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One Couple’s 7 Years Living on a Narrowboat in Derbyshire, England!

Olivia and her husband, Rob, have been living in a narrowboat in England for 7 years now! That’s an impressive amount of time for anyone to live in one place — let alone a tiny spot.

Originally the boat was only meant to offer them shelter temporarily while they saved up for a “normal” house, but once they got into tiny living, they never looked back. Not only can they move their home whenever they’d like, the simplicity of a minimalist life really suits them.

One great thing about their home: No loft! Olivia (@oliviakatewainwright) says the only real pain is emptying their toilet. Read our Q&A with Olivia after the photo tour of her floating home!

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Narrowboat Living for 7 years (with their dog)…

They chose to “park” at the local marina.

Here’s their living room! They repainted the interior of the boat.

It’s those fun decor items that make a house a home.

There’s nothing quite like a cozy fire on cool days.

Here’s the view to the kitchen and bedroom.

Although compact, they have both an oven/stove and fridge in here.

Looking down the hall is their bathroom and bedroom.

No loft-climbing for this couple!

Love the change-up of decor here. That accent wall is great.

The bathroom is small, but functional!

You can even sunbathe on the roof!

Another view of their neighborhood.

Now read our interview with Olivia!

Interview with Olivia on Narrowboat Life

What are your name(s)?

Olivia & Rob

How many people (and animals) are living in your narrowboat?

Two of us, and our Golden Retriever called Sid!

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

Derbyshire – we’ve lived on our boat for the last 7 years.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

I work in marketing and my husband works in motorsport.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

To be honest, we were looking for a house for a long time and then decided boat life looked much simpler. It was only ever supposed to be a temporary thing whilst we gathered more savings for a house, but we’ve never looked back. We get to wake up around beautiful scenery and move whenever we choose.

How did you first learn about narrowboat life?

We visited a local marina for a cup of coffee and got chatting how idyllic it looked. Within a couple of weeks, we’d bought the boat. There really wasn’t much thought into it at all, it was completely spontaneous.

How did you acquire your narrowboat? Have you done any renovations?

It was up for sale with a local broker. When we bought it, it was all completely bare wood so it was very brown and dark inside. We painted everything lighter which definitely opened up the space a lot. We thankfully didn’t have to renovate anything too expensive – it was all cosmetic.

What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

We were in rented accommodation before, we’ve never had a mortgage to pay and so we don’t have much to compare it to. Naturally, gas / electric / water are much cheaper but we do have mooring fees to pay that amount similar to what we paid in rent in our city centre house share.

How did you find a place to “park” your boat? Or do you travel?

We wanted to stay relatively local to our families here in Derbyshire. We opted for a marina as opposed to canalside mainly because we wanted to have neighbours and get that feeling of community spirit.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

The same as it is now if I’m completely honest. People are under the impression that ‘tiny living’ is different and therefore unachievable. We have exactly the same things we did in a house, but ours floats! Emptying the toilet can be a bit of a pain though…

What makes your tiny home special?

It floats! It’s nice to be able to get up and go somewhere if we fancy a change of scenery. Plus I love the community spirit on the marina.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

Don’t overthink it. Sure you might need to minimise your belongings, but there’s nothing we had in a house that we don’t have now. People think too much about it being a ‘tiny’ space, but you can really make it whatever you put your mind to. It’s amazing how many materialistic things we can accumulate over a certain period of time – most of those things aren’t necessities anyway.

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Our big thanks to Olivia for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Alison
    October 10, 2020, 2:05 pm

    How long is it? Looks like fun.

  • Susan
    October 10, 2020, 6:25 pm

    I have such respect and awe of people who can make this work. Seven years is a long time. A lovely home. Emptying the toilet would be the only thing that I would hate, as well….

    • Natalie C. McKee
      October 14, 2020, 1:52 pm

      Seven years is quite impressive for sure!

  • jerry dycus
    October 10, 2020, 8:08 pm

    I’ve always loved narrowboats as a great way to live and travel. They are old canal freight boats that families lived on and moved cargo with for a living.
    So without cargo more space can open up for a nice liveaboard.
    I can do without a marina and it’s costs but others like it.
    I’ve even thought about building a 40′ canoe like it solar powered in epoxy/ply and it’s similar to the catamaran hulls I use to build, live in inside though mine was a duplex 20′ wide with a deck and forward trampoline between them.
    Sometimes I rented the other side out or used it as guest quarters. Living on the water is a great life I did 30 yrs.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      October 14, 2020, 1:52 pm

      That’s so cool, Jerry!

  • Richard Lynn Herrington
    December 30, 2020, 2:22 pm

    I too am wondering how long this narrowboat is. It looks very comfortable.

  • Laura Walsh
    December 30, 2020, 2:48 pm

    I love your boat!!! It is so inviting and cozy for living. I have always had an affinity for being near water, so would love to have a narrow houseboat to call my own. I am wondering: did you have to do any sort of safety boating course and pass it, prior to owning your boat? It is mandatory here in Canada before one can purchase a boat.

  • Brenda Foster
    December 31, 2020, 10:25 am

    I love everything about your lifestyle, and especially your creative spontaneity. You did a fantastic job of decorating the interior. Everything is so complimentary to the other, with a warm, inviting feel in every corner. It is understandable how you are able to live there for seven years.

    People make too much of a “tiny house,” being a problem. If anyone saw the space in a New York City apartment, now that is a small space, and for thousands of dollars a month. Think about it. My apartment was so small that they took the door off a closet, put in a 12″ sink and a hotplate on a shelf above it, and called it a kitchenette. (Totally illegal.) I had to walk sideways down the hall because I was wider than the hallway. No joke. When I see what people like you and your mate can do with boats, vans, RV’s, I am always amazed how identical shapes and square feet can be so different and utilitarian. You did a great job.

    And no, I don’t walk sideways any longer, I am 110 lbs lighter. Now that is living tiny.

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