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Inside this gorgeous Kildare houseboat, home to a creative couple

Inside this gorgeous Kildare houseboat, home to a creative couple


by Nikki Walsh
01st Apr 2024

Taking an alternative route to the cycle of renting and home ownership, this artisan couple have created a home – and business – on a narrowboat moored at Sallins.

When ceramicist Lucy Sheridan and her husband Richard Kelly, founder of Lonesome Boatman grooming products, decided to make a home together, they knew what they wanted. “After 10 years renting in Dublin, we didn’t want a mortgage,” says Richard. “We wanted somewhere to live that was exciting.”

Having spent many holidays on boats, they found themselves asking, could we live on one? Months of research followed. “There isn’t much information about how to do it,” says Richard, “so we approached other boaters through friends and the IWAI [Inland Waterways Association of Ireland] volunteer group.”

Finding the right boat wasn’t easy. “We had been looking for some time and had spreadsheets on all the boats we were interested in when one came up on DoneDeal that was everything we had been looking for. We went to Enniskillen to view it and when we saw it our reaction was visceral,” Lucy laughs. “We stood there and said, ‘That’s our boat’.” Getting it off the owners was another thing. “They weren’t quite ready to let go… We had to be patient.”

So what is life on the water really like? “Getting about is easy,” says Richard. “It’s really intuitive.” The locks can be a challenge. “You have to pay attention in a lock, you can’t be complacent.”

Mooring is tricky in bad weather. “If it’s windy you can’t really do it on your own,” says Lucy. They moor at Sallins, Co Kildare, where there is a real sense of community. “We’ve been amazed by how supportive the others are,” Lucy tells me. “Everyone is so nurturing.”

Living on a narrowboat does wonders for your general physicality, not to mention your core, and gives you a greater appreciation of nature.

“It’s everywhere,” says Lucy. “The otters, the kingfishers, the fish… I’ve been woken up by a duck fight. The bird song is incredible.”

The boat is powered by two solar panels, so brighter days bring a surge in power. “You’re really working with the weather,” says Richard. “I really notice the moon now, its cycles and the light. I’ve become aware of the time of day without ever having to look at a watch.” Both of them feel calmer.

“I love watching the reflections of the water on the ceiling of the living room,” says Lucy. “When my nieces and nephews visit, someone always falls asleep on the sofa.” The pandemic was easy. “The first lockdown was brilliant. We had total freedom,” says Richard. “You could sit on your boat and chat to other people on their boats and remain socially distanced.”

Inside, the effect is almost Tardis-like, with the living room giving way to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and engine room. “Everything has a dual function,” laughs Lucy, who tells me that the sofa is also a storage unit and sofa bed, and the drinks cupboard is behind a wall.

“There is no such thing as dead space.” But it didn’t always look like this. “We wanted a traditional boat, with a traditional fit-out, but when we got it, we lived in it for a while and realised it just wasn’t very comfortable,” says Richard. “There was nowhere really relaxing to sit. After a few weeks, we knew we were going to have to rip it out.”

Richard did most of the work himself, building shelves and painting the walls in tones of off-white and blue-grey. The sofa, L-shaped and sourced in the UK, proved key, and the result is a surprisingly comfortable and cosy space, with a stove, bookshelves, colourful rugs and hanging plants. Is there anything they miss? “A hairdryer,” says Lucy. “It uses too much power!”

Now Richard runs his business, the Lonesome Boatman, from the boat. A former make-up artist, he makes all his grooming products by hand, using plant-based ingredients and renewable energy. That’s when he isn’t playing his battery-operated guitar.

He’s also a member of Sounds of System Breakdown, and Lucy takes the train into Dublin to her studio, where she works as a ceramicist.

It’s a busy, productive life, broken by trips along the inland waterways. “I love going through the bog,” she says. “Offaly, Edenderry and Allenwood are just amazing.” Neither of them has plans to return to solid ground any time soon.

Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy

This feature was originally published in the spring/summer 2022 issue of IMAGE Interiors.

IMAGE Interiors (Spring-Sumer 2022)

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