Material expertise for beautiful onboard spaces

Cruise & Ferry highlights some of the companies that can enable shipowners to create high-quality interiors
Material expertise for beautiful onboard spaces
Hard-wearing wool blend textiles from GU simplify interior maintenance as they are resistant to odours, fire and stains

By Elly Yates-Roberts |

One of the materials frequently used onboard cruise ships and ferries is wood due to its naturally hard-wearing and sustainable properties. It has become a staple of interior design on these vessels as it is also versatile and offers a timeless aesthetic, through ornate furniture pieces made from oak and pine to more specialised creations of rattan and bamboo. Some of the organisations leading the way in wooden furniture are Green Furniture Concept, Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture and Robos Contract Furniture, which use oak, mahogany and pine respectively.

Other natural materials can be made into textiles, including plant fibres such as cotton, linen and hemp; animal secretions such as cashmere and silk; and animal fibres like fur and wool.

The latter has made way for an industry that is hundreds of years old, and one where Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik (GU) has made its mark. According to GU, the complex chemical structure of wool allows for numerous inherent characteristics such as natural elasticity, temperature regulation and resistance to wrinkles, odours, fire and stains. In addition, it is renewable and biodegradable. The company uses fibres to create robust wool blend textiles for many industries, including the passenger shipping sector. Its fabrics have a minimum Martindale rub count of 50,000, meaning each is extremely hard-wearing. All designs are certified by the International Maritime Organization and are ideally suited for use in high-traffic public areas such as restaurants, lounges, show venues and cabins.

Meanwhile, Loome is a key supplier of cotton to the marine industry, and design company Citta Design uses natural fabrics such as linen to create beautiful furnishings.

Creatives have also made use of leather in their designs and products for passenger ships as it is durable, flexible and biodegradable. Made by tanning the skins of animals, leather has a vast array of uses, including in furniture. Elmo Leather offers leathers ideal for seating in a range of aesthetics.

There are other fibrous thread or filament materials available to shipowners and interior designers beyond textiles, such as wool fibres that include paper and cardboard, and synthetics such as carbon and optical fibres. The UK is providing some of the leading solutions in this space with UFO Lighting manufacturing glass fibres to create bespoke fibre optic lighting solutions and Polar Manufacturing designing and engineering carbon fibre for custom products. Goonvean Fibres is also one of Europe’s largest technical fibre manufacturers and offers a range of semi-synthetic and natural alternatives. Minerals are another of nature’s gems. These solid chemical compounds occur in pure form, usually with a crystalline structure, and include substances such as gypsum, quartz, topaz from inorganic origins and coal from organic origin.

Swarovski, which is known for its stunning crystals, has recently been expanding its creative profile in interior design circles. In 2019, Swarovski partnered with MSC Cruises to create the first crystal cabin on MSC Bellissima. It features a total of 700,000 crystals, which are found on the door number, artwork, wall sconces and interior furniture.

Other organisations that can provide expertise on using minerals for interior design include VitaJuwel which produces vials made out of various gemstones to help improve the quality of drinking water onboard ships. Meanwhile, Pelican Quartz Stone offers an array of artificial and natural quartz products for the hospitality industry.

Rock has also been a cornerstone of architecture and design for many years, from the pebbles in water features to stone slabs on a floor and marble worktops in a kitchen. These naturally occurring solid masses or aggregates of minerals include flint, sandstone, gems and sand, and can be shaped for a particular purpose. Architectural consultant Elle Marmi can provide insight into using stones such as granite, marble and slate in floorings, walls and other interior features.

Known for its stretch ratio, resilience and waterproof features, rubber can be made naturally from the polymers of isoprene – a chemical produced by trees – and synthetically from petroleum monomers. Magicman is a useful ally for insights on how to repair and restore rubber and other hard materials. Another material that has become an integral part of architecture and interior design, and is particularly well-suited for a life at sea, is glass.

According to marine glazing company Brombach + Gess, glass enables cruise lines to deliver experiences based around nature, sun, water and borderless freedom, all while protecting passengers from undesirable weather conditions like rain and storms. Modern cruise ships often feature expansive glass facades to give guests panoramic views of their surroundings and also ensure a comfortable environment by regulating the onboard temperatures.

