Luxury ship cabins that exceed expectations

Posted on September 16, 2021

Creating stunning and unique luxury ship cabins take a visionary mind, experience, and resourcefulness. In this interview, Mikael Simell, Cabin Design Expert at ALMACO, shares his best advice on what to consider when creating well-functioning cabins with a wow-factor.

Interview with Mikael Simell, Cabin Design Expert at ALMACO Group.

What makes a project a success from a design engineering and construction point of view?

It’s important to have all the knowledge around the table already in the beginning of a project. Designing cabins that function well from all perspectives requires experts from different areas. We need to consider the end user’s experience, the owner’s business and vision, constructional and technical aspects, regulations, as well as operational aspects like easy cleaning, maintenance, and repair.  

A skilled design engineering team is resourceful and have enough experience to trust the team and the process. Part of the charm is to figure out ways to make new spectacular ideas, sometimes seemingly impossible, possible.

The architects rely on us to support their grand ideas and make them into technical construction drawings that take every single detail into account. We sit down together to discuss how to make things work “behind the scenes”. This is the phase where we work out how to build and connect different surfaces and materials so that the luxurious visual effect and quality is preserved, while also taking the technical and operational aspects into account.

What to think about when choosing suppliers and materials for luxury ship cabins?

The list of approved materials is shorter in the maritime industry than it is on land and the regulations on how to use different materials can vary as well. E.g. we can only use limited amounts of material that don’t reach the highest fire safety requirements. Wood, natural textiles etc. can only be used in small amounts. These are typical regulations that we need to respect, but also know how to work around when realizing the cabin design vision. As we have a broad network of suppliers globally that we have a long history with and are used to working with, we know pretty well how to solve issues regarding materials and how to use them innovatively in a maritime environment.

We make sure our suppliers all have their certificates in order. When we use new suppliers or materials, we ask that they provide all the needed certifications as well as installation instructions and restrictions on how the material is allowed to be used. E.g. some materials can’t be used as large surfaces without visible connections. Glue can be used to attach and connect some materials, while others demand boards and screws.

Some projects take years from the first drawings to the construction and material order phase. Whenever we choose a material that is unusual in any way, we need to make sure the supplier will keep it in their product range and stock for a longer time. Not just until the construction phase is over, but also during the vessel’s whole operations lifecycle, so that we can provide spare parts. We also make sure we know what we are ordering and what it looks like in real life. For example, if we want brass details in a bathroom, it’s safer to order them from the same supplier. Otherwise, we can end up with many different brass shades in the same space.

What is a “modular proof” cabin?

The term modular cabin refers to the construction method used to create it, not at all to the cabin’s size or degree of luxury. Cabins of all types and sizes can be designed to be created modularly. When we have the possibility to build modular cabins, the construction process is faster and more cost-efficient for the owner and yard. Even if the construction method is unknown before starting the cabin design phase, it makes sense to design the concept with “modularity glasses” on.

A modular proof cabin design considers not only the inside of the cabin, but also takes outer aspects like connections, pipes, deck height, cabin area layout, etc., into account. When designing with modular glasses on, architects tend to choose to make the cabins unique by selecting different furniture, materials, colors, and artwork for them, instead of making many variations in the layout and form of the cabin. If different sizes are needed, the architects still strive towards making the cabin construction designs as similar as possible.

What is important from an operational point of view?

The first and most important prioritization for the owner, is to have stunning and functional cabins that serve their passengers and workers in the best possible way. That is a given. Besides from that, the cabins also need to be feasible. A feasible cabin has high quality and durability without being costly to construct, maintain, clean and repair.

For example, by using baseboards instead of furniture legs, the total floor area that needs to be cleaned is reduced and the cleaning process is faster and easier. Furniture that have a lot of different materials that require different cleaning detergents, e.g., a table with a laminate top board, faux leather inlays and metal legs, demand more time from the cleaning staff. That said, the beauty and function of the furniture might be well worth that extra time if it serves its purpose of accommodating the guest in the best possible way.

In general, owners prefer cabin designs that allow doing quick repairs that don’t demand that the cabin is taken out of service. It’s important to make sure most of the parts of the cabin can be easily exchanged without harming the surrounding surfaces and furniture. For example, if a piece of furniture has to go all the way up to the ceiling, we need to figure out a good way to connect it properly to the ceiling without harming the surfaces.  

The owners work hard to reach environmental and sea-friendly goals. By choosing furniture, equipment and materials that are environmental-friendly, we support this cause. We can make an impact by choosing solutions that have low water and energy consumption, have a long lifeline, and are easy to repair and maintain without exchanging the whole thing. Smart solutions that reduce consumption and recycled materials are becoming big trends in the industry.

How to make luxury ship cabins stand out while “following the rules”?

We are used to working with very skilled architects, who are able to make the design stand out while respecting functionality. They are familiar with the maritime industry and know how to flaunt what you can’t hide and how to play with colors and textures instead of costly shapes and materials. These architects manage to get the right atmosphere without using materials that aren’t suitable for maritime use. I remember a case, where an architect wanted some bar cabinets with antique mirrors at the back behind the bottles. We found a skilled supplier, who could print the antique mirror look on aluminum boards. The difference was not noticeable to the naked eye. This solution did not only give the right visual effect, but it also provided a stunning, cost-efficient, lightweight, and durable option to the owner.

“Form follows function” is an old and famous design saying that still works today. When we focus on functionality and season it with innovative thinking and a splash of luxury, the right form will appear.

For more information, contact

Picture of Mikael Simell

Mikael Simell

Cabin Design Expert

[email protected]

Picture of Jussi Laimi

Jussi Laimi

Deputy to the President, Accommodation Systems

+358 40 575 9961

[email protected]