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Trend Watch: Yacht Design at The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 2020


October 28, 2020
By Patrick Knowles

In years past, everyone in the marine industry was heading to Fort Lauderdale this week for the world’s largest boat show.

This year, even one week before the show opens, there are many vendors, brokers and boat show attendees still contemplating whether or not they will be attending the 2020 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (October 28 – November 1, 2020) – the first show in the industry to forgo the virtual route.

During the pandemic, yachting has become one of the most popular ways for our clientele to socially distance, and the once-again burgeoning business of boating (particularly in the U.S. market), may perhaps be the draw needed to gain attendance at the show this year. I will most certainly be out there to see what is new and exciting in the industry and to connect with everyone I have not seen over the last year (masked of course!).

There are over 20 new build yachts debuting at the show and a slew of new exhibitors and old favorites being featured, and I am, as always, most intrigued with what will be trending in design this year. I had the pleasure of speaking with Alexandra Spirer at The New York Style Guide about what trends I have been seeing among my clients, and what I believe we’ll be seeing at FLIBS 2020 as well.

Top deck with beautiful seating and Chaise lounge chairs designed by Fort Lauderdale yacht designer Patrick Knowles
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Top trends to look for at the 2020 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

  • Uniquely Shaped Windows. Once popular only in the recreational sector of boating, uniquely shaped windows have now become a staple in the luxury market. In the past, the rule was deck windows that were usually small and circular or oval shaped, but that law has now been shattered, with radically shaped windows below the deck and dipping close to the waterline.
  • New Decking Materials. Typically deck surfaces were relegated to one of 2 options: teak and textured paint. With the advent of technology in man made products, such as faux teak and steon, all suited for non-slip applications, there is no limit on what deck design can become.
  • Pandemic Priorities. With clients now thinking about quarantine and distancing for the first time, the priorities on yachts are changing. Air sanitizing systems are becoming de rigeur, but so are wellness and workout spaces, areas specifically designed for children and family members of all ages and additional storage for longer expeditions.
  • A Focus on Pools. Hot tubs and jacuzzis have always been synonymous with yachts, but now it’s the swimming pool, the lap pool, the plunge pool, the hot pool, the cold pool and the list goes on. Additionally, the pools used to be relegated to the top deck, a.k.a. the sun deck, but now, of late, they are showing up on every deck of the boat including interior spaces where one can enjoy their plunge in their desired climate controlled environment.
  • Manufactured Greatness. Surfacing should probably have been top of the list as it is trending off the radar. Natural stone has been a material of choice for decades of yachting, but quartz, porcelains and other manufactured materials are putting up a strong fight. With the latest technologies in these sorts of industries, one can now see versions of “nature” never conceived before – in texture, color and scale. These elements are presenting expanded opportunities throughout design – on yachts and beyond.