Living large in a small space

Great design tips: See how two sisters create a paradise aboard side-by-side houseboats

Floating Paradise
Photo: Thomas J. Story

Light dances on the river, bamboo rustles, and dragonflies buzz. On a warm summer afternoon, there is no better place than Julie Higgs and Dave Stricker’s floating home on Hayden Island, Oregon.

“I’ve always wanted to live by the water. But once you’re in the water, it gets really hard to leave,” Julie says.

This love of the aquatic must be in the genes: Moored right next door is the houseboat belonging to Julie’s sister, Diane Hall, which she rebuilt with partner Rick Dallman. “Around here we’re known as the Cabana Sisters,” Diane says.

Years of living and traveling in Southeast Asia have given Julie and Diane an eye for the exotic, and their small-scale homes nearly burst with treasures―Asian antiques, tropical touches, and bamboo accents.

Their lushly planted decks frequently serve as settings for outdoor feasts replete with pitchers of Tahitian rum cocktails and platters of prawns.

It all has the feel of a permanent vacation, a setup that satisfies even a wanderer’s soul. “I love it here. This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was a child,” Julie says. “I’ve never been attached to a place before, but the minute we moved here, I knew I was going to stay.”

 

 

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  • Floating Paradise

    Floating Paradise

    Diane Hall (left) and Julie Higgs

  • Floating Paradise

    Floating Paradise

    Landscaping improves even a tiny area. On Diane’s deck, in-ground planters with their own drainage system sprout strips of vibrant Scotch moss that add color and “feel cozy underfoot.”

  • Floating Paradise

    Floating Paradise

    An antique Chinese wedding cabinet in Julie and Dave’s living room hides the TV and CDs, and makes the most of limited floor space. Dave built additional drawers underneath, which Julie painted for a faux-antique look.

  • Floating Paradise

    Floating Paradise

    Japanese-inspired built-in bins under Diane’s bed are faced with bamboo. A paper parasol over the light fixture adds to the lush but tranquil mood.

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