Design at Sea

presented by DCOTA

Today’s yacht interior designs are affected by rapidly changing technology, sustainability initiatives, and innovations – so the U.S. Superyacht Association hit new build and refit vessel changes head on with the ‘Design at Sea Panel: Exploring the Aesthetics and Functionality of Superyacht Design’.

A panel of interior designers, a naval architect, a technology integrator, a technology service provider, and a yacht sales and charter expert addressed the crossroads of aesthetics, lifestyle, and technology in superyacht design during this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on October 27.

The timely panel discussion focused on the latest trends in interior design, build, and technologies presented by Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA).

Sanaa Vohra, owner and yacht charter sales with Worldwide Boat, moderated an amazing panel including Alan Bernardi, Yacht Intelligence; Sarah Callender, Sarah Callender Interiors; Joseph Dossantos, Crestron Design Showroom; Francis Gumbs, Feadship Refit & Services; Karen Lynn Poulos, Karen Lynn Interior Design.

Trends in design are always changing and it appears yacht owners are currently younger and bring new priorities including less focus on formal dining areas and space for cinemas, media rooms, beach clubs, and watersports. Today’s interior design demands also include more office and business-related spaces.

Yacht owners demand strong connectivity which aligns with changes in satellite communication technology. This is transforming yacht mast configurations, and connected interior designs as yacht owners seek streamlined and contemporary designs. Clients are also asking for more technology and are increasingly concerned about cyber security.

A priority for all of the panelists is the requirement to work together on projects. They addressed how businesses can optimize relationships for successful projects between contractors, owners, yacht captains and crew, and shipyards.

Optimization of space on a yacht is a critical element to always be considered. Designers aim to use areas behind walls, above ceilings, and below floors which, challenges the integration of each aspect of yacht design and engineering.  Also, new requirements and regulations need to be taken into account to follow the necessary rules while enhancing the flow and look of the yacht interior.

The design field continues to face product backlogs and shortages, along with the rest of the yachting industry.

 The dove into the differences between doing a yacht refit or a new build. Refits often requires quick decisions and fast turn-arounds. New builds necessitate the integration and collaboration of every aspect connected to the job. Both require organization and clear scheduling to create accurate timelines and time management.

 All aspects of the interior are guided by the owners’ priorities, whether finances, functionality, sustainability, timelines, shipyard, or other topics. The end user’s desires need to be the focus of all decisions.

 “We are thrilled to have facilitated these insightful panel discussions on so many fundamental aspects of the industry,” said Kitty McGowan, President of the U.S. Superyacht Association. “Each panel provided a unique perspective, showcasing the expertise and innovation that define the superyacht industry. We are grateful to our esteemed panelists and attendees for their active participation and engagement.”

To be a part of U.S.Superyacht Association’s international partnerships and upcoming seminars and events, please visit U.S. Superyacht Association at


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Moderator: Sanaa Vohra, Worldwide Boat

Originally from Mumbai, India, Sanaa’s world travels led her to Fort Lauderdale along with her family in 2000. Despite her father’s success in the yachting industry, she was motivated to follow her own dreams. Life, however, had different plans. In 2007, Sanaa seized an opportunity to join a major yacht brokerage, marking the start of a 16-year journey working with super yachts in various capacities.

In 2013, Sanaa found her home at Worldwide Boat, taking charge of the Charter Division before pioneering the company’s Sales Department. Today, she proudly owns this boutique firm, orchestrating over 10,000 extraordinary charters worldwide alongside her visionary partner. Beyond her impressive career, Sanaa values her roles as a devoted wife and loving mother to Zyvah and Zahyr.

Alan Bernardi, Yacht Intelligence

Yacht Intelligence was founded in 2010 by Alan Bernardi after completing multiple marine electronics courses and HND in electronics and communications. Alan gained valuable insight into the industry over the decades working for SeaTel Europe and being one of the founding directors of ANT, focusing on AVIT/Communications. In 2009 Alan founded Airship, and Yacht Intelligence followed a year later. Alan explains that the Yacht Intelligence team have been fortunate to have completed some fantastic projects to improve clients’ user experience with innovative design at some of the World’s most renowned yards. Earlier this year he decided to establish Yacht Intelligence LLC in Fort Lauderdale to have a bigger presence in the US market. Something Alan is very excited to develop in the upcoming years.

