This Breezy Floating Home Makes the Most of a Tranquil Setting Along Seattle’s Portage Bay

This Breezy Floating Home Makes the Most of a Tranquil Setting Along Seattle’s Portage Bay

By Kathryn M.
Presented by LaCantina Doors
Studio DIAA debuts with an airy design that employs generous indoor/outdoor connections and playful materials to gather and reflect natural light.

Seattle’s tradition of floating homes and houseboats is often romanticized in popular media, but not without warrant. In their introductory project, the team at Studio DIAA epitomizes the archetype’s enchantment with a design that captures the lightness and serenity of waterfront living. Although just 650 square feet, the home maximizes its dreamy location along the banks of Portage Bay with expansive doorways and a wrap-around deck overlooking the adjacent garden. 

Founded in 2019, Studio DIAA recently completed a floating home that embraces its placid location along the waterfront in northeast Seattle. Numerous sliding glass doors connect the interior with a wrap-around deck, inviting the homeowners to spend time outside during warmer months.

The newly built structure sits on a historic float crafted in the early 1900s using old-growth logs, each some four-to-five feet in diameter. The home’s location closest to the shore also provides greater privacy for the homeowners to enjoy an adjacent garden and shallow cove.

"Arriving home feels almost like visiting a spa," says Suzanne Stefan, the homeowner and a principal at Studio DIAA. "From the parking area, the house is reached by a path descending downward through a lush garden to the dock. The sound of the water lapping against the shore instantly creates a calming atmosphere."

Suzanne and her partner, who is an avid sailor and boat hobbyist, desired a home that connected them with one another and the surrounding environment. "We were trying to generate a feeling very specific to this place," Suzanne explains. "Looking out from the kitchen, we see our sailboat docked on one side and the garden along the other. The feeling is one of leisure and solitude." 

The simple floor plan features an open kitchen and dining room, with a seating area and two bedrooms filling the southwest corner. A variety of glass doors provide access to the deck from all sides of the home and from each of the spaces except for the bathroom.

When designing the connection between indoors and out, Suzanne and her team incorporated multiple sets of swinging and sliding glass doors from LaCantina

"We were originally considering large windows instead of floor-to-ceiling openings," she comments. "But then we connected with the LaCantina team, who recommended custom-sized doors to fit each room—including a zero post corner door in the living area. It was a game changer for the design."

Throughout the home, walls and ceilings are clad in whitewashed pine, complementing the oak flooring. LaCantina’s Zero Post Corner Sliding Doors opens the living area to the deck and views of Portage Bay. "When I see boats pass or people rowing, I feel almost like I’m on vacation while surrounded by leisure activity," Suzanne says.

The use of large-scale doors from LaCantina also provided ample opportunity to consider how sunlight would interact with various areas of the home. "We wanted the interior to act as a canvas for natural light and convey an overall appearance of lightness," explains Suzanne. "So, we not only considered surfaces that would enhance the sunlight, but also thought about the weight properties of materials as well."

In the kitchen, Suzanne and her team opted for stainless steel along the countertops and backsplash. "It's a material that amplifies natural light while appearing more slender and lightweight compared to a thick stone slab," she says. An aluminum-lined lightwell also hangs over the space.

A sheer curtain divides the living spaces as needed, while another lightwell directs sunlight into the dining area. "The pendant lights above the island and dining table are actually made of concrete, which I thought was a fun juxtaposition against the lightness of the room and general materials chosen," Suzanne adds.

"The large glass doors and skylights also set up beautiful interactions between the sunlight and interior—from reflections off of the water to filtered light coming in through one of the adjacent trees," Suzanne adds. "To observe these candid moments on a daily basis feels like time is slowing and causes me to pause." 

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In one such instance, the shower wall acts as a canvas for a beam of sunlight entering from the skylight above. The bathroom’s crisp white tiles complement the home’s calm vibes.

The soothing interior aesthetic also continues into the main bedroom, which features a built-in bookshelf above the bed and other solutions to maximize storage.

Along the opposite side, a pocketing LaCantina Sliding Glass Door nearly disappears into the wall. "The fact that LaCantina offers a variety of configurations and custom sizes expanded my ability as a designer to connect with the outside in a generous way," says Suzanne.

"We moved in August and had the end of summer to enjoy the deck, as well as paddle boarding and kayaking on the lake," Suzanne adds. "Since many of the sliding doors pocket into the wall, there's essentially no threshold between the inside and out, and, as such, we unexpectedly found ourselves using the deck as a sort of corridor to circulate between rooms." 

LaCantina’s Zero Post Corner Sliding Glass Doors seamlessly connect the living area and deck. "The large openings make it easier for us to live in a smaller footprint and use the deck as a functional living space," Suzanne adds. "In that way, the outdoors feel very much part of the interior. It's wonderful."

A view of the opposite side shows the main entrance off of the garden and the LaCantina Swing Doors in the kitchen. The couple’s 1980s sailboat is moored along a separate dock to the right.

A copy of the floor plan shows the home’s arrangement along the wrap-around deck. The use of wall pockets allowed for large door openings even in the compact bedrooms.

LaCantina is a pioneer in designing and manufacturing large opening door systems, offering a comprehensive range of folding, sliding, and swing doors in a variety of sizes and finishes. To learn more, please visit their website or check out @lacantinadoors for inspiration.

Project Credits:

Architecture & Interior Design: Studio DIAA / @studiodiaa_design

Structural Engineering: BUILT Engineering 

General Contracting: Dovetail General Contractors / @dovetail_gc 

Interior and Exterior Finish Construction: Forrest Taylor and Geoff Gamsby 

Photography: Kevin Scott

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