Show boating

It’s all shipshape below decks as a canal barge gets a makeover

Readers of a certain age might remember the TV show Challenge Anneka. When Scottish Canals wanted someone to revamp a jaded holiday boat to promote the idea of living or holidaying on water, they came up with a new version: Challenge Emma.
Interior designer Emma Clanfield’s project, which she chose to accept, was a 58ft narrowboat with a back cabin, bathroom, midships cabin, galley and saloon. She shudders at the memory of her first encounter with it. “It was very dark inside, with dated décor: all the furniture was the wrong size, there were dark red carpets on all the floors and up to the gunwale (dado), shiny yellowed paintwork above the carpets, dark curtains and wood laminate everywhere. Oh, and strip lighting.” The dark green and burgundy exterior was not much better.
Her brief was to make the barge appear light, airy and spacious – a desirable place to live, in other words. It also had to be practical, as it would become a holiday let once its services as Scottish Canals’ show boat were no longer required.
Her challenges were technical as well as aesthetic. It was the first boat she had ever designed, so she came at it from what she diplomatically calls “a completely different angle” from that of the salty old seadogs.
The interior designer recalls the issues as: “Working in such a small space. Making the interior light but practical. Working with the original layout of the narrowboat, with the water supply in a large tank under the midships cabin bed. Trying to persuade the boat builders that my design would work even though it was totally different to what they were used to.”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 419-424, issue 100.

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Photography Peter Sandground
Words Stephanie Murphy