When you first lay eyes on this floating house, you may think it’s the secret lair of some fantastic villain in a James Bond film. But builder Bob Little assures me that the couple who commissioned it as their Seattle pied-à-terre couldn’t be nicer. Bark and portholes, sapele and bronze, a planted roof and massive stone-covered walls are just a few of the amazing features of this floating home on Seattle’s Lake Union.
Houzz at a Glance
Location: Lake Union, Seattle
Who lives here: This is a second home for a couple and their dog.
Team: Architects: KDF Architecture and Conard Ramano Architects, builders: G Little Construction; interior design: Doug Rasar Interiors
Size: About 1,500 square feet (139 square meters), 1 bedroom, 2 bathrooms
A nautical porthole window paired with poplar bark siding gives the floating house a very interesting exterior. The siding came from North Carolina company Bark House. This is the first time Bark House’s product has been used in the state of Washington.
Bark Covered 1: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
Because it is located at the end of the dock, the home has more privacy than a typical floating home. This side, which faces neighbors, is windowless for privacy (don’t worry, there are plenty of windows elsewhere.) The porthole windows mark the two bathrooms.
A living roof from Xero Flor soaks up rainwater. A decoy dog keeps the Canada geese from mucking it up.
There are no structural posts. Instead, the entire house is anchored from two steel trusses.
Bark Covered 2: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
This photo of the house on the move is a quite a lesson in scale. The 180-ton house was built offsite and hauled to the water. The portion you see beneath the doors is a 5-foot high “basement,” which houses the mechanical elements, some storage and a large freezer.
Bark Covered 3: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
“These people love to grill,” Little says. The wood-burning fireplace has a barbecue insert from The Grillery so that they can grill inside on rainy Seattle days. The stunning fireplace surround and hearth are made of Fusion quartzite, which also appears in the kitchen.
A retractable TV is hidden behind a panel in the ceiling.
Bark Covered 4: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
There is not an inch of drywall in the house; besides the quartz, much of the house is covered in sapele wood, including the cabinetry, ceilings, floors and walls.
Local glass artist Benjamin Moore created the pendant lights here. The marine lights are antique finds from the East Coast, which were restored and rewired.
One of the big challenges of the project was that the clients did not want to see any fasteners. All of the nails and screws are hidden, and all the cabinetry has touch latches. The vents you see along the top of the cabinets are part of the HVAC system, which is also very discreet.
A door in the sapele wood opens to a dumbwaiter that goes from the basement to the second floor. It’s an easy way to get food, drinks, ice, firewood and serveware between the floors and up to the roof.
The bed, walls, cabinetry and nightstands in the bedroom are handcrafted from sapele wood.
Bark Covered 5: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
The bedroom is in an open loft. Directly across from the bed are views out to the lake through the roof deck. The footboard hides a pop-up TV screen.
Bark Covered 6: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
Black Cloud onyx covers the master bathroom. More marine lights and the porthole window add contemporary nautical touches.
Bark Covered 7: G Little Construction, original photo on Houzz
The teak deck, including an outdoor kitchen, is a prime spot for grilling, entertaining and taking in the views.
The blackened stainless steel cabinet doors conceal a refrigerator, storage space and an ice maker. “We blackened the doors so that nothing would be too bright and reflective up here,” Little says.
The finished steel pairs nicely with the adjacent patinated copper chimney.