Interior Designer Faye and engineer Ben are building a houseboat. From scratch. Situated in the marina of Ancoats the couple's floating flat aims to be a refuge from busy urban life. With Neighbouring Faye and Ben talk about life on water, sustainable design, and what Japanese twins have to do with it.
It is a warm autumn day. Canal water reflects the sunlight. Some geese, ducks, and a swan float peacefully on the sparkling surface. On days like these, the Ancoats marina feels like an oasis in the middle of a hectic urban life. On this sunny afternoon, Faye Thorley and Ben Sharratt are walking with Pug Eric and Dobermann Fagus to their building site – a houseboat in the marina basin.
Faye, a 32-year-old Interior Designer, and Ben, a 28-year-old engineer, are building their floating flat from scratch – everything is according to the couples‘ innovative plans. The houseboat is going to consist of two floating squares – named after the oldest twins Kinsan and Ginsan who lived in Japan. Each square is as wide as a wide beam boat but the ceilings are almost three metres high. This gives the construction an abstract shape but it also serves a practical matter. „The goal was to maximise space“, explains Faye. She adds: „We wanted to create volume, you don’t want to feel cramped.“ Once the two squares are connected the houseboat will have an impressive floor space of 88 square metres.
„This project is the accumulation of my experience.“
At the moment Kinsan is still floating solely in the marina water while her twin Ginsan’s shell is being manufactured in a local fabrication workshop. The construction is made of wood and glass and – most importantly – watertight steel. Building a houseboat is a premiere for Ben: „All my life I’ve been making things. This Project is the accumulation of my experience“, he says.
While building a boat from scratch is a novelty for Ben and Faye living on a boat isn’t. For five years they are residents of the Ancoats Marina. „Living on water is our comfort zone. We like the connection to nature, you step out of society, it is a slower pace of life and it is therapeutic“, says Faye.
Like all new projects also Kinsan and Ginsan required some research. Just before they started building their own floating home the couple traveled to the south of England and to Amsterdam to see alternative ways of living on water. One of their findings was that the boat should fit in with the environment surrounding it. Ben describes: „The design should fit in with local architecture: the form, the stylish lines, and colours.“
„Living on water is our comfort zone.“
Worshipping both nature and Japanese culture Faye and Ben are passionate for sustainable design. The boat is encased with charcoal-coloured timber. Solar-panels will feed the energy needs, which are kept low thanks to wool insulated walls. Faye aims for an equally minimal interior design using raw textures and natural, locally-sourced materials.
Standing in the boat on a stair provisory leading to the future living area Faye points to the big window front on the other end of the room. „We build a conservatory with pivoting windows and bi-fold doors for maximal light and to encompass with biophillia“, she elaborates.
Faye and Ben funded Kinsan and Ginsan by refurbishing and selling an old narrow boat. Monthly fees for mooring, council tax, and a water license apply on top. Although the Ben is working seven days a week on the floating giants the Faye and him don’t see themselves spending the rests of their lives on them. The plan, Faye reveals, is to live on the boat for a while and then selling or renting it. „It is a prototype for many more“, she says, „we test the waters.“