The Real Houseboat from “Sleepless in Seattle”

Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

The real houseboat from the classic Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com Sleepless in Seattle went on the market recently, so I thought it would be fun to revisit it and compare the movie version to the real thing.

The Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" |

Okay, so the houses aren’t really boats because they never leave the dock, and they’re technically called floating homes, but that just doesn’t have the same ring as a houseboat, does it? The one his character Sam lived in is on Lake Union near the University of Washington and Pike Place Market.

The Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" |

Houseboats started cropping up in the area in the 1890s, when sailors, fishermen and dock workers in Elliott Bay built homes on rafts. According to an article in The Washington Post:

During the Depression, low-income laborers took advantage of the geography and built or moved into tax-free houseboats. The houseboat population peaked in the 1930s, at about 2,000, but has since dropped to around 500. Still, Seattle boasts one of the country’s largest houseboat communities.

The Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" |

The movie was written and directed by Nora Ephron, who has a knack for bringing beautiful houses to the big screen, like Bewitched and You’ve Got Mail.

Sleepless in Seattle movie houseboat

Ephron was inspired by An Affair to Remember, the classic tear-jerker starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

Sleepless in Seattle movie houseboat 5

Sam (Hanks) is a widower with an 8-year old son named Jonah, who is determined to find him a new wife.

Sam's bedroom Sleepless in Seattle


Jonah's room egg chair Sleepless in Seattle movie

Sam is an architect, which is one of the most popular “movie careers” for men in romantic movies. I guess women like to fantasize about having a man who could design their dream home for them!

Sam's home office Sleepless in Seattle

houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle 3

Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks’ real-life wife, played his sister Suzy in the movie. Even though this scene where he and Suzy’s husband Greg (Victor Garber) pretend to cry over the plot in The Dirty Dozen was totally improvised, it proved to be one of the most memorable.

Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle kitchen

Jonah doesn’t like his dad’s new girlfriend (or her laugh) and wants his dad to meet Annie instead.

houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle movie houseboat 11

The role of Annie Reed was originally offered to Julia Roberts, who turned it down. Second choice? Kim Basinger, who said the premise was “too ridiculous.”

Sleepless in Seattle movie houseboat 9

houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle 4

The houseboat used for the film was put on the market in 2008 for $2.5 million. Here are some photos from the listing that show what it looks like today:

Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

It was built in 1978 and has 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. With a little more than 2,000 square feet, it’s the largest floating home on Lake Union, with views of downtown Seattle.

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

It has the same kind of beams in the main living areas as in the movie, but otherwise bears little resemblance to the movie interiors, which I’m assuming were sets.

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

The bench overlooking the water was left by the movie crew after filming wrapped:

The Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

It reportedly sold for more than $2 million in 2014. For more listing photos (via Rick Miner of Coldwell Banker Danforth) and information about the house, check the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Real Houseboat from "Sleepless in Seattle" movie |

In the end, Annie and Sam finally meet at the top of the Empire State Building in New York (just like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr were supposed to do before tragedy struck in An Affair to Remember.) Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks actually spend less than 2 minutes onscreen together in the movie.

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "Sleepless in Seattle" |

Ryan and Hanks teamed up again in 1998 for You’ve Got Mail. The post I wrote about Meg Ryan’s brownstone in that movie continues to be one of the most popular on my blog. Do you have a favorite Nora Ephron movie?


P.S. Visit Houses Onscreen to see more, including…

You've Got Mail Meg Ryan's Brownstone

Meg Ryan’s Brownstone in You’ve Got Mail

Valentino Last Emperor poster
Valentino: The Last Emperor is a fascinating look inside the legendary fashion designer's final year before retirement. I was excited to see the documentary for…
SGG House-Sun Valley exterior
Take a look at this vacation rental home that bills itself as "Something's Gotta Give in Sun Valley, Idaho." It was built in 2007 and…

See More


  1. says

    Wow Julia! It must take you hours to put one of these posts together! At least you get to watch the movies too!

    I’ve wanted to live on a houseboat in Seattle since the movie came out. Sam is an architect and I always thought the whole life of architect on a houseboat in Seattle sounded pretty cool! I still do!

    Have a great week!

    .-= Tim @ Remodeling Guy´s last blog ..Colorful Kitchens – Still My Dream =-.

  2. Dawn says

    The houses are nice backgrounds but the scene stealers for me in this movie were Meg Ryan’s outfits.

    Her clothes (and hair) were beautiful and enviable as is typical in her movies.

    I want her entire wardrobe.

  3. Nita says

    One of my favorite movies! I lived on a lake during my childhood, so a houseboat would be A-OK for me. I love all Ephron’s movies. Mainly because of the houses.

  4. says

    I just watched this movie last week. It’s one of my favorites. I was a little more interested this time because I’m off to Seattle this week for the first time. So excited to see the city and visit with some blogging buddies. Great post Julia:)
    .-= Becky @ Farmgirl Paints´s last blog ..Sugar love =-.

