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COMFORT ZONE | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet

Living off the Land

"I love the constant motion of the houseboat," Mike Auderer says. "It's so relaxing. It's not rough at all, but it always keeps you on your toes."

When Mike Auderer downsized from his three-story Victorian home in Olympia, Washington, he really downsized—to a 550-square-foot houseboat.

The two-story floating home—whose moniker, Sweet Pea, was inspired by its green hue—gently bobs in a 15-by-40-foot slip with views of the state capitol. Its neighbors are four other houseboats and plenty of recreational boats.

It's not easy, but you can keep a project affordable and stylish while building with Built Green certification in mind," Auderer says.

Auderer, a contractor, used ecofriendly building practices to construct the 32,000-pound Sweet Pea—the first houseboat certified under Washington State's Built Green certification program.

While he regularly takes on challenging green construction projects, this was his first houseboat. And he found that building an environmentally friendly floating home wasn't all that different from constructing land-locked projects. One difference: His crew built it in the controlled environment of a boatyard, which included a filtration system to eliminate toxic runoff.

He test-drove the drastic lifestyle change by spending a winter on his 34-foot trawler. Now almost a year into his houseboat adventure, he has no regrets about scaling back his square footage and ditching solid ground. In fact, he revels in the simpler lifestyle. "There's a lot to be said for houseboat living," he says. "I use less energy and have less of a footprint."

And living downtown means restaurants, parks, and recreation options are right outside his door. "I walk to what I need. I don't drive as much," Auderer says.

The decor throughout is contemporary, warm, and unfussy. A clean-lined kitchen sports stainless steel appliances, dark wood cabinetry, eye-catching light fixtures, and sleek pulls that play off a modern tile backsplash. Upstairs, a 200-square-foot bedroom comfortably holds two closets and a king-size bed and leads out to a deck with water and mountain views.

What's it like on a houseboat when Pacific Northwest rain is lashing outside? "It's very cozy," Auderer says. "I make popcorn and watch movies. Or I put on my raincoat and take a walk. Hey, you live in Washington, you're going to get wet."

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