Sarah Callender, Sarah Callender Interiors

Sarah Callender Interiors is a full-service Interior Design studio based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sarah has been working in the Yacht Industry for the past 16 years, with a unique background and broad experience. Sarah Callender Interiors believes true luxury is a combination of quality and personalization. We use an intuitive understanding of our client’ needs, tastes and personalities, coupled with access to only the highest quality resources to create a space that not only looks beautiful, but improves our clients’ quality of life; a state of being we identify as liveable luxury. For us, it is not just about designing the interiors, but bringing the entire ambiance together to make you feel at home, whether that be on land or at sea.

Joseph Dos Santos, Crestron

Design Showroom Manager at the Design Center of the Americas for Crestron Electronics for the past 5 years.  My focus is on smart solutions for the luxury residential market which encompasses single family and multi residential units.   I cater to an audience consisting of homeowners, design partners and also our dealers to properly implement Crestron solutions in their projects.

My background is diverse in many facets of the design industry and primarily focused on residential interiors with over 20 years of experience.   This history has transformed me into a well-rounded steward to better cater to my audience of design professionals and better understand their objectives.

Francis Gumbs, Feadship Refit

Based in the Netherlands and with roots dating back to 1849, Feadship is recognized as the world leader in the field of custom superyachts. Each Feadship is defined by its superb craftsmanship and sets the standard in every aspect of design, engineering and construction. These bespoke motoryachts are created in partnership with owners who are prepared to invest in a wonderful building experience and reap the rewards for many years to come in terms of both pleasure and re-sale value.

Growing up on the Caribbean island of St.Martin, Francis had early interest in boating and built several family boats with his dad. At the time considered a hobby, he later realized that his passion for doing so was more that. He studied naval architecture in the Netherlands and graduated with particular interest in Seakeeping. During his apprenticeship at De Voogt Naval Architects in the early nineties this passion became profession.

After graduating in 1993 he joined Feadship de Voogt Naval Architects, where he worked on many new builds as naval architect, gathered a broad experience and managed the team of naval architects. In 2007 he took charge of the De Voogt Yacht Services department and provided design and engineering for the Feadship fleet for over 10 years supporting many successful refits with his team.

The department has since grown into Feadship Refit and Services, a new business entity which has expanded and put refit business on the chart within Feadship. The business has seen an increasing growth over the last 5 years with more and more Feadship owners recognizing the value of taking their yachts back to Feadship for refits and services.


Francis heads the Design and Engineering team and works closely together with the Feadship Refit Sales team in advising clients with their refit and services plans.

Karen Lynn Poulos, Karen Lynn Interior Designs

Karen Lynn Poulos has been actively involved in the interior design industry and yachting industry since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design/interior architecture from the Art Institute which she received in 2003. Karen Lynn founded Karen Lynn Interiors in 2001 at age 27 (while still in her final year of design school) when she was given the opportunity to work internationally and do the interior of M/Y Shalimar a 102ft PR Marine new build yacht project built in Germany. Before the formation of Karen Lynn Interiors, she worked for 2 yacht interior design firms and a naval architect/boat builder as a design assistant and support staff.

Karen Lynn and her team have primarily worked on yacht design projects for refit and new build for clients locally and internationally. Over the past 21 years, she has worked directly with several shipyards and internationally and locally such Cheoy Lee, Trinity Yachts, Benetti, Ferretti and Johnson Yachts to name a few. Karen Lynn has also worked directly with several brokerages such as IYC, Marine Max, Gilman Yachts, HMY, and One Water Yachts. She offers her yacht design expertise and experience to yacht brokers and industry professionals and clients for interior design support before, during. and after a sale and/or yacht charters. Karen Lynn Interiors has been published in multiple magazines including Greek Yachting, Boat International, Lux et al, Boat International USA, Showboats International, Yachts International, Power and Motor Yacht, Mega yacht Hard Cover Series IYBA COMPASS, Dock walk and The Wave and more.

Karen Lynn Poulos was honored in 2018 as the one of the top 100 women in Broward County. She was also the winner of the 2019 International Yacht and Aviation Awards in 2019 for Best Yacht Design concept for M/Y No Limit. She has been nominated for several other awards as well and is currently shortlisted in the 2023 International Yacht and Aviation Awards for Best Refit 2023 and takes pride in her work and strives for excellence in everything she does. In her free time, Karen enjoys being a mom, travel, cooking, art, theater, classical music, gardening, and volunteering with her church and serving others in need.