Tried and Tested: The Houseboat, Dorset
It was a sunny late January afternoon when we first arrived at The Houseboat, an award-winning architectural masterpiece perched in prime position overlooking Dorset's Poole Harbour and Lake Pier.
After almost two years in and out of lockdowns, we were excited to be sharing the experience not only with each other (as Host Unusual directors, we work remotely and communicate mostly over the internet!) but also with some close friends whom we hadn't been able to get together with for some time. Sleeping up to 10 guests in its four bedrooms, the Houseboat looked like the perfect place for this reunion to happen, with plenty of room for everyone to spread out, but with a choice of various communal areas to share some quality time.
As the first to arrive, my partner, son and I couldn't wait to get in and see if the interior was as impressive as the towering exterior, which has been designed to resemble two upturned boat hulls, perfectly in keeping with its seaside setting. We were not disappointed.
The ground level entrance hall was illuminated in the afternoon sunshine, and featured a stunning underwater themed mosaic floor panel which added to the stylish coastal theme. On this floor there was also a beautiful bedroom with kingsize bed, ensuite bathroom and private patio, plus a separate WC.
Three of the four bedrooms were on the lower ground level, creating a cosy, tranquil vibe. Those of us with children took these rooms, which comprised of two rooms with kingsize doubles (one with ensuite and private patio), a family bathroom and a bunk room sleeping four (which although kids will love, is perfectly roomy enough to sleep four adults!).
Following the stairs up to the first level to the sociable kitchen and dining room, we were amazed at the light flooding through the full length windows which covered almost the whole of this side of the property, framing the view perfectly. Floor-to-ceiling windows are always impressive, but when the ceilings are this high, and the view this good, the result is even more breath-taking.
The attention to detail was outstanding; features such as the enormous, show-stopping ‘sea glass' chandelier centrepiece, the huge, beautiful wooden sailboat model in the dining room area, scattered glass tiles adorning the balustrades, and the stunning use of timber panelling reminiscent of a magnificent sailing vessel made it impossible to forget you were right by the sea. But of course, you only needed to glance around to those full height windows, or step out onto the sea-facing patio for proof.
The cleverly thought-out split level, open-plan living continued onto the second level lounge area, and up to the crow's nest level at the very top, where the kids loved spending their mornings watching telly, playing with the contents of the toy box, and yelling their breakfast orders down to the kitchen whilst those of us lucky enough not to be on breakfast duty could enjoy the spectacular sea views from our lofty lookout.
The ingenious use of space and light, sociable open-plan layout, the mix of exposed concrete, timber and steel throughout, and the head-turning exterior made it immediately obvious why this utterly unique property was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects' coveted Stephen Lawrence Prize in 2017, and as we settled in we made good use of every space throughout our stay, determined to drink in the serene surroundings as much as possible.
The location, not too far from Poole town centre, but far enough to feel undisturbed and peaceful, was perfect for our group. We enjoyed a delicious pizza delivery on the first night as we were all feeling too lazy to cook, and after an extremely restful night's sleep we headed over to Sandbanks (known for its high property prices and award-winning beach) for a refreshing walk and café lunch, after which the kids ran off some steam at the park.
Our evenings were spent on the lounge level (once the kids had finally gone to sleep), where we played cards, chatted, laughed and shared snacks until we couldn't keep awake any longer. Our second day saw our party split for the morning, as one half of Host Unusual embarked on a coastal walk from the iconic Durdle Door (above) to the picturesque Lulworth Cove, whilst the other half (and those with under-5s to keep track of!) took a leisurely stroll down to the beach at the foot of the property, enjoying the winter sunshine whilst the kids honed their skills throwing stones into the tranquil waters.
We reconvened later in the day for a tasty pub lunch at the pretty Bankes Arms in Studland (a traditional 16th century inn built from local quarried stone, and set right by the sea), and finished the afternoon with a walk on South Beach which was just a short stroll from the pub. We enjoyed the obligatory ice-cream at the lovely beachfront café, as despite it being late January, we had another day of dazzling winter sunshine. Then it was back to the warm and welcoming embrace of the Houseboat, and a relaxed last evening with yet more lounging, eating and chatting (quite a theme on this getaway!).
Something about the sea air seems to aid good sleep, as I had some of the best, most restful nights at the Houseboat (the bed was super comfy too, which always helps). But I think that the sense of calm, wellbeing and cosiness that comes from spending time in a truly beautiful place, so well considered and appointed, with some of your favourite people, also has a lot to do with it. The Houseboat was the perfect venue for us to spend much-needed quality time together, and left us all with a warm and fuzzy feeling of contentment, longing for another visit.
You can find out more about the Houseboat via their Host Unusual listing here.