Glass can also be tinted or shaped to transform the aesthetic of a ship. As glass is made by heating a naturally occurring sand (or silica), producers can easily create innovative structures and shapes. These can either be glued directly to a ship’s superstructure for architectural purposes or used to produce decorative items for public areas and staterooms. For example, both Galaxy Glass & Stone and Rosenthal can offer decorative and tableware glass products.

Ceramic is a manufactured solid material made by firing a non-metallic mineral at high temperatures, usually in a kiln. Common ceramics include porcelain, earthenware and brick, and many organisations worldwide are choosing these materials for their products because of their inherent versatility and durability. Appiani, for example, creates ceramic mosaics for wall and floor decoration, while Royal Dutch Ceramics uses the malleable material to create unique shapes for tableware pieces.

Plastics are synthetic or natural organic compounds that may be shaped when soft and then hardened. Common plastics such as resins, resinoids, polymers and cellulose derivatives rose to popularity due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility and water resistance. Flooring provider Gerflor is one of the many companies that has been using plastics to improve its products. The firm uses a polyurethane surface treatment on its products to ensure they are hard-wearing, stain resistant and easy to maintain. Table Topics is also pioneering the use of plastics in interior design with its durable acrylic resin Acralyte, which can be used on tabletops, and Bolidt uses thermo-hardened plastics on its indoor and outdoor flooring solutions.

Synthetic textiles are manmade by joining individual molecules into polymers through polymerisation. These include materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, acetate, Kevlar and vinyl. Flooring manufacturer Forbo uses a nylon derivative – Nylon 6.6 – in its Flotex FR flooring onboard cruise ships and ferries, due to its many material benefits. Nylon 6.6 has a high mechanical strength and is extremely tough and hard-wearing. As such, it resists wear and tear and is fire- and chemical-retardant. Richloom Contract can provide expertise on using vinyl in low-maintenance furnishings for the hospitality and cruise industries and Baumann Dekor offers its Trevira CS trademarked flame-retardant polyester fibres and yarns for use in the upholstery of soft furnishings.

Metals and alloys are crystalline when solid, such as iron, aluminium, steel, copper and brass. Many organisations in the shipbuilding sector are finding innovative uses for these strong and extremely versatile materials. For example, Lautex is renowned for its suspended aluminium ceilings and the marine branch of Antti-Teollisuus provides high-quality steel sheet metal products that can be used in ship doors. The Copper Development Association is also educating organisations on the varying uses and development of copper as a key manufacturing and design material.

Composites are made by combining two or more constituent materials with different physical or chemical properties to produce a material with improved characteristics. Manufacturer PE Composites produces lightweight structural components using glass and carbon fibre-reinforced polymer composite materials – for example in hulls and decks – as they are less prone to corrosion than more traditional materials. Meanwhile, chemical engineering firm DuPont employs a team of scientists and engineers to develop composite products for use ship construction.

One of the most versatile and commonly used materials in interior decoration is paint. The pigmented liquid forms a thin solid film when applied to a substrate and can achieve one or a combination of three surface property changes onboard passenger ships: colour, protection and texture. Metalcolour produces a range of interior coatings, including its DOBEL F105 product, which can be applied to wall panels, ceilings, wet units, restaurant cars, security doors and more. Hesse Lignal specialises in clear and coloured coatings and Jotun offers a range of exterior coatings and expertise to match.

While all these materials make for beautiful, practical and potentially long-lasting interiors on cruise ships, there is one substance that is the glue between them all: adhesives. These natural and synthetic non-metallic liquids or pastes form a bond between two or more surfaces to prevent them from separating.

F. Ball and Co. creates adhesives specially formulated for specific floor coverings, such as carpet, vinyl, safety flooring or rubber. According to F. Ball, adhesives have certain performance characteristics, such as high initial grab and bond strength, the ability to cope with huge temperature fluctuations, and resistance to water and freezing conditions. F. Ball physically tests each adhesive with floor coverings from over 200 international manufacturers to ensure compatibility and offers adhesive recommendations for over 6,000 adhesive and floor covering combinations. Chemicals company Evonik also provides adhesives for composites and rubber.

This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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