Why does colour count onboard a cruise ship?

Nicola Preece at AD Associates explains why colour is so important in marine interior designs

Why does colour count onboard a cruise ship?
Crystal Esprit's Patio Cafe has a sophisticated core palette with accented furniture

By Jacqui Griffiths |

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

AD Associates is known for its expertise and strong design concepts for the marine, hospitality, leisure and residential sectors. Based in London, the architectural and interior design studio aims to create beautiful, high-quality interiors using a fully-integrated design approach. Colour is a crucial ingredient in that approach. “We respect that colour is a powerful tool with the ability to influence a mood, while stimulating emotions and perceptions within a space,” says Nicola Preece, design director, interior architecture at AD Associates. “Colour can resonate with guests on many levels: personal, cultural and emotional. It can also be used to either attract or detract attention, depending on the reaction required.”

The company’s expertise in marine design has seen it delivering beautiful cruise, river and yacht vessels for industry leaders such as Crystal Cruises, Star Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line. The team combines its colour and design skills with an intimate understanding both of the space it is designing and its wider environment. Defining the colour palette for a project is a complex and delicate process. In the case of marine design that can mean taking inspiration from a moving vista of rivers, seas or island vegetation, as well as more abstract sources. “Our colour inspiration comes from several sources such as the natural world, local surroundings, historical periods and art movements,” says Preece. “Once a core palette has been defined to ensure coherence, brighter pops of colour, if required, can be added.”

AD Associates’ skill in using bright colours alongside more muted, coherent palettes is amply evident in the Fantasia and Waves areas of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. “We used colour to inspire and stimulate children’s overall experience of the play area,” says Preece. “Due to the size of the space, an emphasis on strong primary colours was not appropriate. Instead, we used a warm and natural base palette and infused this with bright pops of colour.”

Great skill is involved not only in drawing colour inspiration from different environments and experiences, but also in applying the palette to create an atmosphere conducive to the purpose of the space. “When considering colour, respect needs to be given to the primary time that the venue will be in use,” says Preece. “This helps to inform on the appropriate hue and tone, to set the correct mood.”

On a cruise ship, the same space will probably be used day and night, and the design concept needs to create a range of atmospheres for different times of day. The Cove Bar onboard Crystal Mozart encompasses a creative approach to design that takes onboard the space, its users, its external surroundings and its uses at different times of the day. “Crystal Mozart is a river cruise vessel which has a fixed route and so palette selection needs to take this into consideration,” explains Preece. “Palettes are heavily influenced by the riverbank’s surroundings and the changing of seasons.”

The result is a rich and layered aesthetic derived from cool jewel-like tones, contrasting beautifully with the warmth of the brass detailing and refined marble finishes. “Deep emerald greens found in the artwork and soft furnishings add a freshness to the space during the day,” says Preece. “With the correct tone of lighting, this use of colour can transition to develop a more atmospheric mood during the evening. This demonstrates our ability to apply temperature and saturation to create different moods and themes to a single space.”

Pattern and texture are essential elements in marine design, and Preece says integrating these into the palette involves a number of key considerations. “We consider materiality – how we can layer textures and different materials to add depth to a space with the addition of an appropriate colour palette,” she says. “Selecting the right materials can be a challenge, especially with the restrictions placed on cruise vessels. However, with the correct palette they can transform a space and its identity. Both colour and texture are important factors in adding layers of depth to a space. This can be seen in our design for the Connoisseur Club onboard Crystal Mozart, where we layered a rich palette of deep tones to create a sense of timeless sophistication.”

It isn’t all about the space, however. In a competitive marine industry, brands are increasingly conscious of the need to differentiate the experience they offer to guests, and colour is a major factor in achieving that. “We are not solely concerned with the interior and have extensive knowledge and experience with exterior branding and design,” says Preece. “Throughout the process of colour selection and refinement, we take great care to preserve the client’s brand and identity,” says Preece. “We respect that we need to heavily involve the client in this process and that a vessel may need to be tailored accordingly. In addition, we may need to give the brand’s palette a ‘refresh’, which is a challenge that we have had great success with.”

A key part of a marine brand’s identity is bound up with the guests it serves, and this adds another dimension to the process of defining the palette. “Demographics and different nationalities make colour selection intriguing and show how it can become a true statement of identity,” says Preece. “You can see this, for example, in P&O Britannia’s very obvious and clear British red, white and blue exterior livery, which is 100% targeting its core market.”

Constructing a unique palette for each design project is a collaborative process, with strong client relationships contributing to AD Associates’ creativity. “Firstly, we listen to the client,” says Preece. “Over the years, we have built a great deal of trust with clients and they are always open to taking direction and trying something new, as they know that their identity and the project’s completed aesthetic will not be compromised. Empathy towards the client and their needs gives us a greater awareness of what is required and ensures that we can deliver.”

Preece says that a broad-minded approach is essential in the early stages of a marine design project. “We look at the entire vessel holistically and analyse whether there is an overall theme that needs to live throughout the ship, with individual areas taking on separate identities of their own, and how we can ensure that these transitions are smooth,” she says. “With a different theme comes a different approach – for example, a kids’ area will take on a completely different palette to that of an evening premium dining venue. To help develop a palette we look to other forms of inspiration, for example trends and fashion and so on.”

AD Associates’ extensive portfolio demonstrates the importance of colour in design. With an approach that includes elements such as signing, branding, livery, artwork and dressing out, as well as interiors, the team prides itself on being integral maintaining the elegance of its spaces while reflecting its client’s brand identity throughout the design process. Expertise in handling colour, pattern and texture is central to that process, enabling a spectrum of atmospheres to be created across multiple spaces while ensuring a coherent identity for the brand and its vessels and an inspiring experience for its guests.

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