Rehab Diary: The Ultimate Houseboat in NYC by

Issue 25 · The Life Aquatic · June 25, 2014

Rehab Diary: The Ultimate Houseboat in NYC

Issue 25 · The Life Aquatic · June 25, 2014

Three years ago, Gabe Cohen and Jolie Signorile caught wind that a beat-up houseboat was for sale. Desperate for a weekend ticket out of the city, the two, co-founders of Brooklyn design company Fredericks & Mae, recruited six friends and pooled their cash. Two months later, the group stood on the roof of their new purchase as a hired tug pulled it from Saugerties, New York, down the Hudson to Rockaway Beach, Queens, where it's now permanently docked.

Built as a party boat (with wine fridge, Jacuzzi, and washer/drawer) for a Goldman Sachs exec, it had later been stripped of its frills and used as a crash pad for the winter crew of the Clearwater, the historic Hudson River sloop. Gabe, Jolie, and gang, many of whom met as students at Oberlin College, came to the project prepped for teamwork. They ripped out the mildewed carpets, painted every surface, and furnished the boat with Craig's List finds and Fredericks & Mae's own games and accessories (that's one of their windsocks catching the breeze on the roof). It's been more of an adventure than any of them could have predicted, but also more fun. And it's only a subway ride away.

Photographs by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Remodelista, unless noted.

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The houseboat, a Sundance House Barge built in 1986 on Long Island, is moored on a dock in the Rockaways, in Queens, a few blocks from the beach—and the A train. Hurricane Sandy hit just after the group's first summer on the houseboat, and though much of the area was ravaged, the boat rose with the tides and required only patching (but didn't have electricity for eight months). 

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: A curtained sliding glass door leads to the entry hung with a fishing trap. That's one of Frederick & Mae's new Linen Towels on the chair. (See our post on the Summer's Best Beach Towels for a better look and more examples.)

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The entry's built-in sofa. 

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: All eight owners of the boat pitched in to paint, reupholster cushions, and decorate the walls—and the work continues. During last winter's deep freeze, the pipes burst. "It's called boat for 'bust out another thousand,'" says Jolie. 

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: A built-in daybed (with firewood storage) and wood stove in the living room.

Fredericks & Mae houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The room has a much-used hammock with a view. The round straw rug came from West Elm via Craig's List. The low chair is a canoe seat with new caning.

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista  

Above: Jolie and Gabe play backgammon on a board that they designed and built. Weekends on the boat are spent lounging, grilling fish (given to them by the sanitation workers who own the boat next door), surfing, and making cucumber-mint gin and tonics. Cleanup and maintenance somehow happen without designated roles—"this place is so important to all of us that it just gets done," says Gabe.

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

 Above: The room opens onto the kitchen sectioned off by a bar. The rope chairs are from Urban Outfitters.

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The boat came with a burnt orange sink, so the group kitted out the kitchen with orange and white tableware.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: Sophia and Honora, two of the houseboaters, painted the wooden bar in a pattern inspired by the old Rockaway boardwalk (since destroyed by Hurricane Sandy).

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: Limiting the kitchen's palette keeps the open shelves looking tidy.

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

 Above: Another built-in sofa—this one is on the starboard side of the living room. 

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

 Above: Every boat needs a whale; this one came from Gabe's grandmother's house and was likely once used a serving board. (For a similar wooden whale, see our post on Sir/Madam's Nostalgic Tableware.)

Frederick & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: Stairs beyond the kitchen lead to the two-tiered roof where big parties take place (maximum capacity, they've discovered: 120 people).

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista  

Above: Gabe and Jolie on the top of the boat.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: There are four bunk rooms—each sleeps two—and the group has a no nesting rule: "We all just take turns staying in each room and we keep it all neutral. Psychically, it's so much nicer that way," says Jolie. The bedcover is one of Fredericks & Mae's Linen Towels.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The Captain's Room, on the roof, is the largest—"but," points out Gabe, "it also can be the loudest—seagulls drop shells on the roof."

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: The additional three bunks are below deck. This one has a ceiling light made from a beeswax-dipped glass jug with the bottom cut off.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: A nautical poster tacked to the wall.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: Fredericks & Mae Darts, Beach Tennis Paddles, and Bocce Balls—Gabe and Jolie like to say that they specialize in "objects for the home, garden, and sky."

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: A Hudson's Bay Blanket and rattan thrift-store light in a wood-paneled room. (Go to our 12 Easy Pieces if you're looking for a Mosquito Net of your own.) 

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat | Remodelista

Above: A corner of the room is decorated with straw hand fans and Fredericks & Mae Darts (the dart bodies are made by US manufacturer Apex; Gabe hand finishes them with colored thread and fletching).

Houseboat responsibilities drawing by Morgan Evans | Remodelista

Above: Morgan Evans, one of the houseboaters, drew this "visualization" during the purchase process to "help the group understand what we were getting into," says Gabe. 

Frdericks & Mae & friends houseboat Will Van Dorp of Tugster photo | Remodelista

Above: A tug called the Patty Nolan moved the houseboat (and new owners) down the Hudson River, a journey that took two 13-hour days. Will Van Dorp of the blog Tugster took this portrait as the boat entered New York Harbor.

Fredericks & Mae and friends houseboat dock | Remodelista

Above: The houseboat's marina in the Rockaways is surrounded by urban life. The boat doesn't have a working bathroom or shower, but the marina is equipped with surprisingly nice versions of both.

Fredericks-&-Mae-houseboat-Douglas-Lyle-Thompson-Remodelista-31.jpg Above:

Above: A Fredericks & Mae Windsock flies from a fishing rod. Watch Alexa's video of the windsock in action (seagull cameo, included) on our Instagram feed.

For more designs by Fredericks & Mae, see Back to the Future and A Modern Take on Worry Beads.

Interested in life on the water? Have a look at the Ultimate Seattle Houseboat and Gardenista's DIY Cobalt Blue Planters (Houseboat Optional).

Remodelista Considered Design Awards enter by July 7  



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