Design Powerhouse Rigby & Rigby Is Making Waves With Prime Properties & Superyacht Styling
An impressive roster of high-net-worth clients task the London firm to “rig” everything from luxe private residences to Monaco-bound yachts.
When client expectations go beyond mere specs, aspiring to “aesthetic immortality” akin to iconic landmark hotels like Le Bristol or La Mamounia, there are only a handful of elite firms in contention. With the recent debut of The Maybourne Riviera, perched next to Monaco, award-winning multidisciplinary design and delivery studio Rigby & Rigby has shaken up this list of usual suspects.
Poised on one of the most prized real estate parcels on the Côte d’Azur, this marks the first hotel in France for the Maybourne Hotel Group—think Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Berkeley, and the Maybourne Beverly Hills.
This new ingénue of the Riviera swanned onto the World’s 50 Best Hotels List for 2023. The deep pockets behind the project are as blue chip as they come; the Louise Bourgeois sculpture suspended from the lobby ceiling is only the opening overture. The hotel’s expansive art collection is up there with Hotel Lungarno in Florence, with works by Clara Claus, Susan Elias and Matt Jukes.
The ambitious nouveau luxe of The Maybourne Riviera falls right into the multi-faceted wheelhouse of Rigby & Rigby, renowned for their adventures in “ultra prime” properties and superyacht styling.
Iain Johnson, CEO of Rigby & Rigby, is the alpha and omega of his own master-builder universe. The dapper impresario possesses a super-sentient literacy when it comes to reading the room, gaining allies and forging compelling collaborations. As the founding member of Allect International Design Group, Rigby & Rigby consists of six independent divisions including development management, architecture, interior design, construction, and an after-care concierge service.
“We set up Allect to nurture our brands but also ultimately take away the day-to-day organization from the studios,” Johnson tells us. “It’s the stable for the brands, which means the studios can concentrate on what’s important to our clients. There is a healthy competitive spirit and a mutual appreciation and gratitude amongst us.”
Fresh from the success from the creative team’s design coup with superyacht “Phi”—the world’s longest motor yacht below 500GT—The Maybourne Group cleverly tapped the firm to deliver on the main wing of The Maybourne Riviera. With a litany of accolades in the yacht space, this dream team ensured the history of Monaco yachting surfaced seamlessly in the internal design, deftly melding historic environs with contemporary ambience. The aesthetic visually sets sail and takes flight simultaneously— poised on cantilevered engineering—the feathered fascinator atop a perfectly polished look.
“The original vision we set out to be extremely honest and true about was the future of yachting and the newly introduced hydrofoiling of racing sail yachts as seen in the America’s Cup,” Johnson describes of the ideation process.
“We considered the harbor below, the playground for superyachts, and this newly established cantilevered hotel on the cliff edge, the tension between water and sky, so we delivered a package of work in which ‘the elements are suspended’ so everything in the hotel was designed to be freely floating in the floor plate. There were some value aspects we had to temper as it was such a huge statement of intent, but the journey was an exciting one, and the team at Maybourne Hotels worked extremely hard and really captured the spirit of collaboration.”
One couture amenity quickly scaled front-of-book sections of the usual style bibles—the bespoke bar cabinet featured in the main wing’s biggest suites. Right on trend for the luxury traveler keen on entertaining friends or colleagues in-suite, a more intimate alternative to the hotel bar.
Johnson elaborates, taking us through choices on scale, functionality and materials, “Unknown Editions is our limited-edition product range designed with my colleague and Creative Director George Wolstenholme—this cabinet is designed to be two abreast typically either side of a fireplace or artwork, it’s a main bar with functional drinks storage, ice bucket and mirrored backs [while] the shadow cabinet is for glassware storage. Proportionally it’s perfect and I love the symmetry and asymmetry created by the offset doors, and cross cut veneers, integrated lighting and leather-lined interior make this a very special piece.”
Johnson is clearly a savant at reading the Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNW) space, maintaining cachet with the crème de la crème of hospitality as well as partnerships in industrial design—from Boffi to Bulthaup. A thought leader sought out to judge both the SBID and Porada Design Awards, Johnson was recently appointed to Lutron’s Global Design Council.
“Our Special Projects team is a revolving team from our divisions that come together to collaborate on projects with a gross development value of over £50 million [about $60 million] typically. We are engaged on many ‘world firsts’ such as the first private single dwelling in the UK to be wellness accredited, and the first design studio in the world to be accredited with the Butterfly Kite Mark from Positive Luxury,” Johnson says proudly.
He adds, “The whole team wants our projects to be a positive addition to the landscape to leave a considered legacy, I believe it’s why we have such a strong bond with our clients. I’m still amazed that when we are engaged we should be completing a ‘once in a lifetime project’, but 71% of our clients are repeat business.”
Liné Samdal, Rigby & Rigby’s Head of Private Clients, has been a purveyor of quiet luxury from her early days at La Perla. “Described by some as ‘Japandi’ (Japanese/ Scandinavian), the Rigby & Rigby aesthetic is low-key sophisticated and seemingly effortlessly luxurious, where the ‘over the top’ element is in the resolution,” she tells us.
“Luxury at its origin had functionality as a core value, however over time luxury seems to have taken a life of its own—detached and decontextualized from its real meaning. Our research and development-based approach to design seeks to reestablish functionality and practicality for the client and their lifestyle first, providing real value by elevating the quality of their everyday life.”
Given some clientele steward Mayfair properties dating back to the 19th-century William Thackeray “Vanity Fair” era, this a singular vernacular that Rigby & Rigby speaks fluently—and that few firms in London can rival. Once clients fall down the rabbit hole of Rigby and Rigby, there’s no end to what some want “Rigged.” Following property work, a client approached the firm to style their new Rolls-Royce Dawn, adding spellbinding bespoke flourishes to the heritage marque.
For a private family office in Oslo, Rigby & Rigby drew inspiration from sculptors Richard Serra and Ken Mihara, dovetailing deliciously with a client brief to pay homage to the family’s maritime roots while tapping into their growth as a financial investments firm.
“The space combines both the residential element in terms of quality and privacy whilst simultaneously being a window for the public sphere where the design represents the family’s past, current and future,” Samdal reflects. “The amount of design theory and meaning that has gone into the development of this project is above and beyond anything that has ever been delivered and I could not be prouder of our incredible team.”
For Johnson, sharing a simple coffee with a client has led to seamless simpatico and shared sensibilities. “Our UHNW clients are extremely busy, either socially or with business, and a moment of time with them is the absolute most rewarding part of any journey,” he observes. “It’s such a personal relationship and could be seen as quite invasive about the level of detail we need to understand to generate something special; this takes care and patience and very considered documentation, sharing the narrative and discussing experiences together means the world to me.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Maxim magazine.