12 cool houseboats that will set your imagination adrift

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With oceans, lakes, and rivers taking up a major chunk of the Earth’s surface, it was only a matter of time before structures typically reserved for land began to make their way to the water. As far back as the early 1900s — and likely earlier — the concept of creating a house on water began taking shape, popping up in water-friendly cities such as Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Portland, Oregon. Over the years, countries like Zimbabwe, India, and Laos have utilized houseboats to entertain tourists, travel from city to city, or simply enjoy some time spent off land.

While there still exists a community of these traditional houseboats, the market for lavish floating homes is at an all-time high. This new crop of luxurious, contemporary, and — at times — outrageous floating homes took the real estate world by storm, and we’ve found 11 of our absolute favorites from around the globe. With most of these designs coming from the minds of brilliant architects the world over, the following homes are truly works of incredible art and stunning construction. If the thought of a house that can sink makes you uncomfortable, we’ve also rounded up some of the wildest shipping container homes.

Overblue

One of the advantages of houseboats is that they can travel. While landlubbers sit in their rooted homes, staring out at neighborhoods that never change, dreaming of what lies beyond the horizon, the owner of a houseboat can weigh anchor and voyage out upon the wine-dark sea … provided the vessel is built for the journey. The Overblue is a hybrid of a yacht and a houseboat, offering comfortable living on a seaworthy vessel.

The Overblue is a catamaran, which means it has two hulls that run parallel to each other, increasing stability and, due to lower “hydrodynamic drag,” the houseboat should be more fuel efficient. Of course, a houseboat isn’t just for sailing; you want to enjoy living in it, too, and the Overblue sports an interior that is cozy, but roomy enough to move around in. The Overblue comes in various models of differing sizes, one of which even features a penthouse.

The Fennell Residence — Portland, Oregon

At first glance, it’s clear famed architect Robert Harvey Oshatz put his unique design touch on this spectacle of a houseboat. Seated on the scenic Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, the Fennell Residence features a clever use of glulam timber beams, giving it a warm, cozy interior. The living and dining rooms directly face the river and feature expansive glass windows that have the ability to perfectly capture a gorgeous sunset.

A lofted master bedroom sits above this residence’s study and also looks out over the living room and into the Willamette River. Oshatz played perfectly with this houseboat’s spatial differentiation, giving it an incredibly stunning curvilinear form, which makes it a wonder, no matter the time of day.

Floating Seahorse — Dubai, UAE

This unique series of houseboats, known as the Floating Seahorses, is constructed as part of the Heart of Europe, a crazy, man-made archipelago resort in — where else? — Dubai. The base model (pictured above) will run you a cool $2.8 million, with more extravagant versions ranging up to $12 million. The three-story structures include a hot tub, a sunbathing area, and a raised observation deck, and (probably the coolest part) the bedroom and bathroom are located below deck, so you can observe the life aquatic whenever you please.

The Heart of Europe is still under construction, but the Kleindienst Group (responsible for the construction of the resort and the houseboats) expects it to be one of the most in-demand tourist destinations on the planet. For now, you’ll have to access your Floating Seahorse via private plane or boat. Boo-hoo.

The Floatwing — Coimbra, Portugal

This beauty of a houseboat, known as the Floatwing, was created by a group originally affiliated with the University of Coimbra. The group has since rebranded as Friday, though it’s still comprised of the same naval architects, engineers, and industrial designers as before. The team specializes in the very specific niche market of personal submarines and prefabricated floating homes, and constructs made-to-order houseboats that vary between 33 and 59 feet in length.

While some of the more deluxe Floatwing packages include a solar-powered motor, even the regular homes are built to be self-sufficient for at least a week. Personal BatSub sold separately.

Traumfänger — Hamburg, Germany

Though more of a glorified barge than a true houseboat due to its immobility, this gorgeous structure comes from the brilliant minds at Hamburg’s own Rost Niderehe architecture firm. Rost Niderehe put its signature modern touches in every corner of this houseboat, which touts gorgeous timber siding, an open back deck, and private bedrooms and bathrooms.

Constructed in 2011, this home won the architecture firm a smattering of construction awards and recognition for its gorgeous style and sleek exterior finish. This beauty resides in the Eilbek Canal in Hamburg, Germany, and likely won’t acquire a new address any time soon, since it requires the help of a tugboat to get around.

