Words by Hannah Tan-Gillies
“Luxury is a concept that has to do with uniqueness and exclusivity,” says FM Architettura co-founder Francesca Muzio, as she ponders on the ever-changing meaning of luxury. “It has evolved rapidly through the years, being both trendy and trend-setting, converging and diverging from fashion and mass industry. As soon as a design becomes easily obtainable, it typically loses its uniqueness.”
This duality of luxury architecture is something Francesca has explored and redefined throughout the years, with her newest endeavour, potentially her most ambitious yet.
FM Architettura has been recently appointed by M/Y Njord as the lead designer for Ocean Residences Development, the ultimate private residential yacht at sea. Working together with Espen Øino, coined by Luxury London as the ‘Man of Steel’ in an interview last year, Francesca now rightfully takes her own place as the ‘Wonder Woman’ of super yacht design.
“Superyacht design requires both daring creativity and exceptional control over technicalities,” she says. “Great designs come from the perfect balance of the two.”
Indeed, balance is key, and with the rare talent and breadth of knowledge between Francesca and Espen, we know that Ocean Residences will undoubtedly be a sight to behold.
We sit down with Francesca and talk about how FM Architettura is creating a new language of luxury. We also discuss how her Ligurian roots always call her back to the sea and how building the perfect home can be likened to tailoring the perfect suit.
What made you fall in love with architecture and interior design?
I was born and raised near the sea and this element has always had a great influence on me. My sense of travel, discovery and adventure, all come from the sea and it is intrinsic in my Ligurian origins. I owe my passion for yachts and travelling to the sea. On the other hand, architecture has always charmed me because of its social implications, and I was fascinated by the thought of creating spaces and designs that are human-centric.
One of FM Architettura’s missions is to ‘create a new language of luxury,’ how does this thinking inspire your design process?
Luxury is a concept that has to do with uniqueness and exclusivity. It has evolved rapidly through the years, being both trendy and trend-setting, converging, and diverging from fashion and mass industry. As soon as a design becomes easily obtainable, it typically loses its uniqueness. This has to do much with the local culture and sense of place.
Second to the matter of place, is the matter of time. Working on big yachts and high-rises, you should always project your designs five to ten years ahead, which is the time of completion. What is going to be exclusive and unique in ten years? The impact of climate change and the pandemic has made people more and more sensitive to themes like sustainability, wellness, and health; and I believe that these will be the challenges for luxury of the near future.
FM Archittetura was recently appointed as the lead designer for the Ocean Residences Development. Could you tell us more about this project and your vision for it?
Our clients are buying a home for a life of luxury on board M/Y NJORD, and the centre of our inspiration, is always the individual person, their emotional relationship to their homes, and their lifestyle.
We will design all our own furniture for Njord, as with this type of yacht interior the proportions are vital. The ratio of space to furniture must be perfect, as well as the balance of materials and the atmosphere they create as a whole. This sense of belonging, together with health, wellbeing and sustainability are the focus of our designs. Technology is of course integrated into the designs and state-of-the-art facilities, but the true core pillars of our interiors for Njord are the four classical elements.
I like to consider these four elements in my designs: earth, air, fire, and water. Earth to me is the use of wood in our designs, be it in the bespoke furniture, flooring, or structural partitions. Air is the lightness around the interiors, created using handmade carpets and bespoke woven textiles, which lead the eye around the space.
The fire is breathed into the accents with bespoke bronze furniture, glass, or the lighting which we use to punctuate the rooms. Lastly, water, the all-important element, to ensure the flow and balance of the design comes together in its entirety, as these are homes must have a sense of place.
How does one begin to design a luxury super-yacht? Talk us through your design process. How do you go about creating a sense of home out in the sea?
Superyacht design requires both daring creativity and exceptional control over technicalities. Great designs come from the perfect balance of the two. You might know that the volume on a boat is very expensive, so the ceilings are typically very low. Therefore, the design should lighten the interiors, open to the outside, and yet feel extremely refined and ergonomic, as you will see every detail from up-close. These are the starting points for building up interiors that feel like home, even in the middle of the ocean.
With Espen Øino coined as the ‘Man of Steel’ of M/Y NJORD would you consider yourself to be the ‘Wonder Woman’ of FM Architettura?
I have always believed that great projects come from great teamwork, and I owe much to everyone at FM Architettura, which I like to call my family. As a woman and the spokesperson for FM Architettura, I can say it is indeed harder to gain respect and credibility in a male-dominated world. If that makes me a Wonder Woman, it is just because we live in a world, where women still aren’t treated equally compared to their male counterparts.
How did your partnership with M/Y NJORD come to be?
Once I was talking to friends of mine about my idea of travelling the oceans to explore the unknown. Being involved in many projects around the world, I am accustomed to travelling; and my Ligurian origins always make me seek adventures on the sea.
My friends were surprised as we had many ideas in common about our dream destinations and travel philosophies. It just so happened that my friends were part of the Njord project, developing this very interesting concept for people wanting to explore nature, while also preserving it. We felt like we were on the same page with our visions, and this is where the conversation started.
Architecture is traditionally a field dominated by men. How do you set yourself apart in the design world as a woman?
I have always wanted to do a good job and build my reputation upon this, not upon my gender or character. My greatest motivation is building people’s dreams, be they on land or in the open sea. The uniqueness of FM design is made by each client and by our ability to give shape to her or his vision. Besides the beautiful designs and impeccable realisations, FM’s mission is to create interiors that feel like home and suit the client like a perfect suit.
Photography courtesy of FM Architettura.