The tour of 12 Seattle waterborne homes will take place Sunday, Sept. 9.
HOUSEBOAT AT the very end of the dock. Lake Union amiably slapping the deck off the living room. Big kitchen open to the living room. The lemony sunlight of a shy nice day beaming in left, right, overhead.
First thought that comes to mind? Sue Nixon must have some great parties here.
“I do have some great parties here. Fourth of July is nuts. The fireworks barge is literally at the end of the dock.
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“Plus, it’s understood that my friends can inform me when a party’s going to happen,” she says, her hand on the butcher-block counter of the U-shaped work space. There’s a Viking four-burner gas stove at the far end, next to the Liebherr professional-grade refrigerator. Big sink with windows ahead and overhead. “I wanted it to be so delightful that my friends will come and cook.”
Nixon may not be a cook, but she does know good-livin’ when she sees it. For 10 years she lived closer to shore before the opportunity to buy the little number, built in 1930, at the much-coveted end of her co-op dock presented itself. She heard it would be for sale, bought it directly from the owner. Then she set about giving the gray two-story cottage, 1,100 square feet, some new, next-generation love. With Johan Luchsinger and Brian Brand of Baylis Architects and the contractor’s project lead Roy Wellman of Doug Johnson & Co., walls fell, and in came new windows, cabinets, stairs, wiring, plumbing and paint.
There’s a corner in the living room, however, that hasn’t changed a bit: a bench seat with diagonal cedar paneling. A truth nook.
“I will be paying it off for a very long time,” Nixon says. “But if you’re going to invest, invest in a thing that delights you daily.
“I used to have a super-stressful job, and I quit that,” says the woman who now works from home doing creative consulting, branding and design as Ardent Sage. (“That’s the office,” she says waving off a computery-cluttered corner of the living room.) She also sings jazz at Serafina in the Eastlake neighborhood on alternate Saturday nights.
Nixon loves her life on Lake Union — so much so that she says sharing it with others as part of the Seattle Floating Homes Tour Sept. 9 is simply the right thing to do.
“It’s a unique lifestyle, and it’s important that people embrace it,” she says. “Years ago I went on a friend’s houseboat. I walked out on the dock and had a physical reaction. I got weak.
“There’s something about walking down that dock, as you pass the big willow tree, that stress cannot pass through. And if I let it I feel like a traitor.”
Just then we take a gust of wind to the face and a wave from below. Neither Nixon nor her cat, Tika, notices. “It’s not tidy,” she says of the houseboat lifestyle. “There’s nothing specifically straight; you can’t use a level.
“But there’s something about being in an environment where everything comes in and everything goes out; it’s natural.
“It’s like living in a cabin in the winter and being at the beach in the summer.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.