Designer Susan Bednar Long designs swanky cruise ship suites

Designer and CTC&G contributing editor Susan Bednar Long was hired by Oceania Cruises to design three 2,000-square-foot owner's suites on their new ship the Riviera. The results: a perfect blend of modern and traditional.


How were you hired for this project? I had designed the owner’s suites on her sister ship Marina. Oceania was looking for a design that felt like an elegant estate home. They love Ralph Lauren Home furnishings and knew I understood that aesthetic well and that my modern-traditional design sensibility was the right fit.

Are the suites appointed exclusively in Ralph Lauren Home? About 95 percent is RL Home, including all the sconces and lamps. The entry, master bedroom and dining chandeliers are custom.

Were there any special requests for your design? Make it amazing—so you feel like you are in a New York City pied-à-terre.

What was in place when you started? The naval architects at Y&S in Oslo, Norway, set the footprint and location of the rooms. The ship was built in Genoa, Italy. I designed the millwork, bathrooms and bar, and chose all the decorative furnishings. My design encompassed the entry, living room/dining room, master bedroom, master bathroom and closets, and the furniture for both exterior terraces. It took about six months from start to finish.

What was the inspiration for your choices? I wanted all the rooms to flow together, but have a unique personality. The entry is the more public, entertaining space and was inspired by old Hollywood, complete with black-and-white artwork and photography that carries through the rest of the suite. The living room/dining room transitions to browns, camels and blacks—inspired by a classic men’s library. The master transitions to silvery gray, blue and camel. Here, I tapped into the feeling of my favorite spas, like the Mayflower Spa, which has an airy, soft and feminine feeling. With all the rooms, it’s more about texture and color than outright pattern, lending itself to a more timeless design.

Were any unique materials used? Flexible wall and ceiling panels appear like painted walls but actually have flex to allow the ship to move.

Were there furniture or fabric requirements? I had to consider the flammability of all fabrics, especially those on draperies and walls. I also selected fabric based on sun and UV performance. I had to consider the density of the marble and stone used on the bar and mosaic floor patterns. All chandeliers were installed fixed rods. And I avoided high-legged furniture that could slide across the floor in rough seas. Because the suites are so spacious, the normal restrictions on furniture size were almost nonexistent. It truly feels like an apartment at sea.

What is your favorite detail? I really love the custom mahogany and nickel bar with the white-marble top. It’s so sexy.

How does it feel when you walk in? Breathtaking! It’s wonderful to see such a lovely, elegant old Hollywood-like suite complete with a piano and bar against the backdrop of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean.