‘We made the move into an adventure’
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