Port X — Prague, Czech Republic

This unique houseboat comes courtesy of the ambitious Port X project. The C-shaped design helps create the floor, roof, and rear wall of the structure, and a glass facade encloses the building with an unobstructed view of the River Vltava.

The sleek, modern design also serves as a wonderful contrast to the surrounding rotunda and Romanesque architecture of the city, while its intuitive design allows for easy assembly, deconstruction, and relocation. You can even tow the amphibious home down river, or rent it on Airbnb alongside three other guests for a cool $235 a night or a single occupancy rate of $193.

ParkArk — Utrecht, Netherlands

ParkArk is the creation of the Rotterdam-based firm BYTR Architects. Unlike many of the exploratory, prototype houseboats out there, this model actually serves as a family residence. The owners of the ParkArk previously lived aboard a steel ship and requested that the firm attempt to recreate the feel of their last home while incorporating an updated, modern aesthetic.

The copper sheets that make up the lower exterior nearly graze the water, allowing the design to parallel that of the canal. A large skylight also floods the house with natural lighting, while a green roof further melds the structure with surrounding shrubbery.

Villa Näckros — Kalmar, Sweden

James SIlverman / Åke E:son Lindman

Located in the town of Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast, this contemporary houseboat offers incredible waterfront views, a spatial floorplan, and an incredible top-floor deck perfect for catching a sunset. With six bedrooms, just over 1,900 square feet of living space, and a technologically advanced kitchen, this home oozes luxury and affluence.

The residence weighs in at a sturdy 165 tons, assuring no amount of wind, large waves, or floating ice have the ability to knock this marvel off its rocker. Owners also have access to roughly 1,000 square feet of rooftop-garden space, as well as an aluminum mooring bar fit for the fastening of any small boat.

The Exbury Egg — Beaulieu River, U.K.

The Exbury Egg may not look like much of a luxury home when placed beside some of the other houseboats on our list, but what this houseboat lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in sweet, sweet solitude. The Exbury Egg is an efficient, self-sustaining collaboration between the SPUD groupPAD studio, and artist Stephen Turner, tethered on the River Beaulieu in southern England. Rising and falling with the tide, the Egg looks to be a unique place to zen-out and ponder life’s more perplexing questions.

Butt’s Clermont Houseboats — Lake Dal, India

Mike Prince/Flickr

An entire article could be written on the beautiful houseboats floating on Lake Dal in Srinagar, India; the four Butt’s Clermont Houseboats, however, are arguably its most famous. Beyond the intricate woodwork and the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, the laundry list of former celebrity guests who’ve briefly called the houseboats home is quite impressive.

Everyone from Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to George Harrison has spent time atop the boats; hell, Ravi Shankar even taught the latter to play the sitar under the ancient Chinar trees that abut the floating structures. We can’t guarantee a one-night stay will offer this sort of enlightenment, but it does allow for a literal day-in-the-life type of experience. Rimshot, please.

Watervilla de Omval — The Netherlands

Dutch architecture firm +31 Architects wanted to craft a houseboat that felt modern without losing its charm and succeeded massively with the Watervilla de Omval, situated along the bank of Amsterdam’s Amstel River. A mostly white, aluminum-clad exterior shines against the water (especially at night, with the lights on in the boat), while the inside is replete with wood grain and white plaster.

The top of the Watervilla is equipped with guardrails and functions as an observation deck overlooking urban Amsterdam. The split-level design provides wind protection on the deck, while offering maximum space and a unique, curvaceous flavor to the home. The Watervilla de Omval is one of the few houseboats that actually looks better in real life than it did in concept, and it’s worth checking out if you’re ever in the Netherlands.

‘O’ de Squisito — Dubai, UAE

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, this is the second entry on our list from Dubai. The city houses an obscene amount of wealth, from lavish hotels and resorts to sprawling super-yachts, and the ‘O’ de Squisito fits right in. Designed by X Architects in collaboration with renowned interior architect Leen Vandaele, the boat is built upon two modified catamaran beams, and it even has a freakin’ spiral staircase.

Upstairs, you’ll find a concealed kitchenette, living room, and dining area, while the bedrooms, bathroom, and steering cabin are on the main level. The house’s design is angular and contemporary, with shades of white and steel accents throughout. Vandaele says she was inspired to build the ‘O’ because, despite living in a fancy Dubai high-rise with spectacular views, she missed the open air. This house doesn’t seem exceptionally seaworthy (it’s basically one big rectangular prism), but it’s a gorgeous project nonetheless.

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