Local Spotlight: The Floathaus

Floathaus Saugatuck Starboard Elevation

We’ve been spending a good amount of time at the boat yard this spring getting ready for the upcoming season. Cleaning, scrubbing, and touching up the paint here and there. We love the work and it’s nice to see Serenity again but it can be a bit tedious sometimes. Thankfully there has been a nice distraction just across from us that’s been fun to watch. A tiny house is being built right before our eyes! A tiny… floating house? What?!

After digging a bit and finding The Floathaus’ beautiful Instagram, we had to reach out to the creative mind behind this project to get a little insight into the who, what, where, why and how of The Floathaus. What we found was the inspiring story of Saugatuck’s newest and coolest rental property, who also happens to be our marina neighbor!

The Floathaus is still a couple weeks away from her official launch. But if you’re interested in learning more or booking a stay, you can contact Jess on the Floathaus Instagram or book directly through the Floathaus Airbnb listing.

So tell us a little bit about yourself and The Floathaus.

Jess: My name is Jess Anderson, and I’m a Grand Rapids native living in Jenison with my Realtor Husband and our two energetic youngsters. The place that brings me the most joy has always been on the water. I grew up boating on both the big lake and inland lakes, and it’s no doubt where I feel at “home”. I am thrilled to be able to live in an area where my kids can now grow up with the same exposure to Michigan’s natural treasures. My background is in Nonprofit Administration, where my organizational skills eventually led me to merge my love of renovation/building with my passion for project management. My Husband and I both like to take a creative approach to life, and through a lot of dreaming, researching and brainstorming, the idea for the Floathaus was born! When our family travels, we almost exclusively utilize Airbnb and have always appreciated having a local host to help us squeeze the most out of our stays. The Floathaus (proudly named “Anne Bonny”) will be the first of what I hope will be a handful of carefully crafted floating homes in which guests can enjoy and explore the local Douglas/Saugatuck area.

Where did you get the inspiration to build a floating home?

Jess: Again, having an undying love for the water, I’m always drawn back to how I can be closest to it, every moment of every day. I was inspired by the lifestyle of the east coast and pacific northwest floating home communities. Since nothing like that really exists in Michigan, and floating house builders weren’t within reach (in both geography or cost), I decided to build my own after recruiting help from my friend, Tom Molter, of Aspire Tiny Homes out of Kalamazoo. It has been a pioneering process. A few other exist in the area, but were either done on a small DIY scale, or the builder is no longer in business. For a researcher and problem solver like myself, I’ve been like a kid in a candy story! Figuring out each complexity has been fun and fulfilling. As far as the design inspiration, I’m hoping to create a modern east coast feel with clean lines and natural finishes. I am obsessed with tiny living and so this is the ultimate space planning challenge. Every detail has been thoughtfully designed to maximize the 450 square feet of interior space, complete with 16′ vaulted ceilings and light bright finishes to make the space feel impressive. There are also 2 levels of decks that add another 200 square feet of living space. In life, I’d say I am always chasing inspiration, it’s exciting to see where I can be led. The Floathaus is a product of this never-ending chase. 

Looking up at the loft
Just a few more steps before launch

What do you hope your guests walk away with after their stay at Floathaus?

Jess: While I build and design the Floathaus, I’m imagining breakfasts on the deck overlooking the morning sun twinkling on the water, an intentional unplugging from modern distractions like TV and devices, maybe a golden tan after laying by the waterfront pool for a few days. I hope guests pick up some local wine and enjoy it on the upper deck in the evening watching the stars go by. I hope families and friends alike can hop in the kayaks and explore a front row view of the harbor and water perspectives of downtown Saugatuck. I hope memories are made and they leave the Floathaus with an appreciation for a unique waterfront experience and an enjoyable stay in the area. It thrills me to get to set the scene for someone to have a romantic or fun getaway! 

What do you love about Saugatuck or Southwest Michigan in general?

Jess: What’s NOT to love? The harbor towns offer a special vibe, it’s just a lighthearted and inclusive place of wonder. There’s something for everyone! Like to drink? Shop? Explore? Hike? Bike? Eat? People watch? Play? There’s something for you. I’m excited to learn what each guest hopes to experience during their stay, and then help steer them in the direction that will make for an amazing stay in the Saugatuck/Douglas area.

If you were to plan a perfect Saturday in Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville for a friend, what would you have them do?

Jess: My perfect Saugatuck/Douglas day would start early with a hike out on the North trail of Saugatuck Dunes State Park (give yourself about 2 hours to truly enjoy the smell of the pine and the sound of the waves once you arrive). Once back at your vehicle, you’ve earned brunch at Ida Reds, just a few miles away in downtown Saugatuck. Everything on the menu is a win and the atmosphere is intimate and cozy. Post brunch, I’d hit up “Just Add Water” in Douglas to rent some bikes for a few hours in order to explore up and down Lakeshore drive, the views and the spectacular homes! Finally pedal to Oval Beach bringing a few snacks and soak up some rays, take a dip in the crystal waters and read a book. Return bikes by 4:30 in order to arrive by 4:45 at The Southerner (opens promptly at 5 but a line will form). Order the fried chicken…or macaroni…and DEFINITELY a biscuit or two with honey butter and a frozen drink. Ask to sit out on the porch where you hear the birds and can watch the boats drive by. Aren’t full yet??? Head to Kilwins to grab a cone or some chocolates and take a casual stroll around the shops as the day winds down. An alternative dinner spot would be Salt of the Earth in Fennville for some farm to table grub and live music. Another favorite lunch spot is Pumpernickels…or Bowdie’s…or Mitten Brewing. Man, can’t we add a 4th or 5th meal? Of course you can, you’re on vacation!

BONUS QUESTION! What have you been doing to keep busy during the pandemic?

Jess: We built our kids a playhouse in the backyard, and now all of our neighbors and friends want one too. Now I’m staying busy doing some designs for them. I also have been listening to a lot of podcasts (favorites: How I Built This, The Pitch) and audiobooks (currently listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking To Strangers). No extra sleep or quiet with a 3 and 6 year old, but we’ve loved getting to do even more family hikes than normal. I’m happy that construction is officially back open for business as our particular build is a safe vacant space for me to work. It has brought me a lot of joy during this quarantine period, I think without it I might have just gone a little (more) nutty!

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