The way we live now, by Peter York: Hello sailor!

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year I went to a global corporate bonding dinner on the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now a venue for that sort of thing, parked permanently in Leith Docks. Some of the overseas guests - sharp designic Italians, Hong Kong traders, etc - were completely mystified by the old girl. They'd clearly expected something between Buck House and an Aristotle Onassis early bling meta-yacht. Instead they got an enormous floating Edwardian Westminster mansion flat furnished as if by returnees from Kenya in the 1950s. Faded chintz, pleasant undistinguished furniture, Fifties cabins, not that big and almost basic. Where was the royal glitter? They didn't recognise this particularly reassuring English kind of decoration. By contrast, the Brits, most of them, loved it. It was exactly the life we expected of our own dear Queen - the turning-out-the-lights and Tupperware boxes side of things.

But yachts are expected to look rich and glamorous. Yacht decoration isn't like house decoration. It feels more like hotels and clubs, pared down but not minimalist, just devoted to one side of life - drinking, sexing, lazing, sunning and other Leisure Class stuff. This and the general expectation that things just might get choppy mean simple fittings, expensively and ingeniously made and usually screwed down. Even with stabilisers, great wobbly chandeliers would be a hostage to fortune. Lots of patterns and colours look silly on anything smaller than a cruise liner. So a style has evolved that features luxurious-looking finishes, enormous amounts of shiny wood and light carpets. This is not a place for eclectic furniture choices. The luxury comes in cocooning, intensive service and the general sense of High Maintenance.

The yacht pictured here could've been decorated yesterday or 30 years ago, because yacht-style doesn't change much. Lashings of honey-coloured wood, French polished to high heaven (matt wood isn't yacht-speak). The collapse-into-it seating is upholstered in something deep and white, the bar stools are very chromium. In the corner there's a bar (and, presumably, a man in whites cutting up lemons) and white flowers everywhere. Like a smart bachelor mews house, the stairs lead straight out of the room to excitingly, ingeniously planned cabins and corridors where everything has been thought of.

This room is quietly comfortable, a timeless bit of modest plutospeak. It's difficult to date (except for the plasma) but it doesn't feel like something for Martha's Vineyard. Like a Swiss chalet (yet more honey-coloured wood), it's Euro-style not Anglosphere. The English idea of shipboard furnishing is to make you feel you're driving the thing. The Euro-look makes it clear they have people to do all that.

Rolls-Royce-dashboard burr-walnut French-polished to a mirror shine. It's like being inside a humidor

White seating covered in oomphy fabric, made to fit and screwed to the floor: when things get choppy, you want your furniture to stay put

A built-in ship-board plasma: you can be lowbrow and still do luxury

Note the photograph: this isn't the sort of style that calls for large important pictures

Bar stools in white leather. Anywhere else they'd look silly, but they match the flowers and say High Maintenance