The old place got a remodel that perfectly suits its new owner — old houseboat into a “floating urban cabin” using materials contemporary and reclaimed.

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IT’S A DAY for ducks for sure. The sky is a wet flannel blanket. The rain falls down and sprays sideways in irritable gusts.

But that’s just outside. Inside, seated at the dining room table of this charming floating cabin at the end of a dock, it’s downright bright, cheerful and toasty warm.

“There’s something about it, coming down here. It’s so calming,” says Milly, a cup of coffee in her hand, her stare off in the distance. “The water does that. Maybe because I’m a water sign, a Cancer.”

Maybe. Or maybe it’s the perfect remodel that perfectly suits its new owner — old houseboat into a “floating urban cabin” using materials both contemporary and reclaimed by contractor Sten Karlstrom and project manager Andy Houston of Karlstrom Associates, and designer Theresa Freeman of SHKS Architects.

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When Milly found the little place at the end of the dock (700 square feet), the houseboat was uninhabitable. Milly saw a blank slate. Possibility.

“I had no preconceived notions, but I knew what I wanted,” she says. That included having connection to the water, light, downsizing and moving to a walkable city neighborhood, a change from her home “in the boonies.”

 

When Milly found the little old place at the end of the dock she saw only possibility. After rebuilding the floating platform, she spent a year pondering the houseboat’s evolution. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)
When Milly found the little old place at the end of the dock she saw only possibility. After rebuilding the floating platform, she spent a year pondering the houseboat’s evolution. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)

The rest of it was left to evolution: After rebuilding its floating platform, Milly spent a year pondering her little house’s path.

“This is obviously different, but there are still pieces of what it was,” she says. “I still wanted it to be a lake cabin, and I wanted it to fit into the neighborhood.”

It very much is and does. Original plans called for the cabin to have a new second story. Milly declined. The only thing distinguishing her home from those of her floating neighbors is its coat of yet-to-weather yellow Alaskan cedar shakes.

Once past the Dutch door, it’s floor-to-ceiling glass to the lake among a curated stew of modern/cabin: Walls are paneled in horizontal pine planks painted in a creamy white called Mayonnaise (Benjamin Moore). The floor is rough and reclaimed teak, and imparts an industrial/indestructible feel (some boards are charred). Overhead are lodge-worthy and handcrafted Alaskan yellow cedar peeled beams, peaked over the dining room/kitchen, flat and lower for a more intimate feeling in the living room and bedroom.

The main living space is open, and feels large. There is plenty of room for the sofa and full-sized dining table with leaves. The kitchen, meanwhile, has both a country feel and size. There’s a large porcelain farm sink, lots of butter-yellow cabinets (even racks for trays and platters). Open shelves are backed by beadboard in robin’s-egg blue. The counter is Milestone, stained deep olive. A closet there is blackened steel. And, best of all, there’s a large island topped by live-edged walnut planks.

Walls of creamy-white pine planks and built-in storage keep the rustic bedroom spare and peaceful. The door, set into a track system, is from Second Use and says “SOS EMPLOYMENT BUREAU.” A roll blind provides privacy. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)
Walls of creamy-white pine planks and built-in storage keep the rustic bedroom spare and peaceful. The door, set into a track system, is from Second Use and says “SOS EMPLOYMENT BUREAU.” A roll blind provides privacy. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)

There are three interior doors to this urban cottage, bedroom and bath, well-used treasures from Second Use and set upon barn-door track systems (The bedroom version is great fun, an interior glass-paneled office door labeled “SOS EMPLOYMENT BUREAU.” A roll blind provides privacy.)

Milly’s bedroom needs no furniture besides the white, wrought-iron bed from Urban Outfitters; closet, drawers and shelves are built in. And, in the bathroom, the urban/cabin mix is provided by the bathroom cabinets, reclaimed, imperfect fir paired with an accent wall of jade-green tiles from Pratt & Larson, “Celeste.”

“It’s wonderful,” Milly says of the rustic-modern-country result. With the kids grown it’s a place of her own.

“It’s peaceful. By 11 in the morning you get kayakers going past and shaking your hand. But that’s not a bad thing to complain about.”