At the Kairu House in Queens, New York, it might be easy to forget that you’re in the city at all. Located in the borough’s Rockaway community, the Kairu House is unlike any brownstone or apartment the city has to offer. It’s not a house in the traditional sense of the word at all—it’s a houseboat made from reclaimed shipping containers.
The home’s residents, Adam Wiesehan and Margaret Day, are snowbirds of a different variety. In the warmer months, they reside on the boat, enjoying the slower pace of life and the nearby Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: “We love to travel, and we live on the boat for eight to nine months out of the year.” As winter descends on the Northeast, they head to an apartment in Manhattan; the boat is less hospitable in the cold.
Adam and Margaret’s home on the water is a creation of their own making. Adam is the architect behind the design firm Rekstur. Margaret is a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, and is the self-proclaimed nerdy researcher in the duo. The project included a two-year build, and the couple has lived in the home for two years.“We customized every inch of it. It grew to be our baby,” shares Adam.
They both grew up on a coast: Adam in Texas and Margaret in Massachusetts. When they first moved to Rockaway five years ago, they were inspired by the lively community of makers, doers, and artisans they met there. “The culture is fairly infectious. We wanted to do something ourselves that mixed in my background of architecture with our shared love of the water,” says Adam. They were inspired by the floating barge homes that are more common in the northwestern part of the country.
“We built it to have every modern convenience, so in that way, it doesn’t feel different than our old Brooklyn apartment. We wanted it to feel like a real home and not like we were living on a boat,” shares Margaret. The house boasts a full-sized bathroom and kitchen, two outdoor patios, and a spacious bedroom and living area.
Adam describes the home as “bohemian modernism with coastal accents.” Bohemian is a nod to the maker culture in Rockaway; coastal touches speak to traditional boat design; and modernism shows up in the space’s clean lines.
The home is filled with custom- and artisan-made pieces, including the massive front door. “We built it oversized to open up onto our entryway and stairway. The whole house, in a way, opens up so there’s a way to quickly get in touch with the water and our surroundings,” says Adam.
“Unlike a lot of New York residences, it’s very much an indoor-outdoor home,” agrees Margaret. “We have these big awning windows that we open up, the big front door, the big patio doors on the second floor, and in the warm weather, which is when we’re here the most, it so fits our love of nature and our desire to be outside.” The boat is located on a fishing dock. Different species of migratory birds frequent the neighborhood throughout the warmer months. When the weather is nice and the sun is out, being on the houseboat is akin to a day at the beach or spending time in the nearby wildlife refuge. “We try to have as many of those moments as possible,” adds Adam.
⚒ Do It Yourself
Think outside the box Adam and Margaret repurposed recycled doors into large awning windows. They hung them horizontally instead of vertically and added a mechanical hinge. Don’t be afraid to use an item for a different-than-intended purpose.
Take inspiration from your surroundings The Kairu house’s exterior and interior design were inspired by its location among nature.
🛍 Shop It Out
Inchyra Blue Modern Emulsion Paint, $115, Farrow & Ball
RUNNEN Decking, $24.99, IKEA
Go-Cart Rolling Counter Table, $179, CB2
Washed Linen Curtain, $189, Parachute
Simone Double Sconce, $379, School House Electric
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest