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Originally published Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Northwest Living

A little space goes a long way on the water

Enrico Pozzo and Yumiko Fujimori's home is sleek and spare. But this is not a shiny new Belltown condo or some flat-roofed, bluff-view wonder. This is a little houseboat.

A marriage made in houseboat heaven

Enrico Pozzo and Yumiko Fujimori, who both have degrees in architecture, met years ago when they worked at NBBJ. They lived together in a Queen Anne apartment, about 1,500 square feet, before moving to the houseboat. During the houseboat remodel they moved to a 485-square-foot studio to further test their skills at living small.

"I worked in London, so I had only two suitcases full of stuff," Fujimori says.

"It took 3,000 years of culture to whip me into shape," Pozzo says, "but after three months we couldn't even remember what we had given away."

What they gave up in things, they gained in friendships.

"We have an extended family here," Fujimori says. The neighbor across the dock has been known to walk in, borrow a pot and leave without so much as a word. He delights them. "My family is in Japan, and Enrico's is in The Netherlands. So this is our family.

"We got married here."

"It was a dock marriage in every sense of the word," Pozzo says. "Our minister lives here, (author) Robert Fulghum."

"My friend who lived here designed my wedding dress," Fujimori says. "We had been painting the house right up until the wedding. I had primer in my hair on my wedding day."

Enrico Pozzo and Yumiko Fujimori's home is sleek and spare. Black and white. Bare walls. Fir front door with five narrow bands for windows. Furniture from ligne roset and Urban Hardwoods. Very contemporary. Very cool.

But this is not a shiny new Belltown condo or some flat-roofed, bluff-view wonder. This is a little houseboat. One of those can't-help-but-be-adorable floating homes tethered to Seattle. The little houses that seem to bounce with joy. All dolled up in festive paints and twinkling lights — festooned with as many artsy trinkets and potted plants as their decks will hold.

This is one of those.

It's a new day in the neighborhood.

"As architects, we wanted a brand new box. But no matter what you do you block somebody's view. People get used to your roofline," Fujimori says, explaining why they held their new 807-square-foot home to a remodel. As she speaks, a seaplane touches down not 50 feet away. Their sailboat, Bravo, is lashed to the dock.

"The big question for us was how could we be contemporary and maintain the feel of the houseboat community."

They have done it by blending the contemporary with charm in the floating box they bought in 2003.

They lived there for four years before the transformation, Fujimori squinting at walls and imagining windows — big windows, more of them aimed at Lake Union and fewer pointed at the neighbor across the dock. She looked up, imagining light and space, and a private loft just for her. Bamboo floors and cabinets, both the look and the smell of the wood recalling her childhood in Japan. And a big soaking tub for the same reason. An office for her husband. A kitchen to cook every day in. A live-edge walnut table, with actual walnuts embedded into the benches. All of this they designed on a budget, finishing everything, including tax and furniture, foundation work and releveling, for $240,000. By day, Fujimori designs larger public structures for SRG Partnership. Mike Easter of Easter Construction began work in summer 2006, and the couple moved in by June 2007.

As a real-estate agent specializing in condominiums and floating homes, Pozzo knows the value of each and every square foot a home has to offer.

"There are only 482 houseboats in this city, and maybe 20 to 24 come up for sale every year," he says. "But now it's even less than that because people are holding onto them as investments. On average people hold onto these for 20 years. Houses sell on average every 10 years."

As the couple says, their contemporary home is still very much a houseboat. And as such, its wraparound deck is peppered with potted plants, more than 50. Little Japanese maples and bamboo and coleuses and dahlias and grasses and variegated ivy. Even an apple tree, bowed with fruit.

"Almost all of these plants came by backpack," Pozzo says.

"I don't drive," Fujimori adds. "Sometimes I call my husband and say, 'I have a big Japanese maple. Can you come pick us up?' "

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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