Milan-based Hot Lab, part of the Viken Group, is booming as demand for its yacht design services reaches new highs. The studio is busier than ever, having no fewer than 16 yachts projects all are currently in build at Mediterranean shipyards. Six of these amount to full superyacht designs ranging from 24m to 50m LOA will be delivered in 2023.
Founded in 2004, Hot Lab has built up a client list that includes some of Europe’s best-known yacht brands. The studio’s exacting vision for both interior styling and exterior lines has graced several yachts, especially in the range of 24m to 70m, and encompasses everything from cruisers to explorers. But recent changes to the studio’s ownership have proved a major catalyst for growth.
“The last four years were very profitable for us and the studio increased in terms of style, the quality of its works and the self-confidence of the team. This is due to the hard work done day by day (and sometime by night), and thanks to our customers that believed in our firm,” said co-founder and business director Antonio Romano. “More recently we moved Hot Lab under the umbrella of the Viken Group. It has been a major change of gear and already in 2023, we have signed four new contracts. We are exceedingly pleased.”
The structural changes have been mirrored by a change in the design process, overseen by design manager Enrico Lumini. He explained: “That’s when we crystallised our motto of ‘architecture for voyagers’. The idea was to simplify exterior design to become more essential, pure, clean. We wanted to give more importance to the volumetric, architectural aspects of design. It has struck an immediate chord with our clients.”
A blessing in disguise, the Pandemic gave the studio the necessary space to reflect, driving Lumini to spend some intensive weeks designing a 100m concept from scratch. Although this was for a private client, and never saw publication, it helped to inform the design of the first 43m Atlantique for Columbus Yachts. This hugely successful design has become a showcase for a reinvigorated Hot Lab.
“That was the turning point for us,” Lumini said. “Columbus then sold three of them in a few months. The owner of the first one put his full trust in us, giving us a rare degree of autonomy in the interior styling and layout of the yacht. My idea was that everything should be in wood, but wherever it was cut out or rebated, there would be a marble or a stone treasure. Plants were also a major part of the internal brief. I love to integrate green to an interior – it makes it cosier and demonstrates that the space is more lived and loved.”
Hot Lab itself has grown to meet the demand, and it now employs 12 people in Milan. Besides the project managers and designers for each client, the team includes specialists in rendering the concepts in 3D and for viewing in virtual reality. “All 3D models and visuals are done in house, giving us the ability to be quick in modifications and to respond quickly to clients,” said Lumini.
The Hot Lab portfolio ranges from day cruisers to mega yachts. But despite the breadth of the fleet, there is a recognisable Hot Lab style, according to Lumini. “We definitely have a house style. Extremely clean lines and seamless surfaces are our traits outside. And for interiors, we prefer natural materials whose qualities you can clearly perceive and touch. If we use stone, we’d rather have it natural rather than glossy. We like open-grained wood and cotton or raffia. That said, we are designers, and that means doing our all to represent the client’s wishes.”
The six superyacht projects that will be delivered in 2023:
Bilgin 50m, interior
Marking the start of a new relationship with the Turkish yacht builder, this 50m project, with the exterior design of Unique Yacht Design, makes incredible use of natural light. Hot Lab designed a broad staircase that carried light from the sundeck down to the lower deck, amplifying it through the use of mirrored strips. A skylight design also brings light down through glass floor panels to the main saloon. A huge palette of more than 60 natural finishes makes this a complex project, including some 14 different marbles alone.
Columbus Yachts Atlantique 43m, interior and exterior
A perfect example of Hot Lab styling, the first hull of this yacht was bought by a keen owner who simply loved the interior and exterior design. The boat’s lines are smoothly curved, with a dramatically cut-away aft deck and drop-down bulwarks. The pool forms the centrepiece on deck, while inside, the main saloon features full-height glazing and a naturally calming woody finish. This yacht is designed to be a luxurious cocoon.
42m fully custom, interior
Built in Antalya with the exterior design of Unique Yacht Design. One of the owners is an architect, and wanted this explorer to have a very fluid, organic interior. Light wooden panelled walls contrast with darker wood floors and grey carpets. There are curves everywhere on this yacht.
Numarine 37XP, interior
Hot Lab’s interior is offered as an upgrade ‘package’ on this semi-custom explorer. Hull number four is the latest to take up the option, which is designed to fit within the requirements of a production-line setup. As well as a more impressive range of materials in the finish and different loose furniture, the Hot Lab version has a broader entrance to the main saloon, tapered bulkheads and a bar to port. The end result is a more considered, exclusive styling.
AES 35m, interior and exterior
Extremely masculine explorer exterior coupled with a clean, slightly reflective interior in a dark palette. Surfaces are typically three-dimensional, with vertical wood showing some relief and glass given a slightly distorted finish.
Arcadia Sherpa 80, interior
Having designed the interior for the original Sherpa 80, Hot Lab was called in to tweak the styling of hulls five and six. Lumini terms this ‘incremental design’, referring to a process of making very small improvements. In particular, the galley is getting slightly more space and the saloon layout is improved, while storage is optimised throughout the boat, making use of every cubic millimetre.