  5. says

    Interesting tidbit, Julia, about the origin of houseboats. I had always thought they were created out of frivolity! BTW…Meg Ryan (Peggy Hyra) went to high school with my kids in Bethel, CT and shopped in the little boutique & Tea Room that I owned called, Tea & Sympathy. She was smart, popular and a real sweetheart.

  6. Barbara says

    My grandparents retired form their NYC jobs iin the 1950’s and moved to upstate New York, where they had purchased a big old farmhouse. They painted the master bedroom, and most of the rooms upstairs (I think there were 6 bedrooms altogether), all the same shade of pink…furniture and all…as Meg’s house…and the vintage decor, well, it wasn’t vintage yet…but it looked the same! Loved it then, as a child, and loved it again in the movie for the memories it brought. Thank you, a lovely Valentines Day post!

  7. Kim says

    I live in Washington and I love it here. Looking at these pictures makes me enjoy living here even more. It’s a cool house, but I wouldn’t want to live on the water.

    I love the movies “You’ve got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” They are very cute movies that you can still enjoy. I wish they still made films like these today. Now they don’ t make very good or cute movies anymore.

  8. says

    Oh, this movie is one of my all time favorites. SIS, You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally (all with Meg Ryan!) are my favorites of hers. I think she must have a deep love for good real estate because many of her movies feature such great houses.
    .-= Mom in High Heels´s last blog ..Bonjour! =-.

  9. says

    I love that movie if I had a boat house it would have to be like that, I do prefer the interior the film company put together in the home though! Thanks Julie for the info 😉
    .-= Elaine´s last blog ..Happy Valentines Day! =-.

  10. says

    Looooooove that movie!!! :) I hadn’t thought about all the “dark” scenes until you mentioned having to lighten photos…I guess you’re right! :) I also really liked Annie’s parents’ home. Sigh…this movie brings back memories. :) I saw it on sale at Target a few weeks ago. I think it needs a place in my dvd collection. :)
    .-= Amanda @ Serenity Now´s last blog ..An Icing Tip You’ll Fall in Love With =-.

  11. says

    I always though how cool it would be to live on that houseboat! Thanks for sharing. I know it takes you a long time and it’s a lot of work to put together these posts. :)
    .-= MissCaron´s last blog ..Heart of Gold =-.

  12. says

    How fun! I love this movie:) I look forward to these movie posts of yours SOOO much!
    .-= Mary-Grace´s last blog .. =-.

  13. says

    You’re right, Meg Ryan and that role are absolutely inseparable.
    I visited Seattle and was thrilled to be shown the houseboat as part of a Duck Tour. It looked very appealing on a sunny day in July but I’d be worried about living there all year round!
    .-= Struggler´s last blog ..In Praise of Toast =-.

  14. says

    It’s the little things: I have the straw basket that’s on the kitchen counter in the 6th interior shot. And I want to get the roll-up map that’s in the 1st interior shot, just right of the kitchen. Is that crazy? Soon after the film released, I bought a gigantic U.S. map and framed it. It’s great, but I really wanted (still do) the roll-up version. Such a movie dork. Anyway, great post!
    .-= Sheila´s last blog ..Farther vs. further =-.

  15. says

    I loved the information you shared about the whole houseboat “scene”!!! And then I clicked over to your Bewitch post … LOVED! I watched that show all the time and just adored Samantha! (Sorry you had to miss it … parents! … my mom didn’t let me play with barbies because they were women … I could only play with baby dolls!)

    Anyway … loved your in depth photo display over there and then I was glad to see you had posted about the remake with Nicole Kidman. I LOVED the kitchen in that movie – the windows are FABULOUS!!!

    Thanks (again) for all your hard work … your blog is like a magazine, and I LOVE magazines!!!! :)
    .-= Polly´s last blog ..Valentine’s Day. =-.

  16. says

    One of my most favorite movies of all time! I think I actually saw it in the theater although I’ve seen it so many times since then it’s hard to remember. I watch it at least a couple times a year. I love that house boat and if I didn’t have kids I’d love to live there.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..I’m Back! =-.

  17. says

    Thanks so much for this post! I love that movie (can’t help but watch it every time it happens to be on) and I loved Sam’s house!! I think I would be too chicken to live in a floating home though. When little Jonah has the nightmare that there is water coming in all the windows and the house is sinking? That would totally be me.
    .-= Hip Hip Gin Gin´s last blog ..Olympic Art =-.

  18. says

    Thanks for posting pics of yet another of my favorite movies. I love to watch certain movies for their charming interiors and Sleepless in Seattle has great ones. Annie’s apartment made me swoon the first time I saw it too. Vintage, welcoming and sweet, just like her. Sam’s floating home is so perfect for an architect. It’s great to have the stills to refer to. By the way, I also love the two rooms we get to see in Annie’s parents home. Loved the attic with all the old treasures and the lovely candlelit dining room.

