Open House: A Floating Loft in Amsterdam


For land-scarce metropoli like New York, architectural innovations tend to scale vertically: without a place to spread outwards, development takes to the skies. Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, innovation can be found at sea. A district of water homes located on a string of artificial islands adjacent to the city’s historic canals feels distinctly Dutch: dubbed the WaterWonen project (translates literally to living in water), modern houseboats are moored at a harbor conceived by Danish architecture firm Monteflore (responsible for designing one of the city’s most luxurious hotels). The independently-sailing vessels include homes—like this spacious steel converted cargo ship—that invite guests to come down out of the clouds and enjoy the delights of open water.


Originally built in 1962, this Kempenaar ship has been completely transformed into 250 square meters of floating loft space. The entrance, located in the ship’s original wheelhouse, opens up into a spacious study that feels equal parts boutique hotel lobby, luxury spa, and remote cabin in the woods. If it weren’t for views of Steigereiland across the water, you’d never know you weren’t on land. Though this buoyant pied-à-terre certainly feels more house than boat, don’t let its luxe interiors fool you; it operates with a fully-functioning Iveco motor.


The handsome and spacious living room features a custom wood burner, flanked by low-profile mid-century modern furniture and complemented by in-floor heating—the very epitome of hygge. At the back of the ship, the former cabin holds the master bedroom and ensuite. With furniture made from Azobe wood salvaged from the ship’s cargo hold, the cabin is a calming place to rest after a day spent exploring all that Amsterdam has on offer.


When it comes to attracting visitors, this home is sure to be in demand. Two guest bedrooms designed with dark walls and natural wood details feel like a minimalist spa retreat, with porthole windows deepening the sense of place. With an open-concept kitchen, induction cooker, dishwasher, and two refrigerators, entertaining is effortless. And an enormous table made from reclaimed wood is the perfect place for dinner parties, where the conversation and jenever (traditional liquor of the Netherlands) is sure to flow.


Docked in the marina-like setting of Cas Oorthuyskade and part of a development of 34 independent water homes located on the IJburg’s artificial islands, the boat is easily reachable by car, and is just a short 12-minute tram ride away from the breweries, restaurants, and coffee shops of central Amsterdam. Those looking for a leisurely day trip can take a 10-minute sail to Pampus, a manmade island and fortress originally built between 1887 and 1897 to defend Amsterdam in case of war. Or inspect other notable architectural feats at the World Architecture Festival, taking place in the city from November 28–30, 2018.


Houseboats provide unique rewards for those who choose to call them home: a rewarding sense of connection to nature, a romantic escape from the crowds, and the chance to captain your own ship. Few other forms of housing come close to capturing their sense of freedom and adventure.