Meet the Interior Designer: Carmen Lau

Interior designer Carmen Lau has dabbled within the hotel and retail arenas, but it’s her chops with the living realm, coupled with a love for small space planning, that made her a perfect match for recrafting the interiors of CL Yachts’ CLB72.

Championing a philosophy that fuses solution-led purpose with beautiful aesthetics, Canadian-born Lau mastered a harmonious function-meets-form design aboard the boat. Here, she talks crafting spaces that fuel connection, the future of design — and why she’s always going to have a soft spot for IKEA.

Carmen, when did you realize your passion for interior design?
“From a young age, I’ve had a passion for making a space beautiful and comfortable. When I used to visit IKEA with my parents as a child, I would always wonder who the people were that would make the room settings so pretty and fun. Fittingly, after I graduated (from the Ontario College of Art and Design), I got my first job as an interior designer at IKEA. It taught me that having a beautiful space doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be expensive or ornamental.”

You started your career in North America and moved into projects within Asia. How did you find that transition?
“Transitioning from North American homes — which are large to the point where you don’t know what to do with all the space — versus the tiny homes in Hong Kong was a huge change for me. It was challenging at first, but it’s also where I was able to discover my love for spacial planning. Little did I know, my passion for working with intimate spaces would later become so applicable to yacht design.”

The CLB72 is a yacht with family-driven functionality at its core. How did you create an interiors space that paid homage to that?
“The CLB72 was created as a family-friendly boat; everything was chosen, from materials to layout, to put family first. We brought to life a fully functional space that lends to connection in several ways. There’s a particularly spacious salon area which features an L-shaped sofa, which was designed deliberately for intimate conversations by eliminating any expansive gaps between people conversing. Towards the bow, a raised dinette allows guests to sit comfortably yet still have a full view while underway. Of course, we can’t talk about family and not talk about the kitchen. Just like the kitchen is the heart of any home, the CLB72’s open space galley is really the heart of the yacht’s main deck. The boat’s spacious kitchen island is an area that people naturally gravitate towards. We also wanted to make sure it was flexible enough for a combination of guests and family members. For example, the two twin beds in the guest room slide together on hidden tracks to become a large double bed.”

Which interior space, or feature, aboard the CLB72 are you most proud of?
“One of the spaces we changed quite dramatically aboard the CLB72 was the window of the master bedroom. Previously, this room used a more traditional layout, but we wanted to make it modern, spacious, and bring the outdoors in. To do this, we repositioned the head and closet space to the aft of the boat so that the master stateroom would have unobstructed views from port side to starboard side. This also allowed us to have an etched glass feature wall that could frost and unfrost with a touch of a button. Not only was it a feature, but it also made the room feel much larger while the glass was unfrosted.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your choice of colors, materials and details aboard the CLB72.
“I fused innovative, contemporary materials with more traditional materials, such as wood, treated with a modern finish. I also combined different textures and patterns to add depth and interest but kept the color palette neutral to conjure a space that feels calming and comfortable. One of the highlights in material choices was a particular nanotech material called FENIX, which we used on the cabinets and some of the countertops. I was originally drawn to it because of its super matte finish and uniquely soft feel. It turned out to also be waterproof, heat-resistant, resistant to fading in sunlight, have low reflectivity, and be easy to clean. Obviously, all of the qualities which make it more than ideal for a yacht. The material is made all the more impressive thanks to the fact that any surface scratches can be thermally healed.”

Where do you see the future of yacht design heading?
“The trend of spending one’s wealth on experiences rather than possessions has a big influence on the future of design. For yachts, it will be about the experience of exploring somewhere you would otherwise not be able to reach while connecting with friends and loved ones as much as possible. It is a trend I worked hard to acknowledge throughout the design of the CLB72, which is built around facilitating and fostering the personal experiences between those onboard. Along with this movement continuing to shape the future of yacht design, I think we’ll also see a growth in concepts that lend to bringing the outdoors inside, as well as more open plans which ensure unobstructed views of the surrounding ocean.”