A Modern Narrowboat

                This project was a commission for a client who needed a London base for when life and work brought them to the capital. They wanted a comfortable and modern feel, relaxing and low maintenance. It helps that it is on a mooring, so electrics and plumbing are simplified by having utilities and facilities close at hand

White wall hung vanity unit with LED mirror and travertine splashback

                The boat had sunk under the stewardship of the previous owner and while the hull and engine were still sound, there was water damage to the floor and fit out so the whole thing needed starting from scratch.  We did a sizeable amount of remedial work to get to a point of having a blank canvas. This included, but was not limited to, removing the flooring from half the boat, drying and sorting the bilges, removing several bulkheads and removing the black water tank.  If you want tips on removing a black water tank, then you can read more in my Dan’s DIY tips section ‘It’s a S**t job’

                The brief was to make a contemporary and easy to care for space, as much like a modern flat as possible. This was to be a home from home while in London, not a CC’er or a holiday boat. The chosen finishes are all very modern, the colour pallet neutral and soothing. 

Light grey galley style kitchen with oak butchers block worktop and stainless steel sink in a narrowboat

                We fitted a Benchmarx kitchen, I’ll try do tips post on kitchen fitting sometime soon. This was given oak butchers block worktops, from worktop express. The oak tops are excellent value for money, though you do need to take a little care to look after wooden tops, but on the plus side they can be refinished where a laminate cannot. 

Quadrant shower on a narrowboat with travertine mosiac tiles and shortened glass (1700) glass enclosure

                The bathroom is tiled in a Travertine mosaic, with an ‘off shelf’ vanity and a quadrant shower cubicle from Wesley Marine Windows Ltd.  Wesley Marine are one of the few producers of ‘short’ shower units.  They do a range of them in 1600-1800 which lets you fit in a proper feeling shower enclosure within the restricted height of a narrowboat. You could have a shower enclosure made bespoke, but this would cost a lot more. 

                In the bathroom a bench style Thetford cassette toilet was chosen. It is very easy to use with its wheel along cassettes. This mooring has an elsan point on site, so a cassette toilet is a good choice. Read more about toilets in our toilet blog post! Essential boater reading matter. 

Bespoke matt white cupboard with drawers bebeath, an oak top with brushed steel socket set in to it and a dark grey door and frame to the side. Narrowboat bedroom

                For the bedroom we made a fully bespoke suite, with drawers beneath the bed for storage and a more drawers at the end with a hanging space above.  This little area also serves as a dresser with an offcut of worktop making up a dressing table, with a power socket set into it for easy use of a hair dryer or other items. The boat itself was chosen by the client to be wired up largely as a 240V boat, running off the shoreline, though it does also have 12V sockets and lights so it can be used away from the home mooring. 

Narrowboat salon, showing fold up table wth stools and sofa.  Light grey beneath the gunwale and qhit above. Multi fuel stove in the corner next to storage steps

                The colour scheme is a gentle grey and white, very popular at the moment and I think it is calming as well as elegant. Everything was painted by us, in an acrylic water-based paint. This is a good durable paint. It can be wiped clean of light stains and marks and has a certain degree of resistance to water and humidity.  A satin finish water-based paint will not be as durable as a high gloss, but it feels a bit more modern and is easy to work with and apply.

                In conclusion then, this is a delightful little boat that should hopefully serve the owner well for many years to come. It shows a narrowboat can be comfortable and modern, I hope this is a relaxing and pleasant space for the client and they enjoy it whenever they stay there. 

Country Kitchen, Narrowboat edition

Narrowboat bilge half filled with pea shinle. White wall in top left corner with a shovel leaning against it

This was an almost complete re-fit that we did for a narrowboat in East London. We’ll largely keep to the pretty bits here, but there was some serious foundation work to do. The bilges had been ballasted with pea shingle, most of which was still in the bilge, and it all had to be removed. Once the floor was up and it was out the bilges had to be cleaned, treated, painted, re-ballasted and the new subfloor laid. See my Dan’s DIY Tips for more on cleaning and painting bilges

Engineered oak floor in narrowboat salon with exterior ply clad walls wither side, trimmed in pine mouldings

We also had the walls down to deal with sub-standard insulation and lining, so by the time all this was finished the innards of the boat were basically brand new! New ballast and subfloor, new insulation and new lining and trims, a lovely blank canvas.

