Maison Jansen: At Home at Sea

I am a land-lover, when the sea floor disappears from view I mildly panic… where has land gone? Mine was not a childhood messing around on boats. But for one Greek dynasty this has been the case for generations and WHAT a boat. Northwind II was decorated by Maison Jansen in the late 60’s, I alighted  on the AD article celebrating this and it has played in my mind, Summer seems the time to celebrate it.


So …Northwind II is 150 ft of beauty and grace, commissioned replete with Jansen interiors in 1966.  These Jansen interiors are unique twice-over, firstly AD didn’t know of another Jansen yacht and secondly (of course) – very few interiors survive un-touched from the 60’s. The Greek family that own her were determined to ‘restore’ rather ‘refit’, A father and son team embarked on a 4 year project to lovingly conserve a vessel of happy memories and rare charm, ‘Most refits are done by people (who) haven’t got the good sense or good taste to leave alone something that was exceptionally nice in the first time”, says the Father … possibly to yachting-oligarchs.  I love the underplay in ‘nice’

Anyway, you get a feel for what’s to come in how Daddy approached the tech over-haul,  refusing to litter the exterior of the ship with satellite dishes – ‘bloody ugly’ status symbols – these he concealed.

The son got the interior – you can kind of imagine the family dinners during this labour of love – details, obsessed over.  The Jansen fitments were shipped to Plowden and Smith a British conservation company , involved in restoration at Windsor after the fire, here the teak panelling was cleaned, made good and french polished to gleaming perfection  – to be put back together with the re-plated 22K-gold-plated metal framing.

The stair rail had evidently lost significant lustre from extensive childhood sliding and swinging –  fun in the waves?

The doors are beautiful aren’t they? subtly louvred with interlocking lozenges. Jansen’s ateliers were famous for their standard of craftmanship , employees studied the decorative arts –  first hand.  They were famed for replicating the antique: Louis XV chairs, grand Georgian architectural details or delicate boiserie panels.  But their work also features beautifully crafted modern designs and their interiors for  Northwind II reflect both the sleek beauty of  classic yacht design and the playful holiday vibe inherent in her use: the son remembers ‘She has been part of my life since I was in nappies, it’s always been a very active boat – lots of fishing, my father windsurfing, always full of kids.

A laminated tropical-scene fabric, copied from the original, lines the bathroom, complete with possibly the palest-avocado  suite ever to grace a bathroom, plus peach towels and bamboo planter.

You get a sense of the work involved in this process with the master bedroom:

Here the fabric specified could no longer be sourced, the vintage patterns were scanned and digitally printed, it took 25 trials to perfect this and half way through the muted colour were revealed as inaccurate due to fading and dirt – so they started again: “It took 12 months from matching the filth to matching the clean”.  Then to get the sateen-sheen it was despatched to a Scottish mill for finishing.  It’s this kind of detail that got me… most people would fudge it wouldn’t they? Chelsea Harbour – done! To be truly outstanding you have to go the distance and succeed. I know there are deep pockets involved but it’s the time and patience that resonate.

Here’s the bar at the edge of the sitting room, complete with brass pineapple – ice bucket I presume.  Checkout the book shelves where gold rods stop the books spilling over in turbulent seas.   It all looks so calm doesn’t it ?  this is partly because Mummy put her foot down and refused to let the the son replicate the original ocelot-spot carpeting, ‘Spots are not to everybody’s taste’.  I think it would be fabulous myself and having gone so far, nice to complete the picture, so I am mentally drawing it in.

They did however eke-out an extra 3 inches in ceiling height, taking the sitting and dining room to 6ft 9, quite a task one imagines. 

They used contemporary Colefax and Fowler and Schumacher here with the original Jansen fittings, while the galley kitchen got a major over-haul in walnut and granite.

So all in all… the stuff of dreams or maybe legend.  Long may she crest the waves, at home – at sea.

All images from Architectural Digest, where there are a few more for those interested.

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