By Rebecca Taranto Photography by Eduardo Schneider
It was late at night when the inspiration struck. Time was running out, and the opportunity to purchase a limited-edition signed lithograph by provocative British artist Damien Hirst was too good to ignore. “I woke my husband up and showed him the piece,” Aran Swart recalls. “It was one of a series of eight signed cherry blossom prints published by the Heni Gallery in London, and they were only available for a limited time. We bought ‘Loyalty’ on the final day. It was very exciting.”
Art plays a major role in Swart’s work as an interior designer. “I am an artist myself—I paint and have a passion for photography. I use the fundamentals of art when approaching a space or a custom piece of furniture. Balance, scale and functionality are all top of mind for me.” It was a yacht client who introduced her to the world of curation and the exploration of modern works by artists such as Hirst, Miró, Picasso and Haring that led Swart to that moment of purchasing her own piece.
Born on the open plains in Wyoming to a father who was an avid outdoorsman/photographer and a mother who was passionate about fashion design and oil painting, Swart’s early interest in photography segued into design, and she followed her interests to the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale. As a student, living in the “yachting capital of the world,” she was part of a pilot program that focused on yacht design as well as interior design. This program gave Swart the foundation and confidence to take on her own yacht projects while attending school. At the same time, she dipped a proverbial toe into yet another passion—historical restorations—which included assisting with the preservation of the Bonnet House and the renovation of Gilda’s Club South Florida. The years that followed graduation included stints as a commercial textile designer and in business development and management for luxury brands such as Waterworks and THG, Paris. Her yacht interior design career officially began when she landed her first major refit. At that point, she took the leap and established her own firm, RC Interior Design. Swart’s projects have included luxury waterfront residences and commercial office spaces on Las Olas Boulevard and in Dania Beach’s Harbour Towne Marina, but it is the yacht world where she and her Seattle-based design partner Theresa Francis have carved out a niche specializing in large yacht builds and refits. “Every job is unique and comes with its own set of challenges and design opportunities. As an artist, I love that!” says Swart, who describes her style as “bespoke, timeless and chic,” her approach and execution deeply infused with a passion for travel, culture and art history. “My aesthetic tends to settle on the light and airy side, and yachts are becoming much more residential—even resort-like—in feel,” she says. “I always ask clients what their favorite hotel or destination is. Hotels are like fashion—they drive our business and trends.”
An increase in younger clients and the accompanying expectation for cutting-edge technology is another factor influencing interior design, and Swart couldn’t be happier. “These clients are beginning to embrace the use of technology, and I believe it is what sets us apart, whether we are using 3D scans or photorealistic renderings, interactive digital screens like The Wall from Samsung, interactive lighting and more.” It’s the convergence of technology with a demand for innovation from clients that really motivates Swart, who says all of this new technology allows her to infuse movement, mood and energy into an interior space. She recently designed an entire overhead with a new recessed paneling system highlighting angular shapes and negative spaces where multi-colored lights can show through. She capitalized on existing architectural details in cabinetry as well as the overall structure of the hull. “We are playing with lighting in new ways, both in light but also in setting scenes and programming. The goal is to create new ways to allow light and movement to interact with the guests, like sending a ripple of light at a certain time of day or subtly changing color for a mood shift.”
The yachts of yesteryear, dripping in opulence and gold, have been replaced with comfortable and stylish vessels that transport the owner and guests to exciting life experiences, says Swart. “The pandemic has accelerated clients’ demand for experiences, and that’s what makes these projects so rewarding. I love design, but I really love people, and the opportunity to get to know their passions and their visions and then be a part of translating those dreams into reality is an achievement.
“Being introduced to the deeper world of art curation and exploring a variety of artists alongside a knowledgeable client was how I came to buy my own Damien Hirst print,” she says. “It was very compelling and gratifying for me to draw on my experiences working for clients who collect art and embark on my own journey.”