. “It's our part of the job to get them excited, and that means finding things that they haven't seen before,” says Berglund.
It’s about designing something that is surprising but also functional. But how do you surprise a client who travels the world and has seen every finish of wood and cut of marble?
“We challenge, and we push the boundaries,” explains Soliman. “When you say ‘boat’, you have a very specific idea of what will you see. The same happens in hotel lobbies and lounges or gyms. But the idea behind Bergman was always to break that mould. And we are doing the same here with yachts.”
Even Colbon, who has now come onboard as a partner, notes that when she first saw Bergman’s designs of an infinity pool released on social media she took pause. “I was like ‘Oh this is a breath of fresh air!’”
Collaboration is also an important part of the process. As designers, the Njord team consult the boat captain and crew throughout to ensure each element is not only beautiful but functional. Where some designers tend to be blind to those around them, the aim here is to listen and celebrate every voice and idea. “It’s all about the family on the boat,” says Soliman.
And it’s not simply lip service.“We are creating that amazing community of captains, crews, craftsmen and artisans,” says Soliman. “These people will be members of our club because we are organising amazing events and connecting people on both a professional and personal level. We will show movies, launch products and create a journey for everyone involved.”
It’s also about celebrating the unique artists and craftsmen behind each piece and artefact inside the yacht. A perfect example of this is Mathieu Lehanneur, a French artist and furniture designer who makes large and elegant marble pieces, manipulating the glossy edges of the stone to resemble the surface of the ocean. “It’s about collaborating with the right people and not just running it by yourself,” says Soliman.
And it’s not just yachts the team has their sights set on. “We want to enter the world of floating hotels and cruise ships,” explains Berglund. “We want to design anything on water.”