Small House Living: Island Packet 350 Interior

Below and behind the cushions of this settee is tons of storage space. The settee itself can be reconfigured to make a comfortable twin-sized bed. Aft of the settee (to the right) is a U-shaped galley complete with double basin sink, two burner stove, a deep cooler, and more storage space.

An element of campers and boats that fascinates us is how they are put together inside. The miniature stoves and heaters, ingeniously built-in storage spaces, cabinet doors that cleverly fold out into full-sized tables, and settees that work like jigsaw puzzles to convert into beds are perfect marriages of ingenuity meeting practicality. More than that, in many instances boat and camper interiors are beautiful, replete with richly textured wood, stainless steel and brass, and finely crafted finishing touches.

Below, the salon looking forward, on the left with the table up, on the right with the table down. The table has a folding leaf which, when opened, allows the port (left) settee to be used as dining seating as well. (Click on photos for larger view.)

Before we got into boats and campers, we had been researching small-house design. In fact, our craftsman-style bungalow in California, built in 1908, in many ways seems to have anticipated the small-house movement. With just 1,200 square feet of living space and features such as a space-saving Jack-and-Jill bathroom and built-in custom-crafted cabinetry, the E Street house is right in step with the small-house philosophy.

Bandon’s head has a porthole and skylight for plenty of natural lighting, and there’s ample elbow room. Forward (to the left) is a shower head. Separate doors alow for access from both the forward stateroom and the main salon.

One benefit of living in a relatively small space is that they don’t require much energy to heat up, cool off, or light. For example, a rooftop solar panel provides almost all the electrical energy we need in our camper, and we anticipate that once we install solar panels onboard Bandon and change the incandescent lighting over to LED, we’ll be able to live off the grid in our boat.

Above: The forward cabin features a comfortable full-size bed, a hanging locker, three cupboards, and additional storage in holds beneath the bed. Below: The aft cabin features another double bed and similar storage.

Another happy consequence of downsizing is that it has prompted us to examine how much stuff we acquire, hold onto and end up having to store or dust. We’ve discovered that as we pare away material possessions, the things we do have tend to better fit our lives in terms of form and function; with limited amounts of shelves, closets, cupboards and drawers, we do our best to only bring things into our lives that are particularly useful, durable, interesting or beautiful, whether the item is a piece of art, a set of dishes, or a cheese grater.

Above: Bandon’s galley is a U-shape favored by many sailors, providing a tight configuration where the cook can wedge in a keep the crew fed in rolling seas. A 100-gallon water tank provides water by both an electric pump and a hand pump. The two-burner stove runs on propane. Aft (to the right) is a deep ice chest accessed through the countertop. Below right: Dinner plates and bowls stay secure in purpose-build slotted cupboards.

How much space is enough is, of course, a personal matter. Onboard Bandon, we don’t have large clothing wardrobes or a rack full of pots and pans, and when we finish reading a book, it’ll go to friends or be sold back to the bookstore. Bandon has no TV, we removed the microwave oven, and we do our laundry at the local laundromat. When we want to watch a TV show or movie, we download it onto our computer or pop in a disc; microwave ovens haven’t been part of our kitchen for many years now; and our local laundromat is a cheerful place in town where we can browse shops or catch up on reading while taking care of laundry.

We’ve been pleased to note how little fuel, electricity and water we’re consuming. Early experiments with our new pressure cooker indicate that we will be able to cut water and fuel use even further.