‘We made the move into an ad­ven­ture’

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

ready put in the 14 brass port­holes, which made it a more se­duc­tive sell, as we could see a pos­si­ble lay­out for the rooms,” says Langhorne.

They al­ready owned a moor­ing in Bat­tersea’s Lom­bard Wharf, in a com­mu­nity of 11 boats next to a he­li­pad, with a 120-year lease – an un­usu­ally gen­er­ous length of time for a long boat like Bosco. “We had a boat and we had to do some­thing with it. Ini­tially we thought about de­vel­op­ing it as a project to sell. But with the lo­ca­tion of the moor­ing and the age of the chil­dren, we de­cided to make the move into a fam­ily ad­ven­ture,” says Bun­ten.

And so the nine-month ren­o­va­tion be­gan, worked on by a team of con­trac­tors from Low­est­oft in Suf­folk, with the boat moored on the river in Isle­worth – a cheaper, quicker al­ter­na­tive to put­ting it in a yard. “She ar­rived in 26 sec­tions and they welded it all to­gether,” ex­plains Langhorne.

The sheer size of the boat is what ini­tially strikes you – at more than 2,153 sq ft, it is big­ger than many town­houses with its long, lat­eral space. The top deck houses the large, open­plan kitchen. “We did the clas­sic thing of cus­tomis­ing Ikea car­casses with posh work­tops,” says Langhorne, point­ing to the Car­rara mar­ble coun­ters. It could be a fam­ily kitchen in any smartly ren­o­vated house, ex­cept for the won­der­ful play of sun­light on wa­ter, which fil­ters through the room.

Just be­yond the break­fast ta­ble, set high up for bet­ter sight­lines, is the wheel, for times when they take Bosco for a day trip. “She still works, so we can move her when we want – and we should,” says Langhorne. “Now that she houses lots of ex­pen­sive glass, I’d take a cou­ple of oth­ers with me so that we don’t ding her. She has a 4.5m [14½ft] air draft [the dis­tance from the wa­ter’s sur­face to the high­est point of the boat], so it can be tricky get­ting un­der Lon­don bridges at high tide.”

Also on the top deck is the “win­ter gar­den” – a glass cube that pro­vides a semi-out­door space that can be used in all sea­sons, which makes for the per­fect place to watch sun­set over Bat­tersea Bridge. The floors are made from sanded-down scaf­fold boards, and the win­dows open to pro­vide a cool sanc­tu­ary on hot sum­mer evenings. “We’re well-pre­pared for win­ter, with a wood­burn­ing stove and cast iron ra­di­a­tors, and the whole boat has fridge-like in­su­la­tion so there is no cold or mois­ture build-up,” says Langhorne.

Two stair­cases lead down­stairs where the space is di­vided into three sec­tions. At one end is the “grown-up area” with the mas­ter bed­room and en suite bath­room, com­plete with free­stand­ing tub and be­spoke Moroccan floor tiles. At the other end is the kids’ zone, with Honor and Fred’s cosy cab­ins and a chill-out room with a hang­ing chair. And then there’s the “meet in the mid­dle space”: a large liv­ing room where the fam­ily con­vene to watch TV.

There are some un­ex­pected ex­tras, too, in­clud­ing a fully kitted-out util­ity room, com­plete with mar­ble work­tops, and – a hid­den gem be­yond the guest bed­room – a red-walled cinema room tucked away in the bow of the boat.

The whole ren­o­va­tion project cost about £200,000, “though be­cause of our jobs, we saved a lot on build­ing costs, by get­ting things trade or for free, such as par­quet floor­ing that had been thrown out from an­other project,” says Langhorne.

As ar­chi­tects whose day jobs are of­ten spent dealing with the red tape of plan­ning pol­icy, the added joy for them was “the lovely law­less­ness of the wa­ter”, as Bun­ten puts it. “There’s no plan­ning per­mis­sion, no coun­cil to tell you what you can build. In terms of cre­at­ing a habi­tat in a city, there’s noth­ing like it.”

There’s also no short­age of nov­elty that comes from liv­ing on the wa­ter. When the chil­dren’s friends come over, they of­ten get the pad­dle­board out, and Langhorne re­cently picked up Fred from a party by dinghy. You some­times see seals in the river, too.

The com­pro­mises of leav­ing land­based Lon­don life, it seems, are few. After think­ing for a while, Bun­ten says: “We get the odd power cut. And I miss the vil­lagey feel of Ful­ham, though it’s only a 12-minute bike ride away.”

They re­cently in­vited all their friends on board for a party and a first view of their float­ing home. “They in­stantly got it. Some likened it to Dick­en­sian Lon­don, be­ing on the wa­ter like this,” says Langhorne. Ex­cept that this is very much the designer, 21st-cen­tury way of do­ing it.

Honor in the kids’ chill-out area, left; Bosco is moored in Bat­tersea’s Lom­bard Wharf, above

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