'The Lady Gay', is an extraordinary boat which is one of the surviving members of the flotilla of Dunkirk Little Ships. This motor cruiser was originally commissioned in 1934 by Lord Alfred Dunhill and has been lovingly refurbished with its interior re-styled as a special commission by Pippa Paton Design, the Oxfordshire based consultancy recently awarded with inclusion in the Andrew Martin International Interior Design Review, described by The Times as the 'Oscars' of the interior design world.
The boat's current owners chose Pippa Paton Design to bring a contemporary interior style to 'The Lady Gay' while retaining all the intrinsic elements of the original craftsmanship. This is the skilful approach which has also distinguished the company's property projects in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds combining interior design with renovation project management, see the gallery at www.pippapatondesign.co.uk
For Pippa Paton, this commission represented an intriguing design challenge but one similar to those the company has recently encountered renovating period properties where historic features such as Cotswold stone walls or mullioned windows are uncovered or restored to work alongside contemporary fixtures and fittings. As Pippa explains:
"We approached the interior design of the boat as a wonderful opportunity to bring comfort, style and practicality into a small space, enhancing the obvious craftsmanship, particularly in the polished mahogany wood that was a key part to her original design. I wanted to keep things simple and contemporary and not detract from these lovely historical features while avoiding the sometimes rather clichéd nautical theme. The timeless black and white, heavy weight ticking fabric was chosen to add style and warmth with a faint echo of the 1930's era through contrast piping on the seat cushions, while practical concerns such as being able to withstand the damp conditions and being suitably fire-retardant were also met. It was a unique commission and one we were so pleased and proud to have undertaken."
'The Lady Gay' is being carefully prepared for a spectacular occasion, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant on Sunday 3 June to celebrate her role in one of the most perilous and important undertakings in 20th century maritime history. The wartime mission, involving around 700-odd ships was to assist the Royal Navy in the evacuation of 338,000 British and French troops from Dunkirk in 1940 and while a great number of these small ships have since been lost, many have survived and are, as in the case of 'The Lady Gay' cherished by their present owners.
They have a complete history of 'The Lady Gay' from her 1930s heyday as a pleasure cruiser to her role as a Navy coastal and Thames patrol boat during the 1940s, a Seas Scouts training vessel until the 1970s when she was renamed 'Lord Nelson' followed by a return to pleasure cruising on the waterways of Europe to regaining her proper name and finding her current home in the Middle Thames. When she takes her place in the Pageant it will be a proud moment for all those who have built, owned, been rescued by, trained in, cruised in and helped to restore this special vessel, the 'Lady Gay'.