French designer Mathieu Lehanneur’s new project, the Day boat, stems from a very personal vision. ‘I knew what I wanted,’ he says, describing his quest to find a dream vessel, ‘a 15m boat, as elegant as a sailboat but easy like an inflatable canoe. I was looking for a type of beauty that does not take itself seriously.’

He was also seeking enough space for friends and family to come together, and an environmentally friendly design that would use renewable energy. Not finding a boat on the market that would fit the bill, Lehanneur decided to design it himself and have it built.

The designer’s past projects range from a hi-tech collection of energy-monitoring devices for Schneider Electrics and the ‘Boom Boom’ polyhedron speaker for Binauric, to more organic design, such as his ‘Clover’ solar street furniture for Paris and fair booths for Audemars Piguet featuring replica boulders. 

His passions for technology and craft collide in what is his first boat design, one of a series of transport-themed projects he will realise in the next year or so. As he began his research, his walls were soon covered with details of aircraft carriers’ prows, wooden pontoons, traditional fishing boats and a series of flat Thai boats, which Lehanneur loves for their proportions. It wasn’t just boats that inspired him: ‘I looked at 1970s living rooms and couches,’ he says, ‘attempts to reinvent the bourgeois salon. There are many constraints on a boat relating to space, circulation and security. But I wanted to create a vessel that exudes a great sense of freedom and openness.’ 

Finally, Lehanneur also took cues from the functionality of military vessels, as well as the leather details of luxury fashion accessories. The result of this diverse set of influences is an elegant ‘sea lounger’ that combines a sophisticated silhouette with practical features.

The Day boat is a semi-rigid craft, composed of a rigid hull with an inflatable tube on each side. Lehanneur replicated the military construction because it allowed more interior space and design freedom. The deck features front and rear lounging areas (the former can be raised to let air and light into the cabin below), a circular recessed banquette space and a capacious cockpit. Lehanneur’s environmental concern is evident in the boat’s foldable, solar-panel covered umbrella and two Steyr Motors Hybrid engines, designed to optimise consumption and allow the boat to navigate protected beaches and bays quietly. 

Over the course of the project, Lehanneur has amassed a remarkable understanding of boatbuilding. ‘The transport sector is absolutely a field of experts,’ he admits. But he believes that technical constraints have gradually led to it becoming closed off to new ideas. ‘I have always loved working on issues on which I’m not supposed to be an expert,’ he says. ‘It allows me to have an open mind, to ask questions that experts no longer ask.

‘Instinctively, I designed the Day boat by imagining life on board,’ adds Lehanneur, whose sketching went hand in hand with visions of his children playing and his friends gathering around the central table. ‘This is the first boat I’ve designed,’ he explains, ‘but like all my projects, I wrote the life script before giving it its shape.’ 

As originally featured in the June 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*207)