A 350-Square-Foot Houseboat Is a Cozy, Modern, Gorgeous Floating Home

published Mar 31, 2021

A 350-Square-Foot Houseboat Is a Cozy, Modern, Gorgeous Floating Home

published Mar 31, 2021
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Name: Jamila Scarlett, and her 13-year-old twins
Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Size: 350 square feet
Type of Home: Houseboat
Years lived in: 5 months, owned

Before making the move to a houseboat, not only did interior designer, Jamila Scarlett, need to think about how she wanted her new home to look and feel, she also needed to consider how she and her 13-year-old twins would spend their time living on the water. “Our home is a floating condo that we can take out on the open seas. It’s a 1976 Coho Chris Craft, which is a gem with vintage mahogany throughout. I’ve updated the floors, ceiling, and galley (the kitchen),” she says.

When she first decided to purchase a houseboat as a home, Jamila did extensive research, traveling up and down the East and West coasts searching for the perfect one. One evening, she came across a gorgeous photograph online of warm light bulbs strung across the canopy of a boat at night. “Reflecting across the water, juxtaposed against the clear night sky, the image was like a dream, one I was determined to make come true. In that single image, I saw what my life would be like living in/on my new houseboat… whether in solace or the company of loved ones, life on my boat would be one filled with laughter, relaxation, festivity, and light,” says Jamila. “Purchasing my boat not only gave me a new home but also a beautiful and forever-changing life experience.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style is “classic comfortable,” achieved with a carefully curated synthesis of color, light, texture, and form that visually and emotionally reflects a personal aesthetic and lifestyle. Specifically my style lives at the crossroads between vintage and mod. (Mod is a subculture that began in London and spread throughout Great Britain and elsewhere, eventually influencing fashions and trends in other countries.)

Inspiration: I am inspired by architecture, art, timeless design, and life itself.

Favorite Element: My favorite element of my home is the flooring in the main cabin area. The black and white carpet tiles were my very first purchase. The interlocking geometric shapes bring a playful lightness as well as a modern touch to the center of the home, providing a pleasing contrast against the stained wood. The result is a careful balance of mod and vintage styles that you would generally not expect to find on a boat.

Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge was deciding what substrate to use for the refurbishment of the kitchen counter. When looking for materials for a boat you have to select lightweight pieces to maintain the overall balance onboard so I chose Formica. The original counter was a faux marble but I wanted to continue the developing theme of classic meets modern so I used a matte black finish to present a visually pleasing contrast and complement to the rest of the cabin’s vintage look.

Once the design choice was settled my contractor and I spent about a month coming up with an innovative way to approach the installation as we discovered that the structure beneath the counter was connected to the lower head (bathroom). Reconfiguring this single multi-level unit took numerous conversations and experiments but in the end, innovation prevailed and the challenge was beautifully resolved.

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY project was a live moss decorative element that I made for the upper deck. I found an extra long wood dough bowl that fit perfectly in the narrow ledge along the back of the upper seating area. I purchased a sheet of live moss, cut it, and used spray glue to attach the roll of moss to the base of the bowl.

Biggest Indulgence: Normally if I were to consider what my biggest indulgence was in a project like this, I would speak to materials or furnishing, etc. In this case, because of the unique nature of the project as a whole, I would have to say the boat itself was my biggest indulgence. It was the proverbial centerpiece that in and of itself drove my aesthetic for the design of this project.

Best Advice: When I first started in the field of interior design, I used to do exactly what my clients asked for. It took me a while to recognize that they were hiring me for my expertise not just to exercise their ideas. Once I realized they wanted my input and started to apply my perspective, my style began to flourish, and as such my clients’ desire for my work flourished. So, if I can provide any advice at all to an upcoming designer I would say, remember your role while celebrating your client and you will find both joy and success in your work.

What’s your best home secret? From cleaning products, organizing tips, shopping tricks or something else! Design, design, design. My best home secret is that I take the time to use technology to meticulously design the layout of a space before I begin any shopping. Working through the kinks in the early stages on my computer gives me a foundation that colors my choices in the field. It also leaves room for me to discover surprise finds while I am shopping and be able to trust that they will fit into my overall design palette for the project.







Thanks Jamila!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.