My Cool Dutch Houseboat

Extract from My Cool Houseboat by Jane Field-Lewis, published by Pavilion.

The family's houseboat is moored 20 minutes' away from Amsterdam on the delightful Nieuwe Wetering, a narrow canal dating back to the fifteenth century and connecting the rivers Amstel and Vecht. Wendy and Jochem were in their twenties when they left the bright lights of the city behind them and decided to settle here on a rather cramped traditional houseboat. When the children were born, the couple soon realised that they needed a bigger home and the moved up to a two-level vessel. Twelve years later, however, they had even bolder plans: to sell up and self-build a veritable ark for their growing family. They found the mooring with an attached strip of land that would accommodate a studio for Wendy, who was already a successful artist and now an amateur architect too.

Style Notes

On canvas, Wendy is known for her colourful, figurative compositions, but her interior design style is all about contrasting black and white surfaces and clean lines. The visual tension is diffused by the views of the natural contours and colours that flood in from outside through the vast floor-to-ceiling windows and two large skylights. In summer, the sliding glass doors open, and any boundary between the interior and exterior is blurred by the wooden floorboards, which extend out onto the spacious terrace.

In the kitchen, Wendy's obsession with eking out every extra centimetre possible from the design pays off. There's a flexible island around which the family cooks, eats and entertains. One of her paintings also serves up a welcome helping of colour.

A white palette dominates down below, where natural light is more difficult to source. The bedrooms peel off from a central bathroom, walled with rough wooden planks in the same brilliant white. Tongue-and -groove built-in cabinets with discreet finger pulls instead of obtrusive cupboard handles complement the unfussy design. It's a pleasing attention to detail and adds an informal touch to the basement level. This can be seen in the bedrooms, too, where mini plywood boxes shore up timber lengths to make desks, and cheerfully coloured plastic chairs exude an easy confidence. There are no timber floorboards down here. Instead, a polished concrete finish catches the light from the thin above-the-waterline windows to keep the scheme bright. It is also a practical choice for three adventurous children with muddy river banks in such close proximity.

My Cool Houseboat by Jane Field-Lewis, £14.99, published by Pavilion.