Modern Houseboat in Hampton Court
Just a few miles from the city, this renovated houseboat is a peaceful, floating haven, surrounded by nature.
The business plan...
A 1980’s-constructed houseboat on the River Thames in Surrey
Purchase Price – £409,000
Money spent – £120,000
What it’s worth now – £650,000
Growing up by the sea in Malaysia and Singapore, I spent much of my childhood in and out of water, so when I settled in London, a floating home was a natural choice for my life, but not for my business!. I had to be brave to take on a project like this as nothing was like building with bricks and mortar, even though I’ve lived on the Thames for quite a few years and now used to some of it’s issues. Funnily enough, friends used to think I’d eventually get it out of my system, but being near water is part of who I am.
So, I was already renting a large barge on the river Thames at Battersea when I spotted a houseboat for sale on a little island further west of London, near Hampton Court. There had only been one previous owner and next-to-nothing had been updated since it was built about thirty years ago.
It was in a gorgeous spot and had a tiny, old-fashioned kitchen and bathroom and two little bedrooms. It was the perfect project for me and made a huge change to my normal client projects.
I wanted to turn the houseboat into a contemporary, open-plan home with a comfortable bedroom and well-appointed bathrooms. My experience in showhome design gave me the know-how to make the most of a small but unique space. I started from scratch, removing the internal walls, floors and ceilings and worked out a fresh layout, with my CAD designer, Francine Beekhuis who I have worked with for 8 years now.
I looked at where the sun fell, the boat’s position in relation to neighbouring ones, and where the best views were, so I could make sure the living areas captured that view of the water and beautiful trees.
I also wanted easy access from the kitchen to the little garden on the bank.
I added a deck around the boat’s perimeter, to provide a walkway right around the outside and some extra internal space as well. Two runs of bi-fold doors now bring the light and natural surroundings into the living area.
There is now a fabulous kitchen in one corner, facing the bank and garden, and a small dining area with potential to be converted to a second bedroom. The rest of the room is devoted to relaxed seating and the stunning waterside vista.
It’s so tranquil and beautiful, with the willow trees and the swans and ducks drifting past.
The master bedroom, ensuite bathroom and an extra shower room are tucked away at the quieter, far end of the boat. I was unwilling to compromise on either space or style, so I fitted in a king-sized bed, with roomy wardrobes, but used sliding doors to maximize the limited space. I also managed to fit a large jacuzzi bath for the ensuite and a 1.7m walk-in shower in the shower room!. This did deviate from a good business plan and not something I would recommend, but I did become emotionally involved with this project – so easily done with something so unique.
Houseboats often just have a shower room, but I wanted a more luxurious feel here, and with the shower room and potential for a second bedroom, it’s flexible too.”
Having lived afloat for 6 years in London, I was up to speed on the particular pitfalls of refurbishing on water as opposed to a conventional building on dry land, and knew that plasterboard walls are out, as they crack with the changes in humidity, and spirit levels are useless as the boat’s never still. I had one extremely hefty builder here, who made everything rock slightly, whenever he moved around, during the build process. That was fun!
The weight of everything from building materials to furniture has to be noted, so I invested time in researching lightweight, affordable components that were ethically sourced wherever possible.
If the boat’s too heavy it won’t be able to rise if the water-levels change; It must be properly balanced too, so I had to weigh every item from the bi-fold doors and bathroom tiles to the kitchen units, to be certain that I didn’t overload one end.
I used specially formulated lightweight ply and recycled wood cladding for the interior and exterior walls, and eco-friendly insulation made from recycled plastic bottles. Although I had to insist on my favourite high quality porcelain tiles for the bathroom floors, but I used a limited number, and offset their weight with slender, light MDF wall-panelling.
The interior décor was carefully put together to fit in seamlessly with the restful natural environment. Inspired by the trees and the water, I homed in on an earthy palette with rustic textures, punctuated with dark greys and muted golds.
Looking through the glass doors, it all feels like one, so there’s the illusion of more space. Bringing the colours in from outside is easy on the eye, too.
The soft shades are mixed with natural wood elements that link the different areas, giving the open-plan interior a cohesive feel. My eclectic taste combines large statement pieces with family heirlooms, investment buys and souvenirs from travels all over the world,
I’m definitely not a minimalist, and I love to collect little things wherever I go, so almost everything has a memory or a story attached.
Life on the water has its quirks and challenges, but for me, it’s the perfect combination of peace and accessibility.
The houseboat is close to shops and restaurants, but on the boat, life is so close to nature, it feels very tranquil. It’s a special place that I know someone will love and cherish.
Selling the houseboat is sad, but I have to see it as a business and it will allow me to do more in the future with a life on water.