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Learning from Floating Homes & Houseboats

Learning from Floating Homes & Houseboats
This floating home by BC & J packs myriad space and storage idea
Maximizing space is what houseboat and floating home design is all about. Such structures offer strategies for anyone who wants to be space efficient. Here are tips from architects who’ve designed these types of houses to help you create the land-based home you’ve always wanted.

Make way for multifunctions.
 When space is tight on the water, borrowing is the answer! Borrowing square footage, that is. Today, most floor plans include the living room, kitchen and dining room in one area, creating a larger-feeling space. These great rooms also tend to be 

more informal. Bainbridge Island architectural firm BC & J (some of its plans are part of our Signature Collection) has taken this idea to the next level in their design for a floating home in Portland shown at the top of this post and in the photos here. The front door opens right into the kitchen,
which includes a butler’s pantry, and the flow continues into the dining and living room. BC & J was able to make the 900-square-foot home feel larger by flaring the home’s roof tails out, providing a covered porch and covered areas on the sides. This also brings more light into various parts of the home and adds character to the exterior.

Don't neglect the niches! 
Often, the biggest challenge in a house is to not waste space

or storage opportunities. BC & J carved out seating (with lift-up storage under the pad) added a 

fireplace under the eaves, and built a bureau and desk into the walls. This is how you make small spaces live large!

Berkeley, California architect Robert Nebolon (d
esigner of our Signature Plan 438-1) got creative in the San Francisco floating home shown below. By setting up diagonal views through large

corner windows, he makes you see the longest dimension in the room first and draws your gaze to the light and view. Omitting interior walls also expands a small space, and high ceilings with high windows stretch a space vertically.

Blur indoor-outdoor boundaries. 
Dan Nelson, AIA, principal at Designs Northwest

in Stanwood, Washington, did this very effectively by using glass overhead doors  
for a wall of this floating home, opening it to the deck and creating an elegant indoor-outdoor room.

Common Sense Commands

size. Choose a size that’s sufficient, where you can entertain five or six people in an intimate setting, and let go of space you don’t need, recommend Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso, principals at BC & J. That includes rooms dedicated to just one function, such as a Costco room, and large or long hallways.

Go low-maintenance. Use exterior materials that hold up to the environment. When building in a wet environment like the Pacific Northwest, Nelson advocates using a rain screen system on the exterior. This involves wrapping the building envelope in a waterproof wrap, applying vertical spacers to the wrapped façade, and attaching the siding to the spacers. This allows water to weep down the exterior siding and air to circulate. And consider using less wood on the exterior.

Whatever your dream home looks like, the most sustainable thing you can do, say Brachvogel and Carosso, is to build small, build once, and build well. (All photos courtesy the architects.)

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