AT HOME | a blog by Joanna Gaines

Episode 09 - The Double Decker House

February 10, 2017


Believe it or not, Chip and I actually conquered a houseboat renovation a few years before the show started, so this wasn’t our first experience, but it was still a huge challenge for us. Renovating a boat comes with its own set of worries. You have to involve the marina, and hire an architect specifically knowledgeable in boats and there are maritime laws to follow instead of building codes. It’s definitely not easy, but it was a great project that was well worth it. This houseboat was for Brett Swartz, a friend of ours who loves being outside and experiencing the outdoors with his four kids. We wanted it to have a modern and masculine feel, so we utilized raw design materials, like metal and wood. Something we used that we’d never tried before was charred wood siding, which was a perfect fit for the masculine vibe we were going for.

Objective: Main living and kitchen: Design a space that uses all available square footage to create a practical kitchen and living space for the family.

Objective: Create a retreat where Brett can relax. Add a private balcony entrance.

Objective: Add a space that all of Brett’s kids can sleep while staying on the houseboat. 

Q. What made you decide to have a boat house?

A. I love the outdoors. When my kids are with me, we play outside. Being on the water is great because whether it’s kayaking, paddle boarding or just hanging out, the access is right there.

Q. Would you recommend the Fixer Upper experience to others?

A. Yes! I would tell future clients to let go of expectations because it will far surpass whatever you can imagine. Just let Chip and Jo take the reigns.

Q. How does your home stick out compared to other houseboats?

A. It doesn’t even compare. This is something you would find in Seattle or up on the Northeast coast. Each boat in the marina has an individual presence, but ours is on a whole other level.


This was one of those projects where Chip and I really got to use our imaginations and stretch creatively. I loved seeing our friend’s houseboat transform from basically a shipwrecked mess into a houseboat that the whole family will love using year round from now on!


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  • Payton
    3:23 pm, April 18, 2017
    I'm more impressed than ever! It's like you took the dreams in my head and put them onto a houseboat. How do you do this?? I love it!
  • Tracy Hines
    12:59 pm, April 17, 2017
    I love watching your show because I love the inspiration, love and caring that goes into each house . It just amazes me how you can turn the worst house into someone dreams.
  • Liz Steeds
    3:30 pm, April 14, 2017
    Your show is so inspiring. I have just discovered your blog Jo. As to be expected beautifully laid out ...great use of negative spaces and fonts. Your design eye ( or whoever you pay to do the webwork ) is assured and on trend with your aesthetic obvious. Just watch for typos. In the above Q & A "take the reigns " should read "take the reins".
  • Wanda kaminski
    12:09 pm, April 9, 2017
    I love watching you're show but hate how things look old and need sanded and repainted as the edges are chipped and picture frames are beyond bad. Those old doors you use are terriable. I would not want my home to look like that.
    • Liz Steeds
      3:37 pm, April 14, 2017
      What part of vintage, distressed surfaces and antique patina don't you understand. That's why Jo is a great designer and no-one even knows what your house looks like. Why bother commenting when these elements are often a core element in her final house designs. Texture ... Yeah baby.
  • Joseph L Shuster
    8:23 pm, March 28, 2017
    I like the siding on the houseboat. Is it carpenter bee resistant? I am looking for a natural wood siding that is and virtually maintenance free.
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