Guideboat Style

By Dan Gregory

This is a replica of the classic 19th century guide boat designed for lake exploration.

It seems fitting that the Guideboat Company, a cool new, just-launched purveyor of outdoor gear and Adirondack-inspired guide boats, has just opened its first retail store and showroom in an historic former lumber yard in Mill Valley, California. The buildings are being sensitively turned into a retail complex by new owners Matt and Jan Mathews. Good wood cleaves to good wood!

The boats, like this replica of an 1892 J. H. Rushton Saranac Laker Guideboat, which is a centerpiece, are exceptionally beautiful utilitarian objects in solid cherry and fiberglass.

To my eyes the trapezoidal cherry-and-cane seat and back are elegant designs in themselves, with the ingenious body-and-boat-contoured shape and functional materials that let air and water flow through for swift drying.

Restoration Hardware founder Stephen Gordon, who was also CEO of Sundance for many years, started Guideboat Co. in his “retirement,” and was inspired by his youth spent rowing in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Now he rows on Lake Tahoe. Guide boats are similar to canoes but are rowed, not paddled, and can carry great weight. The oars are made of Sitka spruce and can be painted, as shown.


 Two other boats are offered: the Maine Pea Pod, revived from an 1860s design, and the Sabot, from the 1840s. ‘These boats are not here as props,” says Stephen. They’re part of the merchandise along with the London-made marine lighting, sailing sweaters, foot ware, and other apparel to complete a very appealing environmental lifestyle. Next door in another restored section of the lumber yard, part of Stephen’s collection of vintage canoes and guide boats is on display.



They make me want to try one out — though if you know me you know that camping isn’t really my thing. But I’d be happy to row one up to a classic Adirondack boathouse: say Camp Topridge, expanded in 1923 by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, with its ornate branch work and viewing loggia (photo courtesy Wikipedia). Or if I’m feeling a little more current, how about docking at this dramatic sailboat-inspired house by


the  German architects Steeltec37. Now these are proper guide boat destinations! And in its way, the sleek looping line of the Rushton Laker Guide Boat is just as contemporary as that swoop of a roof.














Originally Published in Eye On Design

09/30/2013