With a little creative thinking, you can do anything.
So says Francesca Wolfsohn, owner of the antique-themed cottage float that is docked in .
After three years of lugging wrought iron bars through the marina, banging ceiling beams so they appear "beaten up," and making sure every room has a sky light, Wolfson has finally completed her treasure chest on top of the sea.
Step inside and you feel like you're in a Beatles' song.
Knights and monkey statues are a running theme. So are vintage clocks, Venetian mirrors, Moroccan-style night tables and antique toolboxes. A DVD player sits amidst a few wire baskets. A flat-screen television hangs above a bench that was made in the 1600s.
Seven cats, three dogs and one turtle co-habit the artistic den with Wolfsohn.
"You have to love each other otherwise you can't be here," she teases one of the cats, as she pets them and recites their names: "Amadeus, Aries, Anya, Amsterdam, Anakan, ChiChi and Major Deegan."
You can point out literally any item in her humble abode and there's a story behind it. And you forget your troubles because a calmness and serenity lingers throughout.
"There's nothing like living on the water," she says. "I wake up every morning and the sun is coming in off the awnings and it sparkles into my room."
"The floatation is constantly calming. Look at the chandelier, it's moving. But you don't feel it moving. And we're constantly moving. We are 75% water, so our bodies are constantly at float and the water balances us."
"There's an allure to living on the sea," notes Elida Nellis is a licensed salesperson with Daniel Gale Sotheby's Port Washington office. "But it's not for everyone."
Those living in houseboats tend to be very hands on. "There are regular maintenance issues," she says. "You need to make sure everything is working properly."
Another obstacle is a lack of financing. So unless cash is an option or a buyer can get a home equity line, buyers face limitations, Nellis points out.
"A lot of owners did their own financing, and that can work," she says.
Wolfson came across the concept of a floating cottage while looking for a bungalow on the water after selling her two-family house in Great Neck.
She found out that a few were for sale at LaMotta's marina, including the one Guy LaMotta built for his mother – a solid, rectangular house barge that is built to code (it can be transported to land and function just fine).
"I just felt like I was at home, there was a family here and everyone watches out for everyone," she says. "And I loved the cottage-y little village, the way towns used to be. Not so mass-oriented. I love Port Washington."
Wolfson bought the house barge and transformed it. She stripped down the thin, wood and varnish beams on the ceiling and built boxes around them to make them bigger.
"We beat it with chains and hammers," she says. "One night, I said. 'this is not what I want' and I went around with joint compound, I got on ladders and I filled in sections here and there, so I had different levels of distress. Anything that's old and distressed and has character is what I want. I always want to see the nooks and the crannies and the notches and the dings and the older the wood, the better for me."
"I like a lot of texture in the actual foundation of the house. I will never live in a room like that is just a flat sheetrock wall. It's plain. I want something that has dents and grooves. And it took three different people to get the distress I wanted on it."
The walls are textured with a sand-type of material that you pour into the paint and pour onto the walls, so it looks like old concrete.
Houseboat communities tend to run the gamut, from people in suits to school teachers, Nellis says.
A registered investment advisor who went to FIT, Wolfsohn is living on her dreamboat, but is always searching for the right yin-yang.
"It's a new generation, it's a new time, a new economy and you have to have a new outlook," she says. "Part of me is a hippie. Part of me would love to live on a sustainable farm and not hurt or hinder the world in any way. And just adopt every three-legged animal with one eye and live on a farm and take care of some of the animals. But another part of me enjoys luxuries, I enjoy getting a nice sweater and feeling cozy. I love buying beautiful curtains in different fabrics. At 48, I'm still finding my balance."
No place better than a boat to find it.