14 Floating Homes That Make a Strong Case For Waterfront Living

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By Duncan Nielsen
Seafaring or stationary, floating homes and houseboats are a cool alternative to landlocked living.

When working with the inherent limitations of a house on water—and there are many—thoughtfully designed interiors that help maintain buoyancy, waterproofing measures, and innovative construction methods are a must. In the cases below, the results are beautiful, modern homes that offer a taste of the aquatic lifestyle.

1. A Floating Home in Copenhagen, Denmark

This space-conscious floating home has a symmetrical silhouette, larch-wood shutters, and a black facade made of roofing felt—and a simple, Scandinavian design that lies within. 

This space-conscious floating home has a symmetrical silhouette, larch-wood shutters, and a black facade made of roofing felt—and a simple, Scandinavian design that lies within. 

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Bobbing amid midcentury houses on stilts in a secluded part of Copenhagen Harbor, Lisbeth Juul and Laust Nørgaard’s compact floating home cuts a dramatically modern profile. The 860-square-foot home, which the residents designed and built themselves, is the culmination of 25 joy-filled years on houseboats, and three less comfortable ones on land.

2. Lake Union Floating Home in Seattle, Washington

This floating home by Atelier Drome features a wraparound Ipe deck that is accessible from every room. The building is clad in horizontal cedar siding that adds style and warmth to the structure sitting on Lake Union. A cedar slat screen provides privacy from the dock.

This floating home by Atelier Drome features a wraparound Ipe deck that is accessible from every room. The building is clad in horizontal cedar siding that adds style and warmth to the structure sitting on Lake Union. A cedar slat screen provides privacy from the dock.

The homeowners personally sourced logs from Western Washington that would provide a buoyant foundation. Since the home would have a limited footprint, Atelier Drome had to make space efficiency a top priority.

3. A Renovated Houseboat in Australia

While researching houseboat design, Harry and her team "found Australian houseboats [to be] notoriously dark and heavy spaces." Instead, they turned to the houseboat's setting on the Murray River for inspiration, combining a color palette of mint green, white, caramel, and driftwood. 

While researching houseboat design, Harry and her team "found Australian houseboats [to be] notoriously dark and heavy spaces." Instead, they turned to the houseboat's setting on the Murray River for inspiration, combining a color palette of mint green, white, caramel, and driftwood. 

For this houseboat's renovation, led by Kate Harry of the Adelaide–based interiors firm Fabrikate, function was critical. Harry started with careful spatial planning of the 46 square meters, or 495 square feet, which included the captain's driving area.


4. A Modern Danish Houseboat in Copenhagen

The ship-like floating home comprises a two-story cuboid sitting atop a V-shaped platform that resembles the hull of a boat. Its gangway-style external staircases add to the nautical look, as does the chimney of the wood-burning stove, which pops out of the roof terrace to recall the funnel of a ship.

The ship-like floating home comprises a two-story cuboid sitting atop a V-shaped platform that resembles the hull of a boat. Its gangway-style external staircases add to the nautical look, as does the chimney of the wood-burning stove, which pops out of the roof terrace to recall the funnel of a ship.

Designed and created by its owners in 2005, this modern houseboat features tantalizing amenities, including a central heating system, a contemporary kitchen and bathroom, and a wood-burning stove in the living room. 

5. A Floating Prefab Houseboat in Prague

The curved roof, a play off the hull of a ship, was inspired by a previous Atelier SAD home project in the Czech town of Liberec. Jerry Koza, along with engineer Tomas Kalhous and architect Adam Jirkal, spent years finding the right location and obtaining permissions. After the rigid approval process, they’re finally able to showcase the flexibility of the concept, which can range from a one-person dwelling to a family-sized float with a 1,076-square-foot floor plan and a 538-square-foot terrace. 

The curved roof, a play off the hull of a ship, was inspired by a previous Atelier SAD home project in the Czech town of Liberec. Jerry Koza, along with engineer Tomas Kalhous and architect Adam Jirkal, spent years finding the right location and obtaining permissions. After the rigid approval process, they’re finally able to showcase the flexibility of the concept, which can range from a one-person dwelling to a family-sized float with a 1,076-square-foot floor plan and a 538-square-foot terrace. 

A C-Frame catamaran currently docked in Prague’s Holesovice neighborhood, Port X is a modular living concept. Prague’s Atelier SAD collaborated with a company that develops sailing boats to fabricate its curved exterior. While images of the fully wired home on the water make for great photo ops, Port X is a home built for both land and sea.

6. A Two-Level Houseboat on a Budget in Amsterdam

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

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

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.

7. A Converted Scandinavian Barge in London

In the Poplar Dock Marina of London sits a 1924 barge that has been transformed into Beecliffe, a contemporary floating home with simple, sophisticated interiors.

In the Poplar Dock Marina of London sits a 1924 barge that has been transformed into Beecliffe, a contemporary floating home with simple, sophisticated interiors.

Recently converted for domestic use, the historic Humber Keel cargo boat now contains two bedrooms, two baths, open living space, and terrace views. The open plan at the center provides spacious living and dining quarters with a modern galley kitchen. 

8. An Energy-Conscious Floating Home in Sausalito, California

Amid the motley of architectural styles, from nautically inspired to shingled country cabin,&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Theinhardt, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, sans-serif;">Herbie Schlaepfer and Barbara Haeusermann's&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Theinhardt, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, sans-serif;">newly built, 2,894-square-foot home is like a palate cleanser for the eyes. One zinc cube cantilevers off the other, with great walls of glass that slide open and disappear.</span>

Amid the motley of architectural styles, from nautically inspired to shingled country cabin, Herbie Schlaepfer and Barbara Haeusermann's newly built, 2,894-square-foot home is like a palate cleanser for the eyes. One zinc cube cantilevers off the other, with great walls of glass that slide open and disappear.

