This designer decks out yachts and jets for billionaires

When their superyacht, private jet or presidential palace needs a zhuzh, the world’s richest call Pinto.

Since 1971, the lauded design firm founded by the Moroccan-born interior designer and photographer Alberto Pinto (who died in 2012) has completed more that 500 projects ranging from salons in Paris’s Elysée Palace, Italian noblewoman Marella Agnelli’s house in Marrakech and the swanky Lanesborough Hotel in London.

A few more recent victories include Dudley House in London, the mythic Hôtel Lambert in Paris, which previously belonged to the de Rothschild family, and the interiors of one of the world’s largest and most luxurious private jets, a Boeing BBJ 747-8.

But it’s not every day that the European-focused firm makes its mark on NYC.

Recently, Pinto — now led by artistic director Pietro Scaglione and President Fahad Hariri — led the conversion of the historic Wales Hotel on the Upper East Side into luxury condominiums.

 We caught up with Scaglione to discuss what it takes to design for the superrich.

Tell us what’s happening inside Pinto today. 

Pinto has been designing interiors for over 50 years, but for the past two years, Fahad Hariri — an architect graduate of the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture — has taken the helm. 

As a client himself for numerous years, he is very familiar with the Pinto universe and wants to bring in his own romantic and contemporary inspiration to the brand.  

You just complete a project in Manhattan. But this isn’t the first time you’ve worked in NYC.

Pinto gave this stylish but traditional apartment in Paris a colorful make over.
©Giorgio Baroni

Alberto was very attracted to the city and even lived there in the late ’60s. At the time, he moved into an apartment that he decorated with a very modern and graphic inspiration. This is how he began to constitute a very important American clientele.  

Pinto has since created interior designs all over the US and in New York where we developed several corporate buildings for the late real estate developer Howard Ronson, townhouses, penthouses on Fifth Avenue as well as the renovation and transformation of the Lycée Français into a private residence.

As a matter of fact, the inspiration for the last apartment where Alberto lived in Paris on 61 Quai d’Orsay was that chic and spacious Park Avenue apartment feel. 

What’s Pinto’s specialty?

It’s custom design. In fact, it is a very haute couture fashion approach to interior design. The décors are built around the personalities of each of our clients. We are able to bring their interior design dreams to life, and to put it more simply, to make them happy. 

You’ve designed yachts and planes for the world’s most demanding people. What are some of the most outrageous requests you’ve fulfilled?

Side by side of Scaglione and a private jet he designed.
Scaglione (left) designs everything from swish NYC condos to private jets (right).

The requests for planes don’t tend to be over the top because they’re functional more than entertainment spaces. We did have a client with a Boeing 747-8 — one of the biggest in the world for private jets — who wanted a circular entry hall with a semicircular glass door leading to the two master bedrooms and private areas such as the family room and office. The space is huge like a house. There are even two bathrooms — one for the owner and other for his wife. The design has lots of wood and leather with touches of Art Deco. I can’t say what it cost but it was well over a million euros.

“The décors are built around the personalities of each of our clients. We are able to bring their interior design dreams to life, and to put it more simply, to make them happy.”

Pietro Scaglione

And we did have to install an aeration system in a kitchen of a private jet to allow the chef to use a wok despite the smoke it generates. 

Yacht requests are far more outrageous because this is where people spend their leisure time and host friends. We have clients who want big swimming pools, massage rooms and discos.

One wanted a billiards table which was complicated because you’re at sea, so you have to maintain the balance of the table. We needed a hydraulic cylinder to do it. Our yacht projects bring in design elements such as marble, embroidery, bronze, glass and other materials you would have in a high-end house. 

We also had an unusual request for a client’s parking lot. He wanted it to transform into a nightclub with removable panels and hidden elements in the walls!

Tell us about your work at the Wales, which we know is your newest New York project. 

Exterior of the Wales.
A rare condo conversion comes to conservative Carnegie Hill.
Stefano Giovannini

The Wales has had several lives. Most recently as Hotel Wales, a beloved hotel in the heart of Carnegie Hill. Our desire was to respect and pay homage to the building’s rich history and ensure the design aesthetic blends in beautifully with the neighborhood. We worked on a simple décor, light colors and modern classical style

What projects are you currently working on? 

A private club called Beat in London dedicated to electronic music, a restaurant Zytia in Ibiza and two corporate offices in Paris. Along with these “public” projects we are working on several private residences, yachts and jets in Europe, in the US and in the Middle East, which, of course, are confidential.

What are your most memorable projects?

First off, there are Alberto’s personal homes and apartments: the garden floor at Charles Floquet with its Azulejos hall, 73 quai d’Orsay, which was very “Grand,” and his sublime vacation home Dar El Quas in Tangier.

The Alfa Nero yacht is memorable for its very recognizable shape, with its never-before-seen decks organized in amphitheaters and its pool in the back shaped as a boat.

There is also, of course, Fahad Hariri’s Parisian apartment and his residence in Marrakech, both clearly the homes of an art collector and with a strong identity exemplifying the freshness he breathes into Pinto’s artistic creation today.

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