Most interior fabrication projects occur on fixer-uppers. The vessel might be vintage or it might be less than ten years old. While I always welcome the challenge of doing a better design than the original, there is a fine line between aesthetics and practicality. After all, the boat needs to be both comfortable and secure while cruising on the water.
Your personal and professional marine expertise is what draws in a client, but your finished project is what leaves a lasting impression with everyone who steps on board. Do your best early in your client discussions to understand the scope of the job, budget and deadline. Be creative in offering phases for a project if a customer request surpasses the budget. Be inspired by the vast selection available for indoor and outdoor textiles and the marine hardware and components that offer performance whether attached by tracks, snaps, magnets or one of the numerous Velcro® systems.
Help your clients understand that a lot goes into any marine fabrication project. Your customers will appreciate your guidance and knowledge on how to choose textiles that “look good and stay in place.” And do research on emerging trends on fabrics and components so your next project reflects a fresh design while representing tried-and-true fabrication techniques.
Observe your client’s sense of style and how he or she likes to dress. Does he or she favor a tailored look or a more casual shabby chic style? He or she may request boat decor in a similar style. Fabrics set the tone on any interior and are available in every option from basic nautical stripes and patterns, starting at around $18 per yard, to impressive designer jacquards, costing more than $150 per yard.
Do your research to understand the trends for the particular model and year of the vessel, keeping in mind that your upgrades will add value to the boat. My first client wanted his Bertram 50 foot to look exactly like the boat’s catalog, so that was exactly what we provided. Years later his grown son purchased a 1996 Bertram 50 foot which we restored in a manner reminiscent of the family’s original boat.
Be knowledgeable on other trends related to boat interiors. For example, classic interiors that include wall panels and headboards are currently incorporating extra padding and height, and tufted buttons are being utilized on headboards and sofas. Textile patterns are being juxtaposed to provide drama and flair.
Acrylic yarns have been incorporated into every imaginable color palette with textures and designs that reflect current trends. Marine designs with patterns, colors and textures are a bit more challenging than a residential or commercial project, because most cabin areas are visible on vessels up to 50 feet. It is a good idea to keep in mind the boat exterior colors. The waterline and hull colors are no longer a traditional white, so this is a good lead to follow in knowing a customer’s color preference.
Interior harmony is essential, especially after being outdoors at sea all day. Navy, yellow, orange or gray are common colors to choose. For larger vessels, it is a fabricator’s dream to utilize various palettes in individual cabins.
Most marine vendors launch their indoor and outdoor fabrics in the fall for the following year. You can get great ideas by contacting IFAI vendors now for 2017 color cards and fabric books. Observe trends in design magazines and visit local boat shows (see dates and listing on page 12) and the Marine Fabricators Convention from January 19–21 in Jacksonville, Fla., for more ideas. If you’ve never visited the IFAI Expo put it on your calendar now for September 26–29 in New Orleans. If it’s been awhile, attend this year to learn more about systems you will find useful on your future projects.
Fabric performance factors
It is important to be knowledgeable about manufacturers’ data or warranty information that is listed on their material specification sheets. Explain the important performance specifications to your customers. They will appreciate your expert advice on abrasion resistance, UV resistance, flammability, care and cleaning.
Durability. I first heard about the Wyzenbeek Test when I was obtaining a degree in textile design. This test should be kept in mind for making the best fabric selections for a project. The Wyzenbeek Test is regarded as the standard of measuring abrasion resistance or strength for fabrics in North America. Double rubs (each back-and-forth motion is one double rub) are a measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance. The double rubs you should look for in a fabric depend on your intended application.
In general, around 15,000 or more double rubs is considered heavy-duty for residential applications. We actually have commercial designers and customers who request 35,000 to 85,000 double rubs for their fabrics. Such fabrics are recommended for constant use, as in hospital waiting areas, airport terminals, restaurants, theaters and commercial vessels. There are vinyls that exceed 200,000 double rubs.
UV resistance. I am sure every fabricator has received at least one request to replace a cracked or brittle seat due to sun damage. Most suppliers of marine textiles include specifications with their product samples, so customers know how well the fabric will stand up to ultraviolet rays. Generally, fabric is rated for how well it will hold up under sun exposure ranging from 650 to 2,200 hours. The AATCC TM186-2015 Weather Resistance test measures a textile’s capacity to withstand UV light and moisture exposure.
Flammability. Flammability is the capacity of a substance to burn or ignite, causing fire or combustion. The flammability information generally listed on the supplier data sheets is the CAL 117E Test, but other tests may be included. The “passes” rating covers upholstery fabrics and filling materials and tests the interaction of the materials used in a piece of upholstered furniture. It is an important rating to be aware of.
Care and cleaning. We’ve all been asked to replace soiled cushions and other items that are more or less ruined. Often these items were provided by another shop. This begs the question, how many of us follow up with customers to see how well our projects are holding up? Providing follow-up after a year or so shows your genuine concern about quality and can often lead to more work.
Many fabricators are affiliated with a cleaning service that they recommend to customers. After a boat spends a year in the tropics without cleaning and maintenance, it is not easy to remove soil and stains from exterior applications. Yet some exterior fabrics now boast a five-year warranty with proper maintenance. I recently removed stubborn stains on a fabric that noted bleach could be used. To my surprise, Clorox Gel removed these deep stains. Be sure to test an area before proceeding with any strong stain remover. Again, most textile manufacturers include care and cleaning guidelines on their specification cards.
Snaps, zippers and Velcro are traditional means of securing cushions in place, and several varieties of each exist. A Snad® is a plastic adhesive snap component that is available from YKK. It is available in various configurations for domed configurations or areas where a flexible base is required. It allows a snap to be adhered to a base where drilling a hole is not an option.
Zippers. Have you seen the glow-in-the-dark and reflective coil zippers? How about the AquaGuard®/Vislon® zippers from YKK? These can be incorporated into exterior pillows and gear. The Gooper Hermetic magnetic zipper by Paskal works well on outdoor applications. The Gooper technology integrates rare-earth magnets with a flexible thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) strip to provide a waterproof, dust-proof hermetic seal. I am currently using the Gooper on an exterior cover on a stainless Jacuzzi® where snaps are not an option for securing the cover. It works well because the magnets will hold the sides in place.
Velcro. Industrial-strength Velcro Extreme fasteners feature an all-weather, UV-resistant adhesive for all surfaces. This is a handy option for indoor and outdoor applications without using drills, nails, screws or epoxy. It is a durable alternative for attaching seating, and it is frequently used for ceiling and wall panels and headboards on every size of boat.
What projects do you have coming up this year that push traditional boundaries for solutions? I would enjoy receiving any questions and feedback on how you have incorporated my recommendations and techniques into your projects. You can contact me through my website at www.sandseaair.com. I wish all my readers a blessed, healthy and prosperous 2017!
Terri Madden owns Sand Sea & Air Interiors Inc in San Juan, Puerto Rico. www.sandseaair.com