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. 

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. 

Sailability

Fore Sail/For Sale

Well, the less marine based puns the better, lord knows I don’t want to expose my shocking lack of knowledge of sailing. Carpentry, cabinetry, tiling, boat fitting in general. Of the many things I do know about I must admit that actual sailing, sadly, is not one of them.

This post is nothing to do with that so, moving swiftly on, today’s blog will be a little bit about readying boats for sale (not sail, if you go out in to open waters with a narrowboat then best of luck to you, but it is a seriously silly idea unless very well prepared).  I do hear people talk about flipping boats in the way they do houses, and you can probably make a few quid doing this. However, unless you are doing the labour yourself and can add value at a greater per hour rate than you’d earn doing your day job then I would be wary of looking at boat renovation as any kind of gold mine

That said, people will want to sell boats. Be it a project that has come to an end, moving on to a different boat or, heaven forbid, on to land, perhaps you’re going to move in with a partner and you’ve lost the coin toss and your boat is the one to go under the hammer. Whatever the reason, you may be looking at sprucing up your boat pre-sale to either add value or improve saleability. 

The most important thing is going to be the same as with any house or flat and that is declutter. We all know boats aren’t the mot spacious places to live so best to maximise what space you have. If it’s full of your junk, then it’s never going to look appealing. So, get us much out as you can, get it organised, get it clean and clear and you’ll be halfway there. 

The cheapest fix and the easiest, for those with less advanced DIY capabilities, is a good coat of paint. While I wouldn’t suggest trying to cover a boats problems with a layer of emulsion (for a start it’s a boat, let’s push it out and go acrylic ay?) simply repainting the interior can go a long way to brighten and revitalise a space.  The veneer throughout look can seem very dated and the yellow varnish and stained walls will often look great with a decent bit of redecoration. If the veneer and trims still look good then a wood and paint mix, e.g. panels painted and trims left or an above below gunwale split, can give a much more modern look but retain an aquatic favour

If you’re going to do further improvements, then I would suggest leaving the painting till last. You don’t want to ruin your good work with a load of other work going on. For my money then paint/varnish is the final thing, the icing on the cake. 

Look at how you’re using your space. People love some clever storage. What about some chunky floating shelves or a new cupboard to use a dead space? When I first moved on to a boat I was amazed at how my van load of possessions quickly disappeared in to the nooks and crannies of a boat. Again, if you’ve got cupboards and shelves a plenty, why not repaint tired old doors, keep it simple, or, add some colour. White and white is the rule for houses but I think that a bit of character sells a boat.  People aren’t looking for that same beige life experience that they want with a half million one bed flat in Hackney (75% now sold, buy buy buy!!)

For those of a more daring disposition then the real gems of a boat are often the bathroom and kitchen. Done well they really make a boat, if they are damp, mouldy and smelly then there is nothing surer to send a canny purchaser running for the hills.  It is a bigger endeavour to redo a whole bathroom or kitchen but there are some easier fixes if you don’t want to rip everything out and start again.  Replacing the kitchen doors, worktop and sink and you have a new kitchen. New tiles and a new vanity unit in the bathroom and it can look like a whole new room.

I do feel that if you are getting somebody in to do the work then you are unlikely to add more value to the boat than you are spending, it is just the same in houses. Good quality work is not cheap and while it will increase the value of the boat you shouldn’t expect to make a great net gain.  That said, what you can get is greatly improved saleability.  With the market in boat sales having taken a slump over the last year (anecdotal only, don’t expect me to back this view with evidence) then having something to make your boat stand out can help get it off the shelf.  The world and her wife are all in the boating game these days and the number of boats for sale in London and round the country seems to be increasing near exponentially. 

When I bought my boat I fell in love with the head room, the feel, the value and the ‘well put togetherness’ of it.  I looked at hundreds of boats online and tens in person before finding the one for me.  I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it, let alone sell it (edit: since writing I’ve made good progress, possibly helped by sharing her with a partner these days.) Should I sell I know I’ll never recoup the value of all the hours I have put in. I shouldn’t say, but at the end of the day I think a lot of us would rather sell to somebody who we think is going to love our boat the way we did, over the person who is going to pay the most.  Still, we do what we can to try and get value for what we are offering and boating is becoming more and a more a commercialized area. 

Final thought, pick your battles and make it stand out. Do what you can yourself, that which you can’t get an expert to do it well. Quality shows and people love boats in a way that I feel houses rarely achieve. We all hear the horror stories of people buying lemons but most people selling boats are decent and most people buying them are looking to love and own that boat for many years to come. A well looked after boat with a few stand-out features is always going to have value.

Happy boating!