To this empty shell, we added a lovely oak engineered floor throughout, to match the existing flooring in the bedroom. This had previously been re-fitted the year before by another contractor and we had built a wardrobe.

Narrowboat galley style kitchen.  White shaker cabinets with oak butchers block worktop and shelves. Glass fronted cabinet on wall above. Multi fuel stove in the fore-ground

The crowning glory of the boat is probably the kitchen, as it is with many boats and homs that have a nice kitchen. This one is a Howdens Tewkesbury kitchen that we have customised in places to fit the space.  An off shelf kitchen can work very well in a boat, I am hoping to add some thoughts and tips on Kitchens in our blog posts. The worktops are oak butcher’s block which we simply added a bevel to the edge of the tops. The took a corner off the end of the long side for ergonomic reasons and the offcuts provided from the other side some neat additional shelving which we gave a matching detail.

Narrowboat kitchen showing ceramic sink in butchers block top with window behind and blue glazed tiles

The electrics were completely rewired by Katy Bartlett of Down to Earth Sparks. The workings of the electrics are hidden away in the corner behind a custom cupboard built with a combination of solid oak and oak veneer to match in with the tops. Katy regularly works alongside us on projects and did a beautiful job rewiring and upgrading the electrical system throughout

small wooden steps

The stern steps we replaced with a solid oak set of open tread steps. The original plan was to build to a form to allow acces to the washing machine, but ultimately it was decided to just make a them light weight and easy to remove so full access was easily gained without compromising on the struture of the steps.

There are myriad little details and alterations I could list out from the works. We also did some upgrades to the bathroom and the bedroom, the wardobe having gone in the previous year. We ripped out the bath and replaced the floor beneath. The bath went back in and we re-tiled the area and added some custom cabinetry and a screen to the bath tub. If you would like to know more about options and possibilities for kitchens and bathrooms then why not get in touch. Or also check out my blog(s) on home/boat improvements in Dan’s Random Ramblings

Wheelhouse

This is typical of a wheelhouse build, taking the project from design through to finish We have used this design, or a variation of it, on many wheelhouse projects, this blog goes through some details of how we do this.

The clients needed more space and wanted to turn the stern deck in to a useful, and beautiful, exterior space. It also had to be collapsible so that the boat would still be able to get through tunnels and under bridges when it left it’s mooring.  This meant all elements more than a foot or so above the boat cabin roof had to be removable with two people. We had weight limits and engineering challenges to consider

                After in depth discussion of specification and requirements we produced detailed drawings of the overall wheelhouse and the specific details. The way that the different parts would connect and how the piece would work as a whole. Working out how water would be channelled from the roof and how it would escape from inside, which would still be a exterior area at times

CAD drawing of a wheelhouse on a cross section of a red boat

                The roof was a challenge. It needed to be light enough that the two of them could remove it between them without assistance. It’s quite a big area and they also wanted it to be reasonably strong just in case somebody went clambering across (I can’t guarantee it’ll take the weight of a person but it’d stand a chance). We chose to split it into several pieces to make manageable weight, though even then at above head height the panels would be weighty.  It is constructed from Vekaplan, a lightweight closed cell plastic with smooth exterior, combined with a timber frame.  This sits on a skeleton timber frame with integral metal channelling to take water away

white curved ceiling with dark wood beams

                As to the overall construction material, the clients chose Sapele. It’s a West African hardwood which is relatively cheap, straight grained and very durable.  We needed about 2 cubic metres to build the whole wheelhouse.  It is a lovely timber and comes up a beautiful mahogany like colour once finished.  The fixtures and fittings are all solid brass so that they would be weatherproof even when the roof was down.  The brass goes nicely with the red of the timber too, so it’s aesthetically pleasing

pile of rough sawn timber, sapele

                They wanted as much light as possible, indeed we ultimately swapped out one of the lower panels for glass as well where it was originally timber that it wouldn’t block the sunrise on the back door. The upper panels are toughened glass and they let in lots of light. We made sure that there were several opening points so that on a hot day it didn’t become a furnace!

