Narrowboat interior trends are no different from any other design hot lists. Our shopping choices are heavily influenced by what’s in fashion on the catwalk as well as in interiors. Fashions may come and go, but as a boat interior designer, I also have to take the marine environment into account. Extremes of temperature and weather play havoc with timber and textiles. Add to that the unusual room dimensions on a boat, and you’ll see that my prediction for narrowboat interior trends 2024 is not your usual kind of homeware edit. We have no affiliations with any of the brands discussed.
Antique and vintage accessories
Antiques are really popular in interior design right now. A mix of the old and new can be just the ticket for creating the cosy factor. However, it can be really challenging to incorporate antique furniture into a canal boat design. Every piece must earn it’s place in a small space, and antique furniture makers were almost certainly thinking of houses, not boats, at the design stage. If you don’t have the room for full sized furniture, consider shopping for antique and vintage jugs and jars instead. Small footstools, wine tables and vintage mirrors can also help to inject a dose of personality into your scheme.
We are seeing a distinct move away from bulky sofa beds which dominate a narrowboat saloon. Our boat build clients are looking for a more elegant solution, which can be found in many ranges of smaller sofas with slim arms – or no arms at all. Proper legs give an impression of more space in a room (more on that in this article.) The clic-clac style is a good budget option. I’ve seen some wonderful bespoke alternatives recently at Neptune, Pinch and Oka. Cox & Cox do a great take on a mid-century sofa (see below), with leather seating and wooden arms.
Painted interior cabin sides
The trend for lighter interior colours is still with us, but we are seeing a move away from pure white. My top tip for updating your narrowboat interior in 2024 is to introduce warmer tones. Keep it neutral and pale, but opt for buttery creams and sandy caramels. The days of battleship greys are behind us for now, so if you need a pale paint, look for something with an undertone of red or yellow. Wimborne White is a big favourite of ours from Farrow and Ball. Choose an exterior grade eggshell finish to withstand the temperature and humidity fluctuations on a narrowboat.
There is a fine line between cosy and claustrophobic. But it can also be a bit of a tightrope walk to stay on the right side of the minimalist/sterile divide. The most elegant of narrowboat interiors in 2024 are using contrasting materials to stay on trend.
If you are all about the pale interiors and vinyl floors, use oil-rubbed oak for your kitchen worktop. It will help to balance the cool with the warm. But if you are embracing wood on your floors and kitchen cupboard doors, I would recommend using a quartz or granite worktop.
Similar techniques work in the bathroom – wood (or wood effect) flooring with porcelain tiles in the shower. Rustic slate alongside reclaimed wood. Keep the contrasts coming as you walk down the boat for best effect.
A note about the use of timber from personal experience – it will move, shrink, warp and expand with the changing seasons. Marine plywood does less of this, as does hardwood (oak, poplar etc) and reclaimed old softwood (victorian pine floorboards, ceiling beams etc). Brand new scaffolding boards are the worst of all – include them at your peril!
Eclecticism and vibrancy
Narrowboaters have always reigned supreme at this, and the rest of the interiors world is catching up. If your style embraces the quirky and colourful, you are bang on trend. You don’t have to go full-on boho to embrace this particular fashion. Patterned cushions and bright wall art will keep things modern. Consider using the technique in one or two areas, rather than throughout the boat, which can appear a bit “themed.”
We love to see all your glorious photos of your narrowboat interiors on social media. By all means tag us in to share your creations with us.
Our aim at Boutique Narrowboats is to create beautiful interiors that work for narrow spaces and are practical for the extreme environmental conditions of narrowboats. We now have many tricks and techniques to create visually-appealing rooms and are often asked for our design expertise either informally or on a consultancy basis. We happily share our experience in this journal for narrowboat interiors.