By Claire Butwinick
Photographed by Cristopher Nolasco
WHEN SEATTLE HOUSEBOAT OWNERS, JEFF KLEIN AND HIS WIFE JESSICA SOMMERVILLE STEPPED ONTO THEIR NEWLY RENOVATED PROPERTY, THEY COULDN’T BELIEVE IT WAS THE SAME SPACE. Thanks to the Netflix show, Stay Here, TV personality and designer, Genevieve Gorder transformed the couple’s outdated houseboat rental into a bright and romantic Scandinavian cottage.
Stay Here is a new reality series on Netflix where Gorder and real estate expert, Peter Lorimer transform struggling vacation rental homes and Airbnbs into beautiful, enchanting getaways.
This Seattle houseboat was no exception.
Owners Klein and Sommerville were attracted to the property because of its lakefront location and adorable size. And while the couple thought the boat looked charming, the allure was living on the water and what it looked like was secondary.
The couple purchased the property in 2012 and rented the property to long-term visitors. Unfortunately, over the next few years, the hall in the interior space started leaking moisture, rotting the interior wood and made it undesirable to potential renters.
For the show’s three-day renovation, Gorder and her design team stripped the boat’s ‘80s golden oak interior to reveal a spacious, open living space. Gorder moved the bedroom that was once at the upper level of the houseboat down to the main floor and the boat’s lime-green-and-turquoise exterior was painted a sophisticated matte black.
In contrast to the dark exterior, Gorder brightened up the interior with white bedding, curtains, and accessories to give the illusion of sunlight in the Seattle winter. She also included a nod to the local landscape with a custom front door by Seattle woodwork artist, Laura Burkhart. The door—sourced and milled from local pine trees—illustrates Burkhart’s signature geometric design contrasted by the organic fluidity of the wood. “All of my work is inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest,” says Burkhart. “We often think of representing nature in a purely organic way in shape and form, but nature boasts a lot of pattern and symmetry, this work really celebrates that.”
Gorder saw potential in the houseboat’s unique, underutilized space coupled with its prime location in a rapidly growing city. She says, “Houseboats are true fantasy because most of us don’t live on them so even locals would staycation in these floating respites.”
And she’s right. Since the renovations, Klein and Sommerville’s houseboat has been booked almost every week into next summer and the property has achieved Airbnb’s “Superhost” status. “[Gorder] really is a genius,” says Klein. “She genuinely believes in design being a powerful force in the world.”