When Dutch architect Julius Taminiau and his girlfriend finally decided they needed more space than what their Amsterdam apartment offered for life with their two kids, the pair stumbled upon an affordable houseboat for sale on the opposite side of the city. They applied for a bank loan to build a new house (meaning they couldn’t reuse any of the existing boat), and Taminiau designed a 1,700-square-foot floating home inspired by the consistent sizing of Japanese tatami mats.
Tatami mats are used as flooring in traditional Japanese houses, explained the architect, and their dimensions dictate the layout of rooms. When Taminiau realized that plywood panels have the same proportions as the mats, he used both to define a grid-like layout throughout his house. “This relation in dimensions makes the spaces feel balanced and harmonious,” he says, “and therefore beautiful, in my opinion.”
The architect found several other solutions for maximizing livability for a family of four in a tight space. Let’s take a tour.
Photography courtesy of Julius Taminiau.
1. Assign rooms with more than one purpose.
A large room on the first floor of the house (which sits partly below water level) serves as the architect’s office during the week and as a guest room on weekends. It even has a countertop and sink, useful for hosting parties.
2. Create lofted areas to add utility without adding bulk.
A suspended walkway above the office leads to a lofted platform that functions as a conference room when the architect’s clients visit but can be used as yet another sleeping space when needed. The loft takes up only as much space as is required, leaving double-height walls in the office/entryway and generous light pouring in through the windows.
3. Design furniture that closes when not in use.
On the second floor, the architect designed a kitchen island made of concrete that accommodates three stools that can be pushed completely inside the island when not in use. It allows the family to use the island as an informal dining and workspace while also keeping clutter at bay. “We wanted a clean and minimal look inside,” says Taminiau, “to have a more relaxed and serene feeling for the spaces.”
4. Maximize materials on a grid.
The kitchen island stools are made of standard-sized plywood sheets, so the architect reduced expense (and material waste) by not having to cut them down to size. Similarly, his tatami-and-plywood grid concept maximized construction materials by utilizing standard dimensions.
5. A condensed color palette makes the space feel bigger.
By choosing all white walls and all whitewashed wood, the architect encourages the visual flow of one room to the next.
6. Banish hallways.
Taminiau minimized hallways and stairwells in his design to avoid chopping up the rooms. The kitchen, dining room, and living room all share one open plan, and an open stair between the living and dining gently divides the space without separating it completely.
7. Hide the stuff you don’t want to see.
Around the corner from the kitchen and dining room is a small room used for catchall storage. “The idea of this space is to have a place where you can put the less-nice-looking items out of sight,” says the architect. “We wanted a clean look inside.”
8. Use the space under stairs for storage.
With the exception of the one open staircase shown above, whenever stairs were required, the architect designed storage space beneath them.
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