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"It’s actually a very clever approach to the site," says Daniel Hunter, who as architect of record designed the interior and worked in tandem with Christof Glaus of Stücheli Architekten to facilitate the design review, neighborhood approvals, and compatibility with local codes. "It gives them what most people residing here don’t have—a large living area above-deck, with ample outside space and plenty of privacy."

9. Floating House in Georgian Bay, Ontario

The relatively simple construction incorporates clever sustainable design: a two-level wood roof structure keeps the sun’s heat away from the interior, and small windows at either end facilitate powerful cross-ventilation. It’s natural air-conditioning, and it works beautifully.

The relatively simple construction incorporates clever sustainable design: a two-level wood roof structure keeps the sun’s heat away from the interior, and small windows at either end facilitate powerful cross-ventilation. It’s natural air-conditioning, and it works beautifully.

Floating House by Lloyd Architects is the summer headquarters for a Cincinnati couple despite its modest 1,250 square feet of indoor space. Downstairs are a boat slip, storage, and sauna; upstairs there are two bedrooms (the kids have bunkbeds), an office, and a galley area, with dramatic views from parallel windows.


10. Sustainable Home in Seattle, Washington

Sustainability reigns supreme throughout Houseboat H's design and construction, and the sheer number of features is staggering. The walls and the roof are designed with maximum insulation thicknesses and minimum air leakage. The exterior materials have been chosen for minimum maintenance and maximum durability. Unlike traditional houseboats, there is no wood cladding on the exterior to insure against corrosion and weathering.

Sustainability reigns supreme throughout Houseboat H's design and construction, and the sheer number of features is staggering. The walls and the roof are designed with maximum insulation thicknesses and minimum air leakage. The exterior materials have been chosen for minimum maintenance and maximum durability. Unlike traditional houseboats, there is no wood cladding on the exterior to insure against corrosion and weathering.

Architect Michelle Lanker and her husband Bill Bloxom designed their floating house around one fundamental concept: What if new structures could improve and enrich the environment? With sustainability driving every decision, the couple collaborated with a team to build a truly sustainable, beautiful home that extends the shoreline habitat instead of taking away from it. 

11. A Loft on Water in San Francisco, California

The sculptural, loft-like home ingeniously connects to its site. Inspired by the area’s industrial past, its sawtooth roof and sweeping views define and maximize space, while its door, staircase, and kitchen reference the Golden Gate Bridge with their orange hue. A trio of decks help the three-floor, two-bedroom home embrace life on the water. Oversized warehouse-style windows allow reflections of the water to constantly ripple across the ceiling.&nbsp;

The sculptural, loft-like home ingeniously connects to its site. Inspired by the area’s industrial past, its sawtooth roof and sweeping views define and maximize space, while its door, staircase, and kitchen reference the Golden Gate Bridge with their orange hue. A trio of decks help the three-floor, two-bedroom home embrace life on the water. Oversized warehouse-style windows allow reflections of the water to constantly ripple across the ceiling. 

"By creating high ceilings with large windows, the feeling is all about space and light," says architect Robert Nebolon, principal of Berkeley firm Robert Nebolon Architects. The 2,100-square-foot floating house was built on land in six months before settling into its final location in Mission Creek.

12. A Renovated Boathouse in Seattle, Washington

The floor-to-ceiling windows at either end of a Seattle boathouse allow light to stream through the entire 1,000-square-foot space.

The floor-to-ceiling windows at either end of a Seattle boathouse allow light to stream through the entire 1,000-square-foot space.

Ninebark Design Build and Dyna Contracting salvaged as many components as they could from the original structure, including the turn-of-the-century cedar floats that buoy the home from below­—one of the 60-foot-long logs was milled and turned into interior finishes. On the exterior, they opted for salvaged Cor-Ten steel and cedar, both of which will age well in the notoriously rainy northwestern climate.

13. A Solar-Powered Houseboat

The dwelling is raised on three marine-grade, aluminum-alloy flotation tubes, each with five sealed compartments for extra safety.

The dwelling is raised on three marine-grade, aluminum-alloy flotation tubes, each with five sealed compartments for extra safety.

When avid outdoorsman Richard Daigneault set out to create the ultimate, compact houseboat, his masterful woodworking skills and eco-friendly ethos produced a floating home so coveted that he launched a company to meet demand for his amphibious dwelling—with a starting price of $79,000 CAD (approximately $61,000 USD).

Developed by his Quebec–based company daigno, the handsomely crafted Le Koroc boathouse spans 26 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width with a 110-square-foot cabin that opens up to a spacious outdoor patio.


14. A Modern Houseboat in Berlin, Germany

Measuring approximately 646 square feet with minimalist interiors designed by Chris Laugsch, the home is furnished with sleek custom-made pieces that don’t distract from the property's views.

Measuring approximately 646 square feet with minimalist interiors designed by Chris Laugsch, the home is furnished with sleek custom-made pieces that don’t distract from the property's views.

Measuring approximately 646 square feet with minimalist interiors designed by Chris Laugsch, this home features floor-to-ceiling windows and is furnished with sleek, custom-made pieces that don’t distract from the property's views. The layout features an open kitchen, a large living area with a retractable double bed and sofa, a shower room, separate toilet, and a main bedroom that overlooks the water. A fireplace keeps the space warm in the winter, while air conditioning keeps it cool during the hot summer nights.

Related Reading: How to Build a Floating Home, A Floating Sauna in Sweden