Sofa, so good

May 25th, 2009

A sofa has been on the to-do list since I first arrived in Cambridge. I’ve considered various options, but none of them were quite satisfactory. Most sofas are too big to get into a narrowboat, and those that come in sections were still sufficiently large that I was concerned that they would dominate the cabin. Also, I like to be able to clear the floor so that I can get six people round the dining table, or when I have a lot of people staying onboard and sleeping on the floor.

So, this weekend a plan finally came together involving a lot inexpert carpentry and an evolving design.

What I’ve made are two plywood boxes, made from 12mm ply panels held together with loose pin hinges (from Screwfix, purveyors and mongers of DIY equipment to the discerning gentleman). There’s a batten fixed around the top edge of each panel, which helps to keep the box square and supports a plywood lid, which is held in place by small blocks that rest against the batten. Anyway, the result is a stout box that can easily be flat-packed and leaned against the wall by the bed when I want it out of the way. The boxes were deliberately made to be the same size (more or less) as the big red cushions that used to be on top of the lockers in what’s now the office.

The magic of these boxes is that they combine in clever ways to make different furniture:
sofas, crossfacing

Configuration 1 is to have them crossfacing on opposite sides of the cabin. This leaves a clear walkway down the middle and also allows me to have the dining table set up for 2-3 people without moving the sofas.

corner sofa

Configuration 2 is a corner sofa. I’ve always liked these, and this creates a slightly more convivial arrangment especially if the fire’s lit.

Configuration 3 is to put them end to end to create a long bench seat or a narrow single bed.

Configuration 4 (not quite implemented yet, I need another piece of plywood) is to place them opposite one another, and insert an extra plywood panel between them. There’s a spare cushion stored under one of the boxes, and so this configuration would make a 6′ x 4′ narrow double bed for guests.

The other magic thing about these boxes (unlike normal furniture) is that you can store lots of stuff under them… what you lose on comfort you make up for in practicality!

Storage under the sofa

I’ve added a few more things to the garden, too – a herb garden in an old mop bucket and some tomatoes and climbing French beans on the foredeck.

herb garden bucket

3 Responses to “Sofa, so good”

  1. John and Jackie Says:

    And Jolly comfy it is too!

    Well done!

  2. Bill PJ Says:

    Brilliant! Now, how about some traditional canal artwork on the mop bucket? Maybe you could evolve the trad castles and roses into, say, mobile phones and pies …?

  3. neil Says:

    Fantastic to read your entries on amateur radio+narrow boat living.
    I am a radio amateur (M0GIR) considering living on board a narrow boat in the near future and your notes are of great interest. Thank you.

    Very Best Regards,


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