Meet 2015's HGTV Fresh Face of Design: Robert Nebolon

Nine hundred of the country's top interior designers, architects and landscape designers entered our search for HGTV's next Fresh Face of Design but only one was able to nab the prize. Learn more about architect Robert Nebolon and his forward-thinking design -- a floating house that's packed with small-space solutions and innovative ideas.
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Constructed on dry land — in a Sausalito, Calif. boatyard — the modern home took 6 months to build. Securely anchored to a floating concrete barge, the boat-like home's design is more akin to an urban loft than a typical houseboat. 

Modern Floating House: View From the Water

Modern Floating House: View From the Water

The top floor with the public areas (living room, kitchen and dining room) is sheathed in white metal siding. The private areas of the house (bedrooms) are sheathed in blue metal siding. The roof shape is reminiscent of sails on a sailing ship, spiky clouds or even icebergs to some.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Designed to resemble stacked shipping containers, the home is clad in prefinished metal siding. Although the footprint is small — the hull is 18' x 42' — the interior feels anything but cramped. Robert employed an industrial-style 'saw-tooth' roof (composed of steep, windowed pitches) and large spans of windows to bathe rooms in natural light and offer up sweeping water views.  

Floating House: Great Room Looking North

Floating House: Great Room Looking North

The high windows at the saw-tooth roof design bring light into the column/wall-free great room. Light colors and minimal wall decorations make the room feel large and spacious. The large windows stretch the space beyond its physical borders to the views beyond. Light fixtures are of open metal design and work well with the window patterns. The use of wood warms the entire room in a nice appropriate manner.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

So the homeowners can better appreciate the natural surroundings, Robert added three decks, the largest of which is off the main living area. Sliding doors open wide to give the interior a more spacious feeling and to create an easy flow between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Floating House: Living Room and Teak Deck

Floating House: Living Room and Teak Deck

The living room deck stretches the space via double doors when the need arises. The white metal siding clads the entire top floor as a way of indicating the importance of the great room inside. The teak decking is a nice contrast to the Australian Cypress wood flooring inside.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

But Robert's small-space solutions don't stop in the common areas, this elevated bed in the master bedroom provides plenty of storage while also offering the couple a better view of the water. 

Floating House: Master Bedroom

Floating House: Master Bedroom

To create additional storage, the master bed is raised to allow for storage underneath; this is called a "Captain's Bed" and is commonly used on boats. A step stool is needed to make the bed accessible.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Robert's genius small-space solutions and innovative approach to modern, loft-style living (with a waterfront twist!) wowed HGTV fans who voted his design tops in the small space category, then won over the judges who crowned him the winner overall. Here are a few more photos of Robert's award-winning design plus the judges' POV on why he swept the competition: 

Caitlin McCarthy, 2014's Fresh Faces of Design Winner: "Robert's design features cohesive, distinct areas within an open floorplan that incorporates natural light in the fabric of the architecture, making it feel large and expansive even on a smaller scale. I'm especially taken by the charm and warmth of the space, which includes daring color choices, while highlighting modern, clean design throughout."

Floating House: Great Room Looking South

Floating House: Great Room Looking South

The image shows how the saw-tooth roof design defines the areas underneath in a subtle fashion. The living area, under the first saw-tooth, is in the foreground. The dining area and kitchen are under the second saw-tooth, and the staircase is under the third and final saw-tooth at the rear.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Tobi Fairley, Principal of Tobi Fairley Design: "Though there were many beautiful projects among the finalists for this year's competition, it was Robert's Tiny Floating House that stood out as the most creative use of space, form, and color. And coming from a color lover like me, the red stair railing and pop of yellow on the bathroom vanity added just the perfect amount of punch to the classic and iconic forms and furnishings of this unusual home. Bravo, Robert!" 

Floating House: Master Bathroom

Floating House: Master Bathroom

Windows, colors and steam-punk detailing make this small master bathroom work. A high window over the sink area allows light to wash across the ceiling. A low window in the shower allows light to wash across the tile floor. Custom-fabricated lighting on fabric-covered power cords (wrapped around painted galvanized iron pipe) works well with the gridded shower stall enclosure. Yellow brightens the mood.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Stephen Pararo, Principal of Pineapple House Interior Design: "Had this home been presented first from the inside, instead of starting with the exterior shots on the water, you would have never known it was a floating home. That's the genius here – no gimmicks or artifice, just a well-designed, clean and modern living space that – who would guess! – also floats and moves! Great livable spaces, flooded with natural light and a bold use of color. A pleasure to live in, or be entertained 'onboard'."

Floating House: Kitchen With High Ceiling

Floating House: Kitchen With High Ceiling

The kitchen uses cool quiet colors and high windows to make this area feel large and spacious under the saw-tooth ceiling. Open metal shelves and pot-racks are suspended from the ceiling to create an airy feeling that traditional wall cabinets would not provide.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Brian Patrick Flynn, Founder of Flynnside Out Productions: "Robert's mix of architectural details, clever use of primary colors and classic modern lines has resulted in a forward-thinking designer home that's as classic as it is contemporary."

Floating House: Open Metal & Wood Staircase

Floating House: Open Metal & Wood Staircase

The open metal and wood staircase is designed to allow light to filter down and through various floors. Also, the openness creates the illusion of space. The orange color is the same paint color used on the nearby Golden Gate Bridge. The same color is used on the front door and accent tile in the kitchen. The spectacular openness "pulls" visitors toward the stairs and up into the great room upstairs.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Jillian St. Charles, VP, HGTV.com, TravelChannel.com, DIYNetwork.com and GreatAmericanCountry.com: "I love how Robert made all the contrasting elements come together harmoniously – hard lines and organic shapes, primary colors and natural tones. This interior has real charm and feels fresh."

Floating House: Living Room With Water View

Floating House: Living Room With Water View

The living room has spectacular views of the waterways. The windows extend to the ceiling as a way to increase the airy feeling of the space and to take in as much daylight and view as possible. The low-slung furnishings and cool colors enhance this effect.

Photo by: Matthew Millman

Matthew Millman

Hungry for more design inspiration? Check out the other beautifully designed indoor and outdoor spaces in our HGTV Fresh Faces of Design categories below:

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