Anne Mari Gullikstad headshot

Anne Mari Gullikstad is the Chief Executive Officer of YSA Design, where she is also Partner and a Senior Interior Architect. She draws on over 26 years of experience to head the company’s management team, also fulfilling the role of project leader in key YSA Design assignments. This week, she will be speaking in Cruise Conversations Live at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe (CSIE), as part of the panel for the session ‘Design Leadership: Trends Forecasting’. We caught up with her to learn more about her role, the latest trends in cruise interiors, sustainability in cruise, and her upcoming session at CSIE.

Thanks for speaking with the Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe team (CSIE) today! Tell us about your current role and what it entails on a day-to-day basis?

I am an interior designer and interior architect with 30 years’ experience in the industry. In 2016, I was appointed as CEO at YSA Design, where I am also a Partner and Senior Interior Architect. So, day to day I am both working as CEO, taking care of the business, HR, strategy, and marketing, while also being involved in various projects. That was one of the conditions for me accepting this role; it was important for me to also be practising my profession because that’s where my heart belongs.

What inspired you to venture into the marine industry?

I didn’t have a dream of working in the cruise industry when I was studying, because I didn’t even know about it. It happened by coincidence! When I applied for summer jobs as a student, there was this very exciting building not so far from where I grew up, which I learned was an architect firm. Shortly after, I started working there. They happened to work with the cruise industry, so that’s how I got into it. Being an interior architect or designer in the cruise industry gives a lot of great options and opportunities because we get involved in a wide spectrum of projects, from the general arrangement of the ship to the overall floor plan and positioning of where the various venues would be. These projects can even go down to the doorknobs used, and everything in between!

Can you tell us about any key opportunities or challenges faced by the cruise ship interiors industry at present?

COVID-19 is obviously the biggest challenge right now, and that’s something that has hit the cruise industry really hard. The cruise industry has had its challenges before, but this, especially since it has lasted such a long time, may be one of the things that has hit the hardest. But maybe this also can be used as an opportunity. Before the pandemic, there were a lot of talks about the environmental impacts of cruises, but I felt like there was not so much action. We started to see some change with the introduction of different fuels like LNG, but maybe this pandemic has given the industry a push in the right direction. COVID-19 has opened our eyes and made us see that it has to change.

A change I am seeing is that when we specify materials, we need to know that they have been produced correctly, according to green requirements, and that they are long lasting. We look for products that are good quality and have nice designs, while also being sustainable. This means looking for materials and products that can reused, or will last longer, or if they are to be thrown away, that they can be recycled.

Tell us about a recent project that was particularly challenging, interesting, or unique in some way.

A recent project that we finalised was Costa Firenze, which we did alongside Costa Venezia for Costa Cruises. When we were assigned this work, we were told that these two ships were going to operate in China, with the aim of bringing Italy to the Chinese market. For this, we designed a few restaurants, a bar area, and the outdoor areas. The challenge of designing a themed interior is doing it without making it too cliché. It’s about still having the integrity that this is something that we as an architect and designer can be behind. It’s important that it is not just stage design, but there is actually some reality to it. I think we managed well, and recently Costa Firenze had its inaugural cruise in July. I think that’s the most interesting and challenging project we have done recently.

What trends have you seen emerging recently, or are expecting to emerge, in the cruise interiors industry?

A general trend, not just for cruise but also for hotels and restaurants, is organic design, which is more nature based, using organic shapes. I think this is due to the fact everyone is so much more focused on how we can save the planet. We also want to bring that into our interiors and focus on using more natural products. For example, wool as a textile is a very interesting material because it is very different now than what it used to be. It doesn’t have to be itchy and stiff; it comes in all sorts of really nice finishes, and it’s a natural material so production wise, it’s great for the environment. It lasts a really long time, and it stands very well in different climates and different temperatures. It can also be recycled. I think this trend also comes into architectural design, where you can see more fluid shapes, curves, and more organic shapes in the architecture.

Using just three words, how would you describe the current state of the cruise interiors industry?

Challenging. Possibilities. Sustainability.

This week you’ll be speaking at Cruise Conversations Live during CSIE. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what we might expect from your session?

We will be focusing on trends and colours, innovative materials, sustainability, and wellbeing elements. There will also be some discussion on signage and how that is integrated into the design.

Finally, we have to ask, what are you most looking forward to at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe?

I am looking forward to the panel debates and the keynotes. One thing I enjoyed in Miami (Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas), was hearing from industry experts at the conference sessions. I think for us as designers, it is also important that we meet and connect with representatives from cruise lines to learn about their new and upcoming projects. I am also excited to hear from them in the conference and learn what they see for the future and how they have been coping during the pandemic. It will also be interesting to see newly developed materials, both from new and existing companies. We are eager to talk to the various suppliers at the show, including those we don’t know about, with who we can make new connections. In a way, it is a big industry but a small community, and I am looking forward to reconnecting with many contacts that we haven’t seen in a long time.

Refresh your knowledge, source suppliers for your next project, and connect with representatives from world-leading cruise lines at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe. Find out about the next event here.