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Like a Loft on Water

By Dwell @dwell
San Francisco floating home exterior

“By creating high ceilings with large windows, the feeling is all about space and light,” says architect Robert Nebolon, principal of Berkeley firm Robert Nebolon Architects. The 2,100-square-foot floating house was built on land in six months before settling into its final location in Mission Creek. 

After being outbid on conventional homes, Kimo and Sarah Bertam decided to check out a houseboat for rent in the Bay Area’s Mission Creek on a whim. Both share a lifelong love of the water—Kimo is an avid surfer and Sarah spent childhood summers on a sailboat—and immediately were smitten with the place. The experience led them to embark on their own floating home project with local architect Robert Nebolon. While he’d never worked on a floating home before, Nebolon’s experience building houses near water and on piers made this opportunity feel like a natural progression.

“The main challenge was determining how to pack the house with storage while ensuring it had the basics,” Nebolon says. Weight was also an issue. As a floating house, not a houseboat, it wouldn’t move after being moored to its final location. The sculptural, loft-like result ingeniously connects to its site. Inspired by the area’s industrial past, its sawtooth roof and sweeping views define and maximize space, while its door, staircase, and kitchen reference the Golden Gate Bridge with their orange hue. A trio of decks help the three-floor, two-bedroom home embrace life on the water. Oversized warehouse-style windows allow reflections of the water to constantly ripple across the ceiling. 

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