Designing A Brand-New Boat

Interiors are important

August 2015 Feature Katie Burke


Nothing will date a houseboat like the color palette used in the décor and the exterior of the boat. Building a brand new boat these days pretty much guarantees you a white exterior, which seems to be the hottest trend right now—especially when paired with full-length glass panel windows that help with the sophisticated look. But when it comes to the interior of your brand-new boat, there are some things to consider.

Keep It Timeless

First and foremost, you should decorate your boat the way that makes you happy. But if you are picking out something that will be permanently in place, such as counter tops or fixtures, try and keep it timeless. 

“As a rule, most houseboat owners should avoid ‘trendy’ décor and choose timeless pieces to assist in the overall value of the boat,” said Theresa York, owner of Theresa York Interiors (606-307-6333). “This promotes many years of use along with a resale value that allows the owner to sell.”

York is an interior design consultant specializing in custom interiors and floorplan design. She has many years of experience and has led the industry with her innovative designs and careful attention to detail. She’s proven herself time and time again when it comes to houseboat interiors. Her advice is still to keep neutral colors paired with high-quality material for the most effective use of your money.

“Always keep in mind to use neutral colors on big pieces such as the sofa and counter tops and bring in pops of color with the accent pillows and accessories,” added York. “Flowing the color throughout the boat promotes a cohesive feeling and allows you to add your personality.”

As you work with an interior designer to put the look of your boat together, keeping things neutral in the building process will allow you to bring in trendy décor pieces that can easily be changed out.

No More Clutter

Reducing clutter in order to create open space will help the boat’s interior space appear much larger. By simplifying the number of small pieces you have on your countertops, you’ll give bigger artwork more room to breathe and create an impact. Less is more when it comes to your houseboat interior décor design. 

Shelly Aff, who has been a houseboat interior decorator for years, had this advice, “Larger scale accessories tend to be what is available in the marketplace. This is a little difficult for boats because of our limited space, but just remember that one nice large wall piece is better than three little ones.”


As you design your boat, consider all the storage you think you’ll ever need. Plan for as much as your builder can give you. Luckily, manufacturers are houseboaters themselves and know the headache of never having enough room. There are some things you can do to create more storage after the build is complete.

“Bed height night stands will gain an extra drawer,” said York. “In some cases you can fit a bench seat underneath the window in the master stateroom to provide seating, as well as extra storage.”

Looking at what you can do with the interior of current storage will also help. There are a lot of companies who provide aftermarket closet organizational tools that you can buy after you’ve spent time on the boat to see what your needs are. By keeping things organized, you’ll make a huge difference.

Inexpensive Upgrades

Not everyone can afford every option they love when it comes to building their boat. There are a few things you can do to make an immediate difference that won’t break the bank. Pick cheaper valances, bedding and drapes that can easily be changed out when the color scheme is no longer popular. By knowing what’s popular, you can stay on top of the trends and not have to change things out as often.

Consider your carpet color as you build and keep your lifestyle in mind when picking the color. If you are hesitant to pick a neutral carpet color because of the traffic your boat gets, consider moving to hard surface flooring. This kind of flooring makes your boat appear larger and easier to maintain.


One of the best choices you can make when building your boat is using high-quality material that will last for a long time. When it comes to marine fabrics, Sunbrella is the number one trusted name. At any marina in America, Sunbrella fabrics can be found on numerous boats. They manufacture the fabric that is used in many marine products, such as furniture, cushions, awnings, boat tops and more.

“Our fabrics offerings are constantly evolving to meet our customers’ needs and stay one step ahead of the latest color and design trends,” says Greg Voorhis, design director for Glen Raven, Inc., producer of Sunbrella fabrics.

Besides having a ton of elegant fabric styles to choose from, it’s made for a marine setting so it will hold up to lifestyle. Plus, it’s extremely easy to keep clean. Most of the fabrics can be spot cleaned or machine washed. Sunbrella fabrics have a special finish that enhances water repellency, which is designed to last for several years.

Now that you’ve built the boat of your dreams, make good décor decisions so when it’s time to upgrade, you’ve got a boat that is easy to sell.

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