An Architect Creates a Two-Level Houseboat For His Family on a Tight Budget

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By Lucy Wang
An Amsterdam architect looks to Japanese culture when designing a floating home for his family.

When architect Julius Taminiau decided to move his family of four from a small flat in central Amsterdam into a two-story houseboat of his own making, he knew he would have to get creative on a relatively tight budget. 

Following the mindset of "less is more," Julius drew inspiration from Japanese culture and architecture to build a minimalist floating house with well-proportioned rooms and a spacious feel. 

Built-in storage and space-saving furnishings—such as seating that stores flush beneath a table—reduce visual clutter without compromising functionality.

Built-in storage and space-saving furnishings—such as seating that stores flush beneath a table—reduce visual clutter without compromising functionality.

Named the Tatami House, the interior of the houseboat resembles the size and layout of traditional Japanese tatami rooms. "We used the tatami as a grid for the house," explains Julius, referring to how tatami—a rectangular straw mat typically measuring 35 by 70 inches—dictates the size and proportion of traditional Japanese spaces. 

A flexible, double-height space located on one end of the home is used as an office during the week. However, it can also be converted into a guest-room on weekends. 

A flexible, double-height space located on one end of the home is used as an office during the week. However, it can also be converted into a guest-room on weekends. 

The tatami mat’s two-to-one ratio is similar to the proportion of a standard plywood panel, which was another material abundantly used throughout the home. By tying together multiple elements of the home to the same proportions, Julius was able to reduce material waste and costs. 

The tatami-inspired grid layout also influenced the exterior cladding with its dark offset panels that subtly reference the color of the water below the home.

The tatami-inspired grid layout also influenced the exterior cladding with its dark offset panels that subtly reference the color of the water below the home.

The expansive windows allow natural light to be infused into the house, while also creating a strong indoor/outdoor connection.

The expansive windows allow natural light to be infused into the house, while also creating a strong indoor/outdoor connection.

To create a sense of spaciousness in the compact 1,700-square-foot home, Julius designed the interior with a light color palette. Thanks to the large windows, an abundance of natural light is able to flood the home, making for a bright and airy atmosphere.

The houseboat was fabricated in Hardenburg and then transported west to Amsterdam.

The houseboat was fabricated in Hardenburg and then transported west to Amsterdam.

Since part of the houseboat sits below water, Julius placed the three bedrooms—a master bedroom and two secondary bedrooms for the children—on the lower level, while stacking the main light-filled living areas up above. 

An open staircase seamlessly separates the living area from the dining room and kitchen. The stairs lead to the deck allows, which is decorated with plants and partly covered by solar panels that power the home.

An open staircase seamlessly separates the living area from the dining room and kitchen. The stairs lead to the deck allows, which is decorated with plants and partly covered by solar panels that power the home.

Tatami House lower-level floor plan.

Tatami House lower-level floor plan.

Tatami House upper-level floor plan.

Tatami House upper-level floor plan.

Tatami House deck on the roof.

Tatami House deck on the roof.

Tatami House section drawing.

Tatami House section drawing.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Julius Taminiau Architects

Builder/ General Contractor: Oranje Arkenbouw