Planning an interior – it’s a compromise
Sometimes when the Editor’s monthly reminder that my column is overdue drops into my email ‘in’ box, my mind goes blank and I stare vainly out the window in search of inspiration. When it doesn’t come, I resort to drink. Only joking.
What I usually do is anything that can stop me having to gaze forlornly at the empty white square on my screen: look at Facebook, make a coffee, eat biscuits, look at Facebook again, eat more biscuits and so on until the Editor phones to say that he’s at the printer’s and a grumpy bloke has his finger poised over the ‘go’ button.
At which point I start desperately waffling and hoping an idea will form. So what’s happened on nb Harry this month? Well we bought some chairs. Big deal you say. Actually it was a big deal for us. In fact, my very first column back in mid 2014 was about how uncomfortable our wicker armchairs were – they were hard, upright and, being wickerwork, liable to leave imprints in your fleshy areas. But they did fit the limited space we had.
As I said then: “perhaps one day we will happen upon the magical boat seat that is both small and soft and upright and relaxing but somehow I can’t imagine it.” Well, finally, after two and a half years of suffering and grumbling, I think we may have – we’ve bought two nice, snappy- looking and pleasantly comfy Ekenäset armchairs from IKEA. Not as luxurious as a captain’s chair or a La-Z-Boy recliner, true, but decent enough – and your rear doesn’t look like you’ve been smacked by a tennis racquet when you stand up.
Why did we have such horrible chairs? Because we wanted to eat at a table and there wasn’t room for a dinette. Why no dinette? Because we have a big galley. Why?… Before you ask, Mrs B (being CanalBoat’s resident cookery correspondent) wouldn’t have been happy with less. We could have squeezed a dinette in – except the engine got in the way. That’s what happens when you have a big Lister JP3 sitting in the middle of the boat.
There is this almost interminable chain of consequences and compromises when trying to scheme out the interior of a narrowboat. I’m reminded of it every time I read a question on one of the canal forums from a ‘newbie’ seeking advice on what to buy or how to plan out a boat – what’s the best place for the galley, cross-bed or in-line, what sort of heating to have, should they have chairs or a sofa and (inevitably) pump-out or cassette? And of course, they get deluged with opinions and counter opinions.
Here’s just one I saw: ‘Hi there... we are going to buy a boat as soon as we sell our house... we will have about £50,000 is there anything we need to look for and to look out for when buying?’.
They got about 50 replies, many extremely helpful but a lot of them contradictory. One of them was mine.
I said what I say to anyone who asks: try to buy something with a quality shell and fit- out – it will last better and have good resale value. Avoid ‘self fit- outs’ unless they look as professional as a ‘proper job’ and steer clear of oddball interior layouts. Believe me, it isn’t possible to defy the laws of space inside a narrowboat.
A lot of people plan for occasional eventualities – spare beds for visitors who rarely come, wardrobes for suits and gowns. Decide what’s really important to you and work round that – the interior space is always a compromise.
A front cratch and a rear canopy are good for wet or messy stuff – boots, bike, dog.
Think of your electrical needs – many people underestimate them. Do a ‘power audit’ to work out what you need and what you’ll want to supply it. Look at plenty of boats and stroll the towpath talking to people.
I probably should have added that, however hard you plan, you probably still won’t get it right until the third or fourth boat.
‘There is this almost interminable chain of consequences and compromises when trying to plan the interior of a narrowboat’
Goodbye to the ‘tennis racquet’ imprints...