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Why settle for just another yacht?

Bainbridge Island-based Ardeo Design conceived of this 130-foot award-winning yacht “Magic” which is posh both inside and out. - Courtesy of Neil Rabinowitz
Bainbridge Island-based Ardeo Design conceived of this 130-foot award-winning yacht “Magic” which is posh both inside and out.
— image credit: Courtesy of Neil Rabinowitz

Ardeo Design will make sure the stateroom appointments are posh as can be.

When you’re spending $6 million to build a mega-yacht, you want bells and whistles you never even heard of – and Scott Cole by your side.

Cole and his wife, Michele Bott, provide custom yacht interior design through Ardeo Design, the company they run from an office atop their Bainbridge detached garage.

“We don’t just design the decor. We actually do the layout, space planning and lighting,” Cole said. “We also will select furniture that is properly scaled, the rugs, the stone, granite countertops, the marble in the baths.”

With a staff of three, Cole wears a lot of different hats, including web designer. As a self-proclaimed control freak, he’s happy with the arrangement.

Originally from Chicago, Cole has been in the transportation design business since 1990, first with boats and later with airplanes. In the late 1990s, he thought it’d be a lot of fun to strike out on his own.

“Looking back, I can’t believe I had the guts to do this,” he said. “Timing is a huge factor and our timing was lucky.”

The boat industry was enjoying a boom when Cole started with clients in hand, which was especially fortuitous since Bott was at home with their 2-week-old and 21-month-old children.

Now they work together in what Cole calls a “mom and pop shop” with a high-end budget. Business remains good, with the number of orders for new yachts up 25 percent worldwide from last year.

Yachts, Cole said, “draw a very interesting clientele.”

“These clients are very charismatic, Type A personalities who want to call the shots,” he said. “This is a creative release for them. They like to be hands-on about the toys, the tenders and the dingys. Also, the space planning of the boat.”

One client could be a designer himself, Cole said.

Most of the jobs are new construction, although Cole recently completed his first refit. He travels to wherever a yacht is being built, whether it’s Anacortes or Taiwan.

Projects take from 18 months to three years and Cole is involved every step of the way, from the original design phase through the construction process. The earlier he gets involved, the better, as he can refine things along the way. The end of the project is when things can fall through the cracks, he said.

Because the clients are extremely detail oriented, there’s a lot of hand-wringing and worrying over the little details. Everything has to be as perfect as possible – from the door handles at the stairwells to the marble in the stateroom baths – and special requests must be honored if at all possible, whether it’s a doggie door and ramp for a pair of beloved spaniels, a pool equipped with a harness for swimming against its strong current or additional bunks for the grandchildren.

Cole and Bott seek the best materials and goods for their projects, down to the linens and china if that’s what their clients want.

Although their clients – some local, all U.S. citizens to this point – are used to getting their way, Cole points out he is not a “yes man.”

“They’re paying me for my honest opinion,” he said. “We’re not their full-time employee. We’re a consultant.”

And one that is garnering accolades in the yacht-building world. Most recently, Ardeo Design won the 2005 Northwest Design Awards Yacht/Jet design category first place award for the traditional neoclassic interior design of a custom 130-foot motor yacht called “Magic.” The boat also is nominated as a finalist in the 2005 International Superyacht Society Awards competition in the “Best Power” 32m-42m category.

The company’s Arts & Crafts-inspired interior design for a custom 80-foot Northern Marine expedition yacht, the “Meander,” is nominated as a finalist in the “Best Power” 23m-32m category.

“We’re in the service business, really,” Cole said. “I model our business after a Nordstrom or a Starbucks. You have to have excellent customer service and people skills (to do this).”

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