Tracy & Marty's "Retro Metro" House Boat

House Tour

Name: Tracy Metro, TV host and designer and Marty Metro, Owner of UsedCardboardBoxes.com
Location: Belmont Shore - Long Beach, California
Size: 1975 40' Harbor Master Houseboat
Years lived in: Owned 5 years

Who would pass up an opportunity to photograph a house boat (and not just any house boat)? Tracy and Marty's home away from home is such a nice break from the stress of keeping up in the big city.

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Tracy and Marty have really fallen in love with the local bay community. Everyone is friendly, fun, and they make time to enjoy life and leisure activities. They have one big rule on the boat – there is no rigid schedule – and they have any open door policy to entertaining guests. They invite friends to come down for the weekend, relax, and use and enjoy the place as if it were their own.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: The Retro Metro lives up to the name... as well as OUR (real) last name which is Metro. Our style can best be described as modern + retro = Metro.

Inspiration: The reason we bought an old houseboat was because after looking for a second home, and quite frankly not being able to afford what we wanted (a $1M trailer in Malibu where you don't even own the land!), we would drive around to see what else was out there. Lo and behold, we saw an old dry-docked 1960's houseboat that had similar lines to that of a Neutra home... and I was sold!!! Or, should I say obsessed?

After much hunting online and in and around marinas all up and down the Western seaboard, we eventually found the 1975 Harbor Master that had the layout we wanted, was ripe for a makeover and was the perfect size for our slip. Once we purchased the vessel and put it in a slip, my true passion of hunting through thrift stores, scouring eBay's vintage items and of course mapping out the LA yard sales every week, began. Almost everything that we used to furnish the Retro Metro was either purchased second hand, repurposed or even given to us by someone who knows how much we love retro!

Favorite Element: Selecting my favorite element is like choosing which child is your favorite! SO hard! I'm going to say it's the outdoor 70s Brown Jordan furniture that we found on Craigslist for pennies on the dollar. After buying the pieces, re-powder-coating and re-strapping them (with each piece having its own special color pattern/order) - they are among my favorite elements of the boat.

The company I hired to do the re-strapping thought I was crazy to do each piece in a different layout (hell, they even tried to talk me out of it!) and I just knew in my heart of hearts that it was going to be eye-catching... and indeed, a day does not go by that a boat, kayak, paddleboard or even jogger doesn't comment on how fantabulous the furniture is.

Biggest Challenge: SPACE - as in, not having enough of it! On my boat, I obsessed over using every nook and cranny (under things, over things, secret hatches...). I suppose the common thread is always determining how the space will be used. Then, you can effectively problem solve and make each square inch as functional (and fabulous) as possible.

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What Friends Say: When people step onto the Retro Metro, the first thing they see is our bar, so they usually ask for a cocktail! Then, they smile, take in the spinning disco ball and accompanying music... and ask "how did you find this?" Then, once they look at some of the before/after pictures and see how much work went into a complete makeover, they ask if there are any slips available because they want one, too.... And they want me to design it!

Most people are fascinated by our crawl-in bedroom and the removable couch cushion that reveals the hatch which leads to the bedroom. Also, friends often comment how great it is that I redesigned the bathroom to accommodate a shower. Working on the boat can be dirty work, so it's nice not having to shower on the dock with cold hose water.

Biggest Embarrassment: Oy! This question is the easiest to answer! Our head (AKA toilet) on the Retro Metro sends waste into a holding tank that then gets pumped out, by Royal Flush (cute name for a poop-tank company), for proper disposal.

Well, one day we had a pretty sizable party on the boat when suddenly things started smelling quite stinky. t was so smelly that I began gagging and praying people would leave because the aroma mortified me. After everybody eventually left, we investigated the stink and found that the top of the holding tank had "blown a gasket" and the smell of pee and poop was not simply wafting through the boat, but actual pee and poop had overflowed into the boat. We now double check the holding tank before a party! And, have a no #2 rule.

Proudest DIY: While I did much of the work myself, I take the most pride in building a seriously strong cabinet and sub-counter from scratch. I didn't want to install a standard, or even junior refrigerator in the galley, AKA kitchen, because it would ruin the clean lines and open feeling. So, I opted for 2 small, under-the-counter units for food usage and one beverage cooler for beer and wine. Rather than have the fridges just sitting there in the space, I wanted a built-in feeling, so I personally constructed the structure in which they live. That cabinet is strong enough for somebody to sit on!

Biggest Indulgence: The original boat in and of itself only cost us $7500; however, we paid nearly half that when installing the orange Silestone countertops! Clearly an indulgence. However, orange IS my favorite color, and even though it was a huge risk, I knew that it's not very often a space (or an owner) can handle something crazy like this! I love that we kept the counter profile low rather than laminating it to look like a larger slab. That would have been too overpowering for a room where the ceiling is only 78"! I wouldn't change spending one penny on the counter tops. They are my pride and make me smile every time I walk onto the boat!

Best Advice: Our friends Patsy & Terry Tracy (who ironically enough have the exact same model boat as we do, and are only 5 slips away!) reminded us that while B.O.A.T. stands for "Break Out Another Thousand," it's worth the dough when you can out-shine your neighbors... especially when they have the exact same boat!

Seriously, the best advice is to "go all out" - I truly believe and live by the adage that you only live once. And, for heaven's sake the worst thing that can happen is you need to repaint!

Dream Sources: Sure, I love designer pieces from Roche-Bobois, Kartell, etc; however, I'm really a fan of the hunt. So, my true dream source consists of Marty, our dogs, an old RV, my iPhone with the Tag Sell It and Goodwill apps and with plenty of cash to wheel-n-deal during a cross country road trip!

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Resources of Note:

APPLIANCES

HARDWARE
Lucite bathroom door knob came with boat. Was repurposed from cabinet to bathroom door.

FURNITURE

  • Couches from Retro Row on 4th Street in Long Beach, reupholstered by Tellez Upholstery
  • Orange heller coffee from antique store in Las Vegas
  • Lucite coffee table from CB2
  • Patio furniture from Craigslist rest rapped by Miracoli outdoor furniture restoration

ACCESSORIES

  • Owl cookie jar: Ola's Antiques from Hawaiian Gardens
  • Snack bowls are a gift from my friend Scarlett Pettyjohn
  • Daisy coffee pot used as a vase was a gift from friend Joe Russo... Was his Moms!
  • Yellow and orange tray: flea market in Paris

LIGHTING

  • Bathroom constellation light came with the bait
  • Vanity light from an estate sale in LA
  • Globe light from Ikea
  • Cabinet can lights used as ceiling can lights

PAINT

  • Pettit topside marine paint white with flattening agent to dull high gloss finish except on bedroom ceiling from West Marine

FLOORING

  • Click in cork floor from Home Depot (medium brown bleached out to blonde)

TILE & STONE

WINDOW TREATMENTS

BEDS
Headboard came with the boat and was one of the main selling points!
Coverlet. I have 2 of the exact same ones! 1 from antique store in Arkansas... 1 from my friend Elias McCabe whose mother knitted it on the way over to america from Greece!

ARTWORK

  • Nautical sconces from upper Westside flea market in NYC
  • Peacock paintings from Salvation Army in Palos Verdes, California
  • Wood plaque artwork from antique mall in Orange, California (antique town)

OTHER

  • Outdoor cushions from Jesus Adame upholstery
  • Glass white cabinets from Ikea

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Thanks, Tracy!

(Images: Marcia Prentice)

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