Let it be known, oh lawd, I DO love a dinette. Let me tell you about it. It starts like this.
One unexpected benefit of my failure to win the mooring spot (see this post here) was that I gave up the idea of using my boat as an AirBnB.
You see, the previously desired mooring spot would have been an excellent place to host guests. Central, close to amenities, and swarming with tourists and hireboats.
It took me a little while to stop gnashing and spitting about not winning the auction (twice). But finally I got over it. And when I stopped to think about it, even though the spot was great for tourists, maybe (I rationalised) it wasn’t the best place for me. Maybe (I thought) I should go further afield. Maybe I should continue along with my adventures, rather than shackling myself to a tourist spot just so as to get a few AirBnB rentals.
The dream of AirBnB was also getting in the way of me restyling my midships cabin as an office space. If I wanted to rent that cabin, it needed to be easily turned into a space to sleep. Getting a decent double dinette that I could use both for working space and that converted to a bed would be expensive. I’d been quoted anywhere between £1200 and – wait for it – £5500 plus VAT – that’s right, plus VAT – to get that bit of carpentry done.
But if I wasn’t going to rent that cabin, well; I could do what I liked with it.
If I wanted to rent that cabin, it needed to be easily turned into a space to sleep.
In my grandmother’s kitchen – which, when I was growing up, was also my kitchen – there was a corner seating suite. Its red leatherette seats were nestled around one of those round, white formica pedestal tables. You know, the ones which came back into fashion just a few years ago.
When I was a kid, I leaned too heavily one day on the edge of that table and the whole pedestal snapped. The formica top came clean off and hit me in the knees. It didn’t hurt all that much, but it was a bit of a surprise to see that great big table come in half.
Even so, my nan still kept that table. Forever after, if anyone bent down to look at the pedestal, they’d see a great big crack running around its middle, with dirty crusty smears of whatever glue and paint had been used to put it back together again.
It didn’t hurt all that much, but it was a bit of a surprise to see that great big table come in half.
The corner suite was pretty fancy when my nan first had it, even though it wasn’t new even then. Some of our posher relatives gave it to us when they bought a new kitchen. As well as the white pedestal table were the chairs, which were comfy and padded as well as being red leatherette. They wouldn’t look quite so good after thirty years of cats using them as scratching posts, I’ll admit. But what I wouldn’t give for a set of those red leatherette seats today.
Still. I’ve always retained a love of corner seating and dining booths. One summer I wrote a whole novel in the corner of my nan’s kitchen (unpublished – and I’m not bitter about it, much). What I loved about that was that I could sit really comfortably on the seats while I was working – I could put my feet up, curl my legs under me, do whatever I felt like.
Sitting in an office chair might be ergonomically sound, but in terms of mindset it always makes me feel like I’m on the late shift in an outbound call centre.
One summer I wrote a whole novel in the corner of my nan’s kitchen…
Anyway. To get on with my story. There I was, thinking about all the different things I could do with that midships cabin. I could put a desk in there, a comfortable chair, maybe some filing drawers, my printer – ALL the things. But every time I pictured the space like a little tiny office it made me feel, well, a bit sad.
Why? you may well ask.
Because I know from long experience that every time I fit out a room or a corner of a room as a dedicated workspace, I STILL always end up working on the kitchen table or on my knees on the sofa.
In the restricted space that is a narrowboat, I can’t afford to give up a whole cabin to a non-function. Furthermore, when I pictured the space in my head, I just couldn’t get past this idyllic vision of the whole cabin being turned into a cosy dinette with booth-seating AND where I could also sit and do my work AND also could turn into a bed for guests. Was it too much to ask? More to the point, was it too much to afford? Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t.
Was it too much to ask? More to the point, was it too much to afford?
At this point my gaze fell on the existing convertible wooden sofa-frame, wondering how-on-earth I was going to remove it from my boat. And then I thought: hang on.
Wait just a hot-glueing minute, I thought.
Now (I thought) what if I sawed the whole thing in half and used each of the two halves for my dinette? OK, well the sofa-bed is 6ft long so that means each of the halves would only be 3ft wide – a foot shorter than the full width of the cabin. And I’d always envisaged the dream dinette as filling that whole 4ft width. But, I thought, maybe a 3ft dinette would work. Plus, that would leave a little extra space in the cabin for whatever other random objects I might need space for.
Like, somewhere to kick off my shoes or – I don’t know – keep a stack of those clear plastic boxes filled with magazines or fabric scraps or whatever other objects that I always have moving about the place. (I know, that doesn’t sound like style-heaven but it’s a fact that I do like to keep things in clear plastic crates so I can easily see what’s in them. In case, you know, I NEED them.)
After all, if my sawing didn’t go well (bearing in mind I couldn’t even saw a hole for a cat flap without needing to get A MAN to do it for me = fail) I could always just throw the sofa out like I was going to do anyway.
So this is surely a win-win. Or at least, not a lose-lose.
I decided to look for a saw.