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In the Netherlands, a Houseboat Offers Colorful Living on the Water

by Sofia Tuovinen

In the Netherlands, a Houseboat Offers Colorful Living on the Water | Design*Droits-Humains

When , a law student, and her husband Gerrit, a chef, were looking for a new home in Groningen, the Netherlands, they came across a rental ad for a houseboat. A strong connection with water and boats runs in the family — Dieuwke’s grandfather was a captain and both Dieuwke and Gerrit spent their childhoods sailing with their parents. The idea of living on the water immediately felt like the perfect choice, and the couple quickly decided to jump on the rare opportunity. Five years in, they couldn’t be happier with their spur-of-the-moment decision.

Dieuwke and Gerrit’s houseboat is 485 square feet and comprises of three rooms. They have made it work for their needs by opting for creative storage solutions and smaller-scale furniture. When the couple moved in, they realized that none of their existing furniture worked in the smaller spaces. To create a functional home, they sold their big pieces and started from scratch. Despite the lack of space and low ceilings, Dieuwke and Gerrit have been determined to create a home that feels bigger than its square footage. They have used each space to its full potential by creating various multifunctional areas; the kitchen bar serves as a dining table and extra counter space, while the secretary desk in the study can be closed to allow for more room when needed. The couple has also added different storage solutions wherever possible. Various shelves, hooks and crates have been hung on the walls to free up valuable floor space.

As Dieuwke is still studying, it was important to decorate the home on a budget, using thrifted pieces. Although finding each item takes more time, it also means that everything found on the houseboat has a story. Dieuwke is a devoted decorator, and often changes things up around the house. At the moment, the houseboat feels like an eclectic mix of different styles — mid-century, Scandinavian and industrial all play a part in this eclectic home. The common thread is the creative use of color. Colorblock walls and painted furniture create a fun atmosphere where the small size of each room is easily forgotten. Lately, the couple has also embraced the jungalow feel by adding lots of plants around the house. “They just make your home feel so much more alive,” Dieuwke explains.

For Dieuwke and Gerrit, the best thing about living on a houseboat is naturally the water. Usually, their own sailboat is moored right next to the house, a true luxury for these avid sailors. Having the possibility to sail away for the weekend or just take the boat into town for a drink is priceless. Another bonus is having plenty of outside space — the deck and the big garden are ideal spots for entertaining and watching the boats sail by. “In the winter our home is cozy and small, in the summer it’s twice the size because we mostly live outdoors,” Dieuwke explains. Choosing to live on the river has been one of the best decisions that Dieuwke and Gerrit have made. Surrounded by water and nature, the couple feels like they’re on a constant holiday — have a peek into this creatively decorated river home and you’ll see why! —

Photography by and

Image above: In the hallway of their houseboat, Dieuwke and Gerrit wanted to create a dark and bohemian feel. Due to lack of space, the couple chose to hang various hooks on the wall instead of using a coat rack. The bench doubles as shoe storage.

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The hallway leads to the open-plan living room and kitchen. The yellow chair is from Dieuwke’s childhood home and continues the color story from the hallway to the living area.

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“The locker is probably my favorite piece of furniture. I love the industrial touches that it adds to our home,” Dieuwke explains. The TV stand next to it is Gerrit’s creation. The vintage map is covered in small numbered stickers — what it was used for is often debated among friends!

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The sitting area overlooks the river and deck, and soaks in sunlight thanks to the large floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors. Dieuwke and Gerrit chose to paint the walls part turquoise, part grey. The deep teal sectional sets the tone for the room and is also Smurf the cat’s favorite purring spot. “We got it recently and it’s such a statement piece!” Dieuwke adds.

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The turquoise gallery wall features a collection of items that the couple hold dear. The bar stools took a long time to find, as Gerrit really wanted ones with good back support. “I gave them all a touch of color and we still love them!” Dieuwke shares.

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Black and white photos of family and friends hang above a pink sideboard, a leftover piece from the couple’s shabby chic period. The little mushrooms under the bell jar are actually a lamp! “ is an artist and she found a way to make mushrooms that light up. I love it!” Dieuwke says.

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Living by the water, surrounded by greenery and singing birds, makes Dieuwke and Gerrit’s home feel like a rela retreat and the ideal place to recharge after a hectic day. The deck is the perfect spot to look out over the river while sipping a morning coffee.

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Gerrit, Dieuwke and Smurf the cat at home.

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The couple aren’t huge fans of the houseboat kitchen, and have added accessories to distract from the overall look. Cutting boards, leather pulls and a vintage kettle make this small space feel warm and cozy.

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The bedroom has a small footprint and was renovated two years ago to allow for more storage space. The old wardrobe was replaced with a double one with sliding doors.

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Dieuwke and Gerrit chose to keep their bedroom white, but added paneling on the back wall for texture and warmth.

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The view from the bedroom never disappoints. “It is so amazing to wake up with a river view in such a fresh and bright bedroom!” Dieuwke says. The gallery wall features pictures from the couple’s wedding, as well as a picture of Dieuwke’s grandfather’s barge.

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The new sliding door wardrobes were a DIY project that Dieuwke and Gerrit worked on together.

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The home office is where Dieuwke studies for her double Master’s degree in Labour Law and Criminal Law. The couple initially painted the entire room dark green, but it ended up feeling too heavy. To brighten things up, Dieuwke painted colorblock elements in light green on each wall. Now the walls create a unique graphic element.

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The bold wall colors add dimension to the small spaces on the houseboat. The fruit crates hung by the front door hold gloves and scarves.

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Dieuwke restored and painted the secretary desk herself. The bright yellow color makes it a true statement piece.

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The top shelf is designated for Gerrit’s cookbooks. “When he is talking about food and the new dishes he has in mind, his face lights up — he is super passionate about what he does,” Dieuwke shares. Below the shelf, pot stands serve as clever noteboards.

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“What we love most about our home is…the nature that surrounds us and makes us feel like we are on a permanent holiday” — Dieuwke and Gerrit

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During the summer months, Dieuwke and Gerrit lead an indoor-outdoor life. They open the sliding doors to the deck and take the small stairs up to their garden. This particular corner gets the most sun and is perfect for summer dinners.

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“This corner of our garden is the best for long summer nights with our friends,” Dieuwke and Gerrit share. The pergola is overgrown with grapes, blackberries and raspberries — just the way they like it.

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Plan of Dieuwke and Gerrit’s houseboat and garden area.

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