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How to make a houseboat a home

How To Make A Houseboat A Home

This guest blog post by the wonderful Christina Miles of @thisonefloats explores the wonders of houseboat living. Read on to find out how Christina and her family turned the idea of owning a houseboat into a reality!

I should start by introducing myself… I’m Christina, 35-years old, working in Operations for a Branding agency and living in West London with my partner Rohan, our dog Aluki, and our 3-year old daughter Elara.

We live aboard a boat (a big one!) that we converted ourselves from an industrial cargo ship into a modern 3-bed floating London home. The process took about 15 months from picking it up in Belgium, sailing it back to the UK and converting it into a modern home.

How to make a houseboat a home - The kitchen in the home of Christina Miles

Christina (@thisonefloats) has created a stunning kitchen / social space in her converted cargo ship

When you look at the ‘before’ shots you can understand why a lot of our friends and family were stunned. This would be our first home and we chose to gamble our savings on something so uncomfortable and unattractive. But we knew that it could ultimately become a lot bigger, better, and more unique than anything we could afford close to the city.

From the offset, we wanted to design the boat to the same spec as a modern, more conventional home. From a construction sense, this meant underfloor heating, the best in insulation, high spec plumbing and ‘smart home’ electrics. Coming from a design sense, we found workarounds to install huge windows, walls that would look mimic plasterboard, and details such as skirting boards to mimic a traditional home.

Barges are tricky things as the steel walls expand and contract so much that you must allow for movement in every detail of the build.


How To Make A Houseboat A Home: Initial Inspirations

Before images of cargo ship

Before images of the barge showing the space Christina had to work with

I must add that this was never my dream; it has always been Rohan’s ambition to live on the water and I signed up to this (ONLY!) on the agreement that it would not look like a traditional boat. For that reason, I dug my heels in on every design aspect. To his credit, he would scuttle away and find a technical solution to each of my ideas. Rohan’s background in property development and boats (generally) meant that he had a good grasp of the nuances.

Designing my own home was a dream come true for me. I scoured Pinterest for inspiration and would analyse every pin for how I might incorporate different elements into my own home. I started with colour schemes; the huge benefit of renovating your home in one go meant that each room could be considered alongside the next.

I love to decorate with colour because I find it warm and uplifting, I then use textures and patterns to accessorise.


How To Make A Houseboat A Home: Design Decisions

Images of Christina's Bathroom & Bedroom

Christina (@thisonefloats) uses bright colours throughout, accessorising with texture & pattern in soft furnishings

Unique to our home are the large windows and direct river views so we maximised that with window seating where we could. We used velvet seats with an abundance of cushions to make them inviting. Always trying to direct the focus of the room to the water.

Throughout our home you’ll find most rooms are painted either blue, green or pink – with the exception of the orange monkey wallpaper in the powder room. It was a small room so I felt it needed a BIG statement! I find it refreshing to move my furniture or accessories around. It’s hugely beneficial if you have aesthetic continuity throughout your home.

How to make a houseboat a home - Dining area & Powder room of Christina Miles

Christina's gorgeous dining area with window seating / We love the Monkey print wallpaper in her powder room

As well as moving furniture, I like to refresh spaces by moving art around my own home. I find empty wall space makes me itchy so I’ve inevitably collected a lot of prints along the way. You’ll keep art that you love forever so it’s such a great investment.

Despite having underfloor heating I insist on using rugs. I love how the colour and texture break up the space and gives personality to the floor. Along with rugs I also have an abundance of floor cushions and regular cushions... just in case I have a party and suddenly everyone wants to sit down. At the same time.


How To Make A Houseboat A Home: Creating A Vibe

Living area on the barge

Christina (@thisonefloats) uses rugs and cushions for texture & personality in her living area / The giant skylight floods the room with natural light

Of course, the other crucial element in cosiness is the ‘vibe’. For me the vibe is generated through good music (we built speakers into every room, including the loo) and low lighting. We used lamps at different levels on dimmers to create a cosy romantic vibe each evening.

Finally, in my eyes the most important accessory of all is plants. They bring so much life to the space and for me they truly frame every angle of the room. Where we have low natural light I have found some hardy plants (eg the Snake plant and ZZ plant). Where we have zero natural light I have cheated with fakes. Under our skylight I went all out and brought in a palm tree. …I love plants, what can I say! It brings such a big magical statement to the centre of the space and makes us smile every single morning.

Deck of Christina Miles boat

The super cosy seating area on the deck of Christina's barge


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