A California couple unexpectedly falls in love with a Chris Craft Â“roamerÂ” and turns the boat into a floating home. By Regina Cole
Without planning to, Judd and Billie Jo Herberger bought Shahrezade. They saw, fell in love, and bought the 77-foot Chris Craft Â“roamer,Â” the largest of the legendary companyÂ’s boats. Then they considered how to decorate the interior. Built in 1977, the graceful aluminum hull was as beautifully sound as ever, but their new second home needed an update belowdecks.
Â“I wanted this boat to be like Old Hollywood,Â” says Billie Jo. Â“I grew up a Southern California surfer girl, and we keep her at a dock in Marina del Rey. I love glamour, so I thought of Beverly Hills, the Hotel Bel Air, and the stylish cocktail parties of the 1950s.Â”
Los Angeles interior designer Bonnie Sachs, ASID, made it happen. But that, too, was unplanned. Â“Usually, my clients come via referrals,Â” Sachs recalls. Â“They had not even seen my work.Â” SachsÂ’ portfolio includes several yachts, but the Herbergers found her in the phone book. Once past her initial hesitation, Sachs launched into a project she now describes as Â“the most fun IÂ’ve ever had.Â”
Sachs created dÃ©cor that speaks of HollywoodÂ’s glamorous heyday, of Asian refinement, of the exotic sensuality evoked by the boatÂ’s name, and of the California surfer girl who calls it home. Lush with color, decorated with superb art, and softened into utter comfort, the Shahrezade is a rare feat: a seaworthy yacht that defies stereotypes and proves that vessels can be luxurious and homey; there isnÂ’t a compass, whale, piece of rope or blue-and-white canvas anywhere.
When they began, Billie Jo showed Sachs a piece of barkcloth with a dramatic, retro bird-of-paradise pattern. That became the design schemeÂ’s jumping-off point, repeated in a different colorway on the dining room chairs and echoed in saturated reds and golds throughout. One stateroom references the boatÂ’s name with a Moorish fantasy; another invokes a beach cabana. The main salonÂ’s bamboo armchairs and barkcloth-upholstered sofa cluster around the baby grand piano, perhaps the only such instrument suited to a marine environment. Â“ItÂ’s a Yamaha Clavinova, with a closed back and top,Â” Billie Jo explains. Â“It functions as a digital player piano when no oneÂ’s playing.Â”
The Herbergers spend a lot of time aboard, and they entertain a great deal. Â“I hire a piano player and serve hors dÂ’oeuvres,Â” says the hostess. Â“Friends bring their guitars; we have wonderful times. This boat is so inviting and comfortable,Â” she continues, Â“I think weÂ’ve had more people aboard than most boats ever see.Â”