Houseboats aren’t usually associated with design sophistication and contemporary living, a perception that Melbourne-based studio Jolson Architecture and Interiors has attempted to change with “Halcyon”, a newly designed recreational houseboat located on Lake Eildon in their home-state of Victoria. Drawing inspiration from modern yacht and speedboats, as well as their expertise in architecture and interior design, Jolson have created a houseboat that pleasantly defies expectations in both aesthetics and functionality. Eschewing the geometric rigidity of the houseboats that typically populate the lake, Halcyon’s streamlined, sculptural form is complemented by an internal layout that is just as atypical, successfully blending indoor and outdoor living while fully embracing its picturesque surroundings.
A man-made freshwater lake created in 1956, Lake Eildon boasts a substantial houseboat fleet due to its size (six times that of Sydney Harbour), idyllic natural scenery (Lake Eildon National Park abuts a large part of the lake) and recreational opportunities which range from boating, fishing and picnicking to all sorts of water sports. The popularity of recreational houseboats over the past half a century has given rise to a local boat-building industry but at the same time has resulted in a certain kind of design uniformity as traditions are passed on between boat builders. Jolson’s design walks a fine line challenging these traditions while abiding by the limitations and restrictions intrinsic in houseboat construction.
Usually box-like in appearance, the typical Lake Eildon houseboat is reimagined in Halcyon as a sculptural volume characterised by smooth lines, rounded corners and reflective textures that imbue the glass and metal structure with a sense of fluidity. Taken all together, the exterior’s architecturally-minded design gives it a calm dynamism on the water, not unlike the mythical ‘halcyon’ which the project takes its name from, namely the sea nesting bird which was said to cause the Gods to restrain the wind and waves.
When it came to the interior, the aim was to amplify the feeling of living on the water which the team achieved by embracing an open-plan layout for the ground floor communal areas in conjunction with separating all the joinery from the perimeter glazing in order to create uninterrupted views of the surroundings. In the kitchen for example, all functional elements are contained within the kitchen island, while in the living room a free-standing built-in console conceals the TV while also functioning as a bar.
A unique glazing system featuring patio doors that disappear once opened seamlessly connects the living room to an outdoor living and dining area further amplifying the visual and spatial connection with the lake. A floating staircase leads up to the four first-floor bedrooms, two of which are master suites – one at the bow offering landscape views when docked, the other at the stern offering resplendent water views. Built-in features have also been used here as seen in the bathroom’s vanity unit doubling as the bed’s headboard.
Jolson’s attention to detail extends from the design of the bespoke joinery and built-in furnishings to the material palette, most notably the selection of specialist timber floorboards that nevertheless convey the rugged texture of sawn-cut boards. Complemented by a muted colour scheme and dotted with a mix of outdoor and indoor furniture pieces, the houseboat’s interior feels as elegantly contemporary as much as in tune with its natural setting.
On the top level, an additional outdoor living space is designed to be used throughout the day thanks to a large canopy providing shade to sunlounges, daybeds and a circular built-in banquette for dining complemented by a simple linear countertop bar with kitchen facilities and a high-top bar.
When the sun sets, a wood-fired hot tub is the place to be for stargazing both during the summer and winter months, further emphasising how Halcyon is ultimately a fully-equipped modern home, albeit one that floats on the surface of a lake.