Updating your outdated interior

Tips From The Experts

April 2018 Feature Katie Burke

The great thing about buying a houseboat is the fiberglass/aluminum hull is going to last forever or at least for a really long time. But the décor within the boat? Not so much. Within 10 years people will begin to think your boat is “old” without even asking about the structural integrity. And no one wants that fate for a family member—aka, the houseboat. We need to protect her and her reputation!

You can bring your houseboat back to life without buying a new boat. Update the colors. Get new furniture. Basically give your boat a new look by improving the design elements. It can be as simple or as complicated as you desire. Need some direction? We sought after some of the best professionals in the business to get you started. And when this project grows legs of its own and you can no longer handle it, you will know who to call.

Keep It Timeless

Nothing could be worse that filling your boat full of items that will eventually scream 2012 and then you won’t even be able to unload them at a family garage sale.

“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. “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 the led the industry with her innovative designs and careful attention to detail. This lady knows what she’s talking about so trust her when she says the use of neutral colors will help with high-quality pieces that will extend their shelf beyond their coolness date.

“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.”

If neon colors ever make a comeback, they will still look nice against your beige material and replacing a few pillows will be much easier than replacing the whole couch. And if they don’t (and hopefully they don’t), then you will still have a solid foundation to make whatever style you like at the time work.

No More Clutter

Another expert with great opinions is Shelly Aff. Aff and her husband Terry are the co-owner of Stardust Cruisers and she has been designing interiors for over 15 years, either in the corporate world, the residential market or for her most favorite passion, houseboats. She advises boat owners to reduce clutter in order to create open space that will help the boat’s interior space appear much larger.

“Simplify the number of table accessories, silk arrangements and wall décor,” said Aff. “We still need to have artwork to give the ‘wow-factor’ all boat owners enjoy, but less is always more.”

The mainstream interior design market is not specifically set up for houseboats, so owners need to have that in mind when selecting accessories.

“Larger scale accessories tend to be what is available in the marketplace,” added Aff. “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.”


For the most part, the main storage elements in your houseboat were probably implemented back when the original floor plan was designed. But as more grandkids are born, you may realize that you need even more storage to house the influx of stuff people travel with.

“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.”

That seems simple enough. Looking at what you can do with the interior of current storage will also help.

“Redesign the closets with a combination of shelving, pull-out containers and double hanging rods because using the vertical space efficiently is the best way to gain storage,” said Aff. “Also an organized closet or pantry will always net more storage.”

Inexpensive Upgrades

Not everyone can afford to entirely redo the interior of their boat every time they get a whim to do so. But there are a few things you can do to make an immediate difference that won’t break the bank.

“Change your valances, bedding and drapes.  Most boats look dated due to the fabrics inside,” said Aff. “Color trends are designed to be popular for about seven to ten years. Make sure the colors you are choosing are on the newer side of the time period while remembering that neutrals always stay in style longer than high impact designs.” Changing the carpet can also help. 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 a hard surface flooring.

“The trend is also to have hard surface flooring throughout the salon, galley and main halls,” said Aff. “This makes the boat appear larger and easier to maintain.”

Another idea has less to do with color and material and everything thing to do with entertaining to the fullest.

“If your boat does not already feature the new and updated entertainment center that houses a flat screen, then this is a big difference you can make because boaters love their TV’s,” said York. “By upgrading the entertainment center, you actually gain more space in the salon, and add value to your boat. You can’t go wrong with this improvement.” 

DIY VS. Hiring A Pro

As with most do-it-yourself projects, there can be more to refurbishing your houseboat than what you would expect. And depending on the personality of your spouse, this project can develop into a decade-long mission that will either entice family bonding or land you in divorce court. So here are some guidelines on what you should actually attempt versus what deserves a call to the pros.

“Lighting and ceiling fan fixtures can easily be changed by owners, as well as cabinet hardware and window blinds,” said York. “However, if a flooring change is in the future, this may be an area where you want to seek professional help. Houseboats can require different techniques than a home when installing new floors.”

Another area that may need an update is the kitchen.

“Countertop changes can also make a major impact; again, my best advice is to rely on the professional for this,” said York. Aff offers similar advice.

“Beyond the simple upgrades such as a change-out of accessories, all other projects should be done by professionals. Usually special tools and skills are required to accomplish these tasks. Unless you already possess those skills and tools, it does not make sense to acquire them for one project.”  

So there you have it: give your boat a self-esteem boost with these upgrade tips. But if there is a chance that your boat will end up under water with a DIY project gone wrong, call in a professional.

For More Information

Theresa York Interiors



Shelly Aff



Added Tips

Need some help coming up with a color scheme you like and want to live with? First, find a picture online that features colors that inspire you, whether it be a nature shot that took your breath away or a flower arrangement that you couldn’t take your eyes off of. Next visit www.degraeve.com where you will need to enter the URL of the photo. This website will automatically generate a color palette of the most complementary colors in the photograph. Print it out and take it to your local paint store to get the equivalent paint colors.  

Paint can easily be a DIY project, but cleaning up the mess is no fun. When you remove the lid, wrap a rubber band around your paint can so that it runs across the top. Use it to scrape excess paint off with instead of the side of the can. That way drips run back into the can, not down the sides. When you’re done, soak the brushes in hot vinegar for 30 minutes. This makes cleaning a comparative breeze.

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