Seattle Home & Lifestyle Magazine
A REMODELED FLOATING HOME NEAR THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON BECOMES AN IN CITY GETAWAY FOR LIFESTYLE ARCHITECT RANDY ALTIG AND HIS FAMILY
WRITTEN BY GISELLE SMITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEX HAYDEN
The movie Sleepless in Seattle was Randy Altig’s inspiration for the remodel of his family’s in-city houseboat.
In summer 2009, Altig came across a 1,200-square-foot houseboat on a semiprivate dock on Portage Bay and fell in love. The Altig clan—including Randy, his parents, his brother Rick and his family, and sister Jill and her family—lives in Kirkland within one mile of one another. The houseboat would be a wonderful in-city escape they could share. The one Randy
found was perfect—except for some serious structural problems.
“It was almost like it was a fishing shack,” Altig recalls. “There were holes in the floor, it was very dark … it was really compartmentalized. It was a structure that never reached its full potential.”
His family purchased the houseboat that fall and began demolition immediately. They elected to keep the original footprint of the house, and Altig figured out how to work within that shape to realize his plans for the space.
“My vision for it was to make it a hybrid of sorts, where we would have it set up for the functionality of family to be able to stay there when we want [and] to have an inspiring space to create [and] to write,” he says.
The main-floor kitchen is in its original spot, adjacent to a cozy living room and a large, open dining room with NanaWall doors that open to the south-facing deck. The master bedroom and the bathroom are on the east side. Upstairs, the loft holds a second bedroom, which is open to the living space below, and an office with a peaceful water view; here, Altig can write articles and work on the concept for a lifestyle and cooking television show he’s developing. A window-door in the loft bedroom lets the owners step out to the rooftop deck.
By design, Altig did not allow space for a television. “I really wanted to have a space where the environment is what is stimulating your activity and thought process,” he explains.
Another challenge was that despite the home’s ideal on-the-water location, it didn’t take advantage of the light reflecting off the water. Altig wanted to imbue the space with a brighter spirit. “Because it was so dark, it was really kind of oppressive and not inspiring or exciting or happy,” he says. “I wanted to change that; I wanted to make it a happy place and a fun place.”
“WHEN YOU’RE ACTUALLY ON THE WATER, IT’S A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FROM LIVING ON THE WATERFRONT. YOU HAVE PEOPLE ROWING BY YOUR WINDOW IN THEIR LITTLE CANOES OR SHELLS.”
- RANDY ALTIG
To do this, he opened up the rooms to let in as much light as possible. “[We’re] trying to make the visual boundaries of the walls and doors disappear by painting everything white,” Altig says. Within the open plan, he created the feeling of individual rooms for separate spaces by giving each its own look. “When you are working with limited space, you want to define the space more by the interior design than by setting up barriers with walls,” he explains.
Altig was able to salvage many of the original elements of the home, including the kitchen cabinets, several stained-glass windows and an almost-century-old Waterford woodstove. When they moved the stove, Altig found evidence of past remodels underneath it: Each person had tucked a Seattle Times newspaper into the gap under the stove—so when they finished this remodel, he made sure to include one from 2010.
In the kitchen, Altig reused the same base cabinets but updated and brightened the space by replacing the original ceramic tiles with glass tiles, which reflect more light, and adding under-cabinet lighting. “To bring it back to a more nostalgic style, I designed leaded stained glass for the cabinet doors above the counter,” he adds.
Throughout the house the new color scheme is light and calm. “I tried to do it all in tones that reflect the environment—so everything is done in light blues and light greens to give a natural feel. I didn’t introduce any bold colors that are not in the natural landscape around the house,” Altig says.
The space is large enough to host a crowd—20 people came to cheer on Andy Altig, Rick’s son, who rows for the University of Washington, during last November’s annual Head of the Lake regatta, for example—but it also serves as an intimate, creative retreat for Randy Altig or an in-city escape for anyone in the family. “We also use it when special guests come to town and want to have a Sleepless in Seattle experience,” Altig says. “Rather than putting them up in a hotel, we let them stay there.”
The movie title is misleading, however, Altig notes: “This is one place that is not sleepless,” he laughs, noting that the house rocks soothingly on its floating foundation. “You can definitely fall asleep in this house.”