This Floating Home in the Santa Barbara Harbor Was Entirely Rebuilt By a Father and Son

“Archimedes’s principle states that a body immersed in a fluid is subjected to an upward force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. I built seemingly endless spreadsheets calculating live and dead loads. It really forced me to think through every detail to ensure I had adequate buoyancy,” Jeff reflects. With inspiration from Archimedes and significant guidance from architect and dear friend CJ Paone, of Ventura-based architecture firm Archipelago Workshop, he opted for less conventional yet extremely durable building systems, such as SIPS wall panels, heavy steel moment frames, and a foundation of industrial-grade piping and foam, to help keep the home afloat.

The home’s only bedroom is situated at the bow on the second floor. With high windows, it affords privacy while also offering views of sailboat masts and palm trees. “When lying in bed, you can see the water through the stair opening beyond the back deck,” observes Jeff. Between the tint on the glazing and numerous interior lighting options, it’s easy to remain invisible indoors. “The insulation is substantial, keeping the inside in and the outside out. I always smile when people comment that no one lives here. There are multiple kayak tours that float by daily and every guide has a unique—and always incorrect—story to spin. I’ve heard that the home belongs to Jeff Bridges, a professional skateboarder, and a rocket scientist. The soundproof box comes in handy for late-night dance parties!” The hand-felted wall tapestry is by Taiana Giefer. The painting and sculpture are vintage finds, while the artworks are by Jean Cocteau and Lana Feer.

Because it was too wide to haul out of the water in Santa Barbara, Jeff and his dad anchored the boat to the Ventura Harbor Boat Yard to begin the refit. “We rode on the house for the journey and I often tell people it was like being in an earthquake for twelve hours,” says Jeff. The pair spent the next nine months commuting to Ventura seven days a week to build the exterior of the home. As they built and built and built, long days would turn into longer nights.

The bathroom has a white-and-brass double vanity and a very large shower with a white Tadelakt plaster finish. The entire shower ceiling is covered by a large skylight. On sunny days, this allows light to cascade into the home. “While there’s a light in the shower, there’s nothing better than showering in the moonlight,” says Jeff. The wall tapestry is by Taiana Giefer.

“After living in Australia for three years, I became a fan of separating toilets from sinks and showers,” Jeff says. He gave the toilet room a kaleidoscopic vibe with bright floor-to-ceiling Turkish tiles and a pink toilet paper holder.

After months of waiting for the right weather window, Jeff and Mike finally towed the completely remodeled home back to Santa Barbara on December 10, 2019, Jeff’s 43rd birthday. “We spent the next few years working on the interior of the home and fighting various legal battles with the city,” says Jeff, whose girlfriend, designer Louisa Kimble, stepped in when it came to the interior design.

When he isn’t in the studio room creating bags or working on his next project with his father (they’re currently converting a 1965 International Harvester van into a mobile bar for a client to use at weddings and events), Jeff can usually be found enjoying the corner view in the dining room, with a morning tea or an evening cocktail. “I love the home’s location as it eliminates the need to drive. It’s incredible to walk along the water to so many great restaurants,” he notes. “At night, all the boats along the harbor disappear and the horizon is illuminated with string lights from the pier. It feels like I’m back in my New York loft, or really anywhere else my imagination takes me.”

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