Explore a one-of-a-kind neighborhood on houseboat tour

  • By Deanna Duff Special to The Herald
  • Tuesday, September 4, 2012 10:22pm
  • Life

Sue Jostrom and her husband, Mike, literally feel life’s ebbs and flows. Residents of Seattle’s floating homes community, their three-story house is gently cradled by Lake Union waters and overlooks postcard-perfect views of the Space Needle and Gas Works Park.

“I love the sound and feel of the water, especially waking in bed and hearing the waves lapping against the house,” Sue Jostrom said. “It’s one of the most unique living spaces in Seattle.”

The Jostroms’ residence is one of 12 included on the 2012 Seattle Floating Homes Tour Sunday. The tour, held once every two years, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Floating Homes Association and offers the public a rare glimpse into the community’s distinctive lifestyle.

The Jostroms moved into their custom-made home two years ago. Like many floating residences, the basic architecture and interior design capitalize on the setting.

A reverse floor plan places the dining room upstairs to capture the views. Many areas, such as the master bedroom, are filled with natural light and fresh air thanks to expansive windows.

“When designing, we tried to bring the outside in and allow the house to flow,” Jostrom said.

Boasting 1,800 square feet and three bathrooms, it is considered luxurious by floating home standards. Space must always be maximized.

“Houseboat rules: Something comes in, something goes out. There isn’t room to hang on to things you aren’t using,” Jostrom said. “It’s tremendously liberating.”

The guest bedroom doubles as an all-purpose space thanks to a hidden pulldown bed. The roof deck has hosted July 4th parties complete with a live band and more than 60 guests, but is also home to a 11- by 25-foot garden with cucumber and tomato pots.

Another nod to the aquatic lifestyle is the custom-made kitchen countertops. They are filled with a rainbow of sea glass the couple collected from travels to Europe, China, Turkey, Mexico, the Mediterranean and beyond.

“The saying is that sea glass is created by man and perfected by nature,” Jostrom said.

“If you live on a floating home, you should use the water as much as possible,” said Jostrom, who kayaks and swims regularly. Like many residents, the Jostroms have a whaler and a sailboat, which they take for dinner at Fisherman’s Terminal or on sunset cruises.

In the diverse and tight-knit community, everyone greets each other with a smile and a wave. The Jostroms’ neighbors recently paddled over on an inner tube for dinner.

It’s this inclusiveness and charm that residents hope to share with the public.

“Our mission is to support the lake, the environment and the people who live here,” said Laura Lowery, Floating Homes Association board member.

This year’s tour also includes a floating cottage hidden from street view, and one of the largest homes, which features a sod roof. Participants can also tour the Eastlake P-Patch and Wards Cove museum.

Take the tour

The 2012 Seattle Floating Homes Tour goes from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Tickets are $25, available at brownpapertickets.com. Tickets required for all individuals except babes in arms.

The event often sells out in advance. Any remaining tickets are available for purchase the day of the tour beginning at 11 a.m. at the staging area (E. Hamlin at Fairview Avenue E.).

It is a self-guided walking tour that includes uneven surfaces. Backpacks and strollers are not allowed in the homes. Participants are required to either remove or wear provided slippers over their shoes while touring the homes.

Twelve floating homes on east Lake Union are open to the public. Participants may also tour the Wards Cove museum and Eastlake P-Patch. Electric boat and bus shuttles will transport participants between the north and south ends of the tour.

Free espresso is provided and additional refreshments are available for purchase.

For more information, call 206-388-8101 or email melissa@lakere.com, or see the website, seattlefloatinghomes.org/tour.

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