    Susan and Bentley
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Happy Valentine’s Day =-.

  19. says

    A house on water is the total “you have made it” moment to me. Someday we will have one of these, perhaps a house boat instead. ANYWAY, to live life simply and well is something I gained from this entry.
    .-= Annelise´s last blog ..Punch Bowl Part 2 of Missing Part 1 =-.

  20. says

    We have friends who named their son Jonah because of this movie.
    As always, I enjoyed the tour, Julia!

  21. Nita says

    I hope you never run out of movies to post! A little worried about that. You could feature The Honeymooners tiny apartment if worse came to worse, I suppose. :) There is a channel we have that nearly every weekend is playing You’ve Got Mail, and my husband and I watch it every time because that is how we met, online.

  22. E. George says

    Hi Julia thanks for this post and all the others…. I love this movie I have the DVD and watch it every now and then also love You’ve Got Mail… the vintage fridge is great but have you tried to buy one don’t know about US prices but here they are so expensive the one I’ve seen is by Smeg can’t afford the door handle let along the rest of the fridge,,,, I do love vintage.. watched Julie and Julia loved it…. loved both of the girls homes…. they were a little shabby but GREAT… Regards Esther from Sydney….

    • hookedonhouses says

      You’re so right. Vintage-looking fridges are definitely not cheap! -Julia

  23. says

    What a great post. I love that movie! That’s before Meg did all those weird things to her face and lips. She’s so beautiful in this movie. I love your Movie Mondays. I wish you would link them (or other fabulous posts) to my Timeless Tuesday link party that happens each Tuesday. Its all about classic design in interiors, fashion, art, food, Hollywood…. These posts would fit in so nicely!!! Come on over and join in the fun ~ I’d love to have you!

    Paula Grace ~
    .-= Paula Grace´s last blog ..Timeless Tuesday ~ Three =-.

  24. Melani says

    I loved this post. Thanks for all the effort you put into these posts they are just so entertaining!!

  25. Donna says

    I also love the home where Meg Ryan and her fiance go to have Christmas Eve (where she tries on the wedding dress that rips). That’s a great old house and was decorated so beautifully for the holidays. Do you remember? I think it was the beginning of the film. My favorite is You’ve Got Mail, however. It really wasn’t all that long ago but doesn’t it seem as though movies like this are not made anymore? Makes me sad.

    On another note, a friend and I were obsessed with Since You Went Away this past holiday season. What a great old film with Claudette Colbert during WWII on the homefront. And such a great house too! I did some research, and they actually built a real house and filmed inside of (not easy with those huge vintage cameras) to make it seem real. It was such a pretty house that maybe you can take a look at that one on your blog. So many houses, so little time! Thank you for your great site.

  26. Maggie Forrest says

    FIRST…Love your site…just love it.
    As to why architects are often the heroes of romantic comedy films, I think it is because the profession seems to be artful and a bit glamorous (What woman doesn’t want a guy who has his feminine side at the ready?)…and an architect by virtue of what we “think” they do, would be able to leave his desk and be in many locals at different times, which would allow enhancement of the story line. (Have to say ‘tho that an architect friend of mine told me there are only two reasons someone becomes an architect….for the love of it….or for the money. He said you can’t do both. However, the movies seem to disprove that.)
    I’m new to your site, but I would like to see the homes in the movie “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. You may have already featured them (there are three). If not…perhaps you could. Keep up the great work…and Thank you for the pleasure your site gives.

  27. Colleen says

    Loved both their houses but for me it was all about her hair! So different from her usual short choppy ‘do.

    I just recently found your site. It’s awesome! Especially on Mondays!

  28. Liz says

    Random, but there’s this company you can rent houseboats from for short stays- Sleep Afloat. I was just looking them up when I found your blog. :)

  29. says

    Does anyone know where I can find the image which is shown behind Tom Hanks and his son, while sitting on a bench talking on the phone in Sleepless in Seattle?
    Please help!

  30. Kim says

    Can any of you fans tell me what neighborhood or the address of her parents house in Baltimore?

  31. says

    This is a very interesting blog for me. I love houses in films. And I love Nora Ephron films because she provides us not only with cute love stories, but also with nice houses and appartments.
    I really love the bed Tom Hanks has got in “Sleepless”, it comes very close to a bed from the Austrian eco furniture designer “Grüne Erde”.

    My favorite Ephron movie is “You’ve got mail”, because it’s so beautiful, heartbreaking, warm, funny and you never get tired looking at it and Kathleen’s appartment is so lovely, just my cup of tea! :)

    Greetings from Germany, LaWendula

  32. dan says

    Hello. I just wanted to let you know that there was an incorrect fact in your post. At the time of filming in 1996 this was the largest houseboat in seattle however it has been eclipsed over the last 16 years by over 20 newer floating homes that measure from 2500 to 4000 sq ft.