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Hearth & Home November 2016

At right, planters line the steps leading to a rooftop deck, and double doors open wide to the interior of this 20-ft. container home.

Parting Shot: Self-Contained!

Designer and television host Kelly Edwards came to builder Art Steedle with an unconventional request: build a home out of a 20 ft. marine shipping container for a TV segment on Tiny Homes. The result: a bright, inviting, well-designed home that lives larger than its 160 sq. ft. footprint.

Inside, the “wood” floor, and “subway tile” kitchen backsplash and bathroom walls look amazingly realistic, but are actually peel-and-stick vinyl tiles, chosen because they’re lightweight, budget-friendly, and won’t crack during transport.

Bar-height cabinets were installed for maximum storage in the kitchen, and the island hides a pullout closet for hanging clothes. Another clever configuration of storage built-ins in the living area creates a recessed nook for a pullout couch.

A recessed nook in the living area is perfect for a pullout couch.

Insulating panel-wall systems smooth the corrugated interiors, while a tankless hot water heater, and a 110-volt electric heating and cooling unit, provide creature comforts. Large windows, and double doors that open to a deck big enough for a grill and some chairs, flood the space with light and create a sense of indoor-outdoor living.

But it’s the specially engineered rooftop deck that truly doubles the home’s living space. It features comfortable, compact outdoor furniture and accessories, a cable railing enclosure, and garden planters incorporated into the staircase.

At the top of the stairs, the Outdoor Room is enclosed by a DesignRail aluminum railing system with cable infill, manufactured by Feeney, Inc.

“We wanted this to feel like a real home,” says Edwards of the $60,000 project. “We combined cost-effective and practical materials with a few high-end elements and smart design. You have to maximize every inch, but you can’t just cram in a bunch of stuff.”

Their collaboration turned into a company. Cargo Builders creates Tiny Homes from 20 and 40 sq. ft. shipping containers. The pair believes it’s a smart and sustainable way to repurpose the tens of thousands of shipping containers languishing in container “graveyards.”

Edwards says the concept has real appeal for Millennials who “wish to live simply and sustainably, and focus on experiences and travel, rather than things.” But, according to Steedle, even Baby Boomers are embracing the concept. “They may have lost homes in the last recession and want to downsize to prevent that from happening again.”

Other uses include backyard man-caves, pool houses, vacation cottages, she-sheds, home offices, artist studios, in-law suites, and rental “pods” to house families during home renovations. Because the container homes are built in the company’s factory and not subject to weather delays or subcontractors’ schedules, the turnaround time on a fully finished home is about three weeks.

The company also offers an unfinished kit with door and window cut-outs, and a menu of available options that do-it-yourselfers can order and complete on their own. The modular homes can be stacked or placed side-by-side to increase the footprint, and be shipped anywhere on a flatbed trailer.

At left is the bathroom with toilet, sink and shower; to the right are kitchen cabinets, sink and refrigerator.

Shipping-container homes could be a sensible and affordable housing solution for the homeless, according to Steedle. He and Edwards are in discussion with Long Beach, California, officials to build 40 ft. container homes to sleep four people with a kitchenette and bathroom, for around $20,000 each. They hope to present the concept to other municipalities.

Hearth and barbecue retailers and manufacturers might consider modular container homes as sheltered entertaining spaces in Outdoor Rooms; as mobile display exhibits for home and garden shows or trade shows; or even as “pop-up shops” for brands to take on the road.


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