close up of the front of a wheelhouse showing a red timber with swirling grain

                To make it collapsible all the upper row are hinged on to the lower, fixed, panels.  This means once the roof panels are off and stacked on to the boat roof you can lower each of the panels.  They can also be removed entirely if required as the hinges are all lift off.  Speaking of storing the roof on the boat, the curve of the roof was based on the curve of the boat roof so as to produce a sympathetic line with the rest of the boat

corner of a roof wiith a curved timber detail protruding

                Sapele is a naturally durable timber, but to give it greater protection and to save it from discolouring over time it was given two coats of Osmo UV protect exterior hard-wax oil. This should protect it from water and sunlight, not to mention bringing out the beautiful colour and grain of the wood.  We could have varnished it and that might have been a more durable finish short term, but it is more difficult to touch up and repair/redo in the future. Oiled timber can simply be given a light rub down and a new oat applied. Varnish is a greater undertaking and so is oft neglected and can end up looking very shabby after time.

                The whole wheelhouse is mounted on a metal rail, which is two fold in purpose.  By lifting the timber off the floor it should have greater protection from rotting base up. It also gave us the capacity to put some easy drain points in should water get in to the area while it was open.  The lower wall of panels was then bolted through this rail in to the underside of the timbers so that it was rock solid

               We’ve done a few wheelhouses and parts of wheelhouses. A couple of the photos (the ceiling and the close up on the detail of the roof end support) are actually from another wheelhouse we built. This is because I didn’t have enough good photos of this one. The designs are similar and all is our work. However, of the wheelhouse work we have done this one is still hands down my favourite

Clapton Cupboards and Kitchen

This job is particularly dear to me as I carried out a large amount of the manual work on it personally. Sadly, I was also responsible for the photography of the finished products, so this does leave something to be desired. 

CAD drawing of cupboards in a flat

It started originally as a kitchen, and then the client added wardrobes for each of the bedrooms.  The theme runs throughout, paint with wood, new with old. The actual designs were created by the client as well, who is an architect by trade. This meant we had some of the best drawings that I have ever been given, a blessing when you are pricing and quantity surveying a job

wide shot of an old kitchen, looks rather tired

The kitchen was a remodelling of an old kitchen (right) left over in the flat from many years before. This had to go completely, except for the worktop and sink. The top, which is a beautiful old piece of wood, we took away to repair and re-finish. This came up beautifully (below right) when sanded and oiled, and we paired it with Iroko for the other wooden details in the kitchen. Iroko is interesting in that it can be very light in colour when machined, but will darken down to a gorgeous deep brown over time.

shining dark wood, iroko, worktop with a cermi butlers sink

The marble contrasts beautifully with the old timber and the two give a real heart to the room.  All of the doors and drawers are, as with the other cupboards, spray finished in AC lacquer (colour ‘first light’) and the carcasses are birch ply that were then finished with two coats of Osmo hardwax oil. 

marble and dark wood worktops with a as hob in the middle of the marble. Hard wood shelves to one side and an indutrial looking extractor above

Another notable feature in the kitchen is the industrial influenced cooker extraction hood (left), made by local fabricator Nel Holmgren. I also really like the ceramic knobs, which are actually wiring insulation knobs re-purposed as hardware for the doors and drawers

As we move through the rest of the flat there are a series of wardrobes and cupboards, each purpose built for  their rooms.  The one that stands out for me is the entrance hall (featured top), with the open shelving and the fluted glass side table it has a lot of character and fits its space really well. Here, as with many of the other rooms, the spray finished parts have been paired with solid oak elements, the end panels, trims and shelving.

oak and white painted bespoke bedroom cupboards with shelves on wall inbetween, over a bed with blue bedspread and blue pillow

The master bedroom is likewise, and here we have a continental feel to the room with a pair of wardrobes bracketing open shelving over the bed. Incidentally, the headboard opens at the top to give some extra storage space inside. Of the other two bedrooms one is very similar in design, but the other has no oak elements to it and instead has sprayed parts for the end panels and framing. This was the choice of the room’s occupant and I feel it looks just as lovely as the oak and paint in the other rooms.