What It’s Like to Live on a Houseboat in Vancouver

"Our favourite thing about our home is the fact that it moves. The subtle movement makes it feel like a living thing. You feel connected to the water around you."

February 28, 2017

By Vanessa Brunner, Houzz

In partnership with 

A stunning view of the Vancouver marina, the North Shore mountains and downtown are only a taste of the upsides of living in this floating home. Owners Doug McClelland and Anthony Tucker plopped their newly built floating home in Coal Harbour Marina. This harbour is considered one of the best in North America, and is full of gorgeous yachts of the rich and famous.

The sleek modern design stands out as the newest floating house built in this harbour. McClelland and Tucker made sure that their home was full of windows and light, and built a roof deck to take advantage of the 360-degree view. “Our favourite thing about our home is the fact that it moves,” says McClelland. “The subtle movement makes it feel like a living thing. You feel connected to the water around you.”

(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)

The exterior of the house is clad in a clean cedar with a clear coat finish to highlight its natural colour. Contrasting corrugated steel was installed on the other side of the exterior as an homage to the old boat sheds that used to line Coal Harbour Marina. McClelland used a shiny mirror finish on the steel instead of the gray that’s usually used on boat sheds.

The marine engineering was the most difficult part of this home’s construction. Underneath the house is an eight-foot deep flotation barge made out of concrete and filled with styrofoam. “It was pretty tricky for the engineers and the architects to fit everything we wanted and needed into a 20′ x 45′ footprint, while still keeping the house stable and floating levelly,” McClelland says.

(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)

Since it had to fit inside a certain footprint, the house itself has a very compact design. The couple had to get creative with their design and organize their living areas in a single great space. “If I could change one thing about this home, I’d want just a little more square feet,” says McClelland.

The lightest available colour of bamboo flooring is an eco-friendly choice that helps the small space feel bright and open.

(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)

In the kitchen, they decided to mount a JennAir down-draft fan behind the cooktop instead of doing a full hood. “We really wanted the cooktop in front of the window, but we didn’t want to have a conventional fan hanging over it,” says McClelland. The down-draft fan rises out of the counter and outputs exhaust below the counter.

White granite countertops, a glass subway tile backsplash and light maple cabinets from Ikea all contribute to the open feeling of the main living area. Steel pendants from Robinson Lighting work well with the stainless steel appliances. Tucker and McClelland chose an extra-tall Blomberg refrigerator in a counter depth for their limited space.

Light pours through rounded windows throughout the home, paying homage to the house’s nautical locations.


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(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)The master bedroom is “cozy, but it also feels open to the outdoors because of all the glass,” McClelland says. “It’s wonderful to cocoon in.”

This bedroom has two glass walls to take advantage of the beautiful view. One of these walls is made up of two sliding glass doors that access a small balcony.

(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)

The master bathroom sticks to the same light, white and bright palette as the rest of the home. White marble tiles line the floor, and the countertop is made of the same white granite as the kitchen. The window faces the northern view of the nearby mountains, while a skylight lets in additional natural light.

(Photo: Doug McClelland, original photo on Houzz)

The sunny roof deck is McClelland’s absolute favorite part of this house. “From there, you can see the entire marina,” he says. “You feel like you’re right in the middle of the view, rather than just looking out at the view.”

This stunning floating home is the first new floating home in Vancouver in 15 years. All the other floating homes that have been built since then are upriver in suburban areas. It’s also only one of 18 floating homes in Vancouver, and one of 6 in Coal Harbour Marina.

Vancouver has been home to many of these floating houses since the early 19th century, when they were nothing more than log cabins on log floats.

All furniture in this home provided for staging by Tracey Mills from Dekora.


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