Mini Houseboat Makeover

BOAT For me, being out on a boat, any kind of boat, is my happy place. As a kid, I remember anxiously awaiting the day when I could get my boating license and after I did, I was on the water as often as possible. Since becoming an adult (boo!) I no longer had access to a boat, until 2 years ago.

As someone who loves to restore things while on a budget, I had no problem searching for an old boat of our own that needed some TLC. In the process of looking, I ran across this mini houseboat for the same price as an older, used pontoon, so I thought what the heck, I’ll check it out.

Almost instantly we loved it; though it needed some work we both knew it had great potential. We could completely see turning this somewhat empty shell into a fun, eclectic float boat. Even better, now that we have kids this would be a great little getaway for our family.  Needless to say, we bought her with the plan of eventually flipping it to suit our style. All of that was 2 years ago and in that time, I became pregnant and we simply didn’t have time for boat makeovers but we still had a long term plan for it.

To my surprise, early this summer it was remodeled for me thanks to my awesome in-laws as an early 10 year wedding anniversary gift. I was so shocked, grateful and quite giddy when I saw her revamped into the cool boat that she is now.  I’m so pleased I just had to share the Before & After along with how my Mother in Law, Linda, did this on a budget, costing a fraction of what it would’ve cost if everything was found brand new.
So let’s take a look!

EXTERIOR BEFORE: Here is a picture of the exterior before it was painted (my mom added the chairs for us) It wasn’t bad before, it just wasn’t our style, but my mother in law changed all that in a major way, which I’ll show you below.

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Meet our new and improved mini houseboat, “Gypsy Rose”

IMG_2721 I really wanted to redo the exterior to look more nautical which Linda nailed by painting it this gray color and accenting with bright white; it’s much more fresh. She not only painted it, but then added these cute shutters around the exterior windows and my husband and Father in Law Eric created picket fence panels around the front, both for safety and to add to the design.
We’re still not completely done with the exterior as more fence panels have to be welded to replace the plastic gates,but hey Rome wasn’t built in a day right?

FullSizeRender-5 When we took the “new” boat out for the 1st time my husband, a cinematographer, had to take this opportunity to film from the top deck. Speaking of that deck, when I’m driving this I actually feel a bit like a tour guide, which I’m totally cool with (as you’ll see below, nerd alert!) hmmm, I may need to invest in a microphone? (kidding!) 

I was SOOOO Excited and Happy!

Ok now onto the biggest transformation, the interior.
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It was pretty bare bones at the time. Actually, when we bought it the lights and shelving,  shown above, weren’t there. I wish I had taken more photos before, but it had some wall canvases, a storage box, futon, small folding table and the sink.



The pic above it what she looks like now on the inside and as you can see Jason is right at home serving up some cold Coronas with Lime for guests:) It’s colorful and carefree; Linda truly took note of my style and decorated it perfectly for us…even better than I ever imagined! She and my Father-In-Law Eric literally replaced or revamped almost everything in here & I’ll share with you some of the DIY’s she put together and deals she found under each picture below.


  • Artwork: On the walls, she created artwork by spray painting some old frames and creating prints out of scrapbook paper, which she found at Hobby Lobby.
  • Lantern: Was only $15 from Lowes and makes a great chandelier (they’re now only $6 if your store still has any left!)
  • Table: She found on craigslist for $50 and then repainted it black with streaks of aqua
  • Decorative Accents: The ornate piece above the table was found at a garage sale for a couple dollars which she spray painted the same color orange that is used in the rest of the decor (She knows I love orange and aqua together!)
  • Flooring: Before, the flooring was this patterned, kinda ugly old laminate. They replaced it with this great faux wood (in a grey tone) roll down flooring and added a nautical rug to finish it off. It looks SOO much better!


  • Futon: This was here before but it was an oak color with a worn black cover, which we painted white and swapped out the cover for a navy one.
  • Pillows: All of the pillows on the boat (here & on the bench) actually came from Goodwill; I found the matching starfish pillows (brand new) at Goodwill for $3 each and Linda found the other pillows from Goodwill, washed them and then recovered using pillow covers from Hobby Lobby.
  • Fish & Net: She actually made & painted the fish & found the net at Goodwill also. (I’m telling ya, you can find some good things there if you look around!) You can find similar nets at Amazon
  • Storage Cubes- My husband got these cubes (I believe they’re actually closet organizers) at Dollar General of all places. He put them above the futon to serve as towel storage and then placed under cabinet lights underneath them. He also used these next to the sink for additional storage; they have worked out so well!


  • Picture: The picture with the lures was created by using the same method as the other pictures; spray painted frame, scrapbook paper and then lures on top. This picture is actually quite sentimental; the lures were my husbands grandpa’s, who passed 2 years ago, so it’s really nice to have part of him on our boat.
  • Coat hooks- I saw these rope covered hooks at TJ Maxx for $11 and had to have them. Sure, I could DIY something similar but for just over $10 it was worth it to just buy em!


  • Curtains: All of the curtains were made from a new fabric shower curtain I found at Goodwill for a few bucks.
  • Nautical Wooden Banner: Linda found this at Hobby Lobby and I love it; really ties this seating area together
  • Bench: Underneath this bench is a heavy duty plastic storage box which is completely necessary to store everything in, but it was ugly and we had always wanted to turn it into a bench seat. Linda found some great waterproof fabric (I believe it’s a type of vinyl) and sewed a long bench cover for the top. Now you can’t even tell it’s a storage area & we gained all this seating..yea!

This boat was truly one of the best purchases we’ve ever made; it allows us to spend quality time with our family and offers a place to teach our kids about the water, fishing and all the other outdoorsy things we love. As you can see from the photos below, we are in love with our little houseboat, The Gypsy Rose, and I hope you enjoyed reading about how she was transformed into the cool vessel she is today!

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In a series of posts in the future, I’ll share how I bought this old home, which was in major need of some repair, and turned it into the home we now love. This project has taken us YEARS to complete because we did almost all of the work ourselves, but she’s pretty much finished & I can’t wait to share what it looks like today. It takes me longer to write these days with 2 little ones running around but I’m ready to crack open the house time capsule and start sharing her transformation. Stay Tuned :)

Here are some before pictures of the walls…yea that was alot of fun :)
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