Location:  South Lake Union - Seattle, Washington
Type:  Residential

Originally built in 1992, Houseboat 9 was for sale and in need of updating. Acquired by new owners who had been living on the same dock but closer to shore, the property’s end-of-pier location offered unobstructed views of Lake Union.

What started as a minor upgrade evolved into a complete, stem-to-stern remodel once rot and mold were discovered. Built atop a concrete hull, the structure was taken back to its studs, and spaces were reorganized for better efficiency and to create a more open floor plan, in addition to adding personalized elements that reflect the creativity and imagination of its owners. The resulting house—technically not a houseboat as it is connected to city utilities—is essentially 2/3 above water line and 1/3 below. Upstairs was transformed into one large open space that merges living, dining, and kitchen areas. Taking advantage of the southern exposure, the entire south wall of the second floor accordions open onto a shallow deck featuring a diving board and stairs to the roof-top deck. The combined indoor-outdoor space becomes a focal point for the family and for entertaining. Downstairs are two bedrooms and two full baths, a walk-in closet, and study area. A fire pole connects the kitchen to the entry area, providing a secondary—and immediate—connection to the entry. A basement for storage, laundry and mechanical spaces occupies the concrete hull’s below-water line cavity. 

Art is integrated into the house at every turn. The owners are avid travelers and collectors and the house is filled with treasures sourced from their travels; among them a hand-carved door from Morocco, and a carved Tibetan panel repurposed as a bedroom door. Every inch of space is maximized; built-in cabinets are inserted wherever possible to minimize clutter and maximize living area. Furnishings are eclectic and consist largely of pieces found by the owners. In the master bathroom, a small-sized horse trough is used in place of a standard bathtub, which would have taken up much more space.

A lively mix of durable, exterior materials helps to break up the massing of the otherwise boxy structure, and includes a combination of flat-lock zinc panels, horizontal cedar siding, reused barn wood, aluminum clad wood windows, and red-painted metal panels. The south facade features a portrayal of Tibetan Buddha Eyes which was painted by the owner and mounted to the exterior.

Photography:  Benjamin Benschneider