Living in shipping containers is no longer for vagrants, squatters, vagabonds, and errant wanderers. Recently it’s become a trend for people to construct cabins, vacation homes, portable businesses, swimming pools, and even bars using recycled freight containers.

modern container home

Constructing your home from old freight containers may not seem very appealing, but once you see ways these containers can be used to create stunning spaces, you’ll be ready to move into one. The fact that you can pick up a single shipping container, which is enough space for a small retreat, for about $2,000, makes this idea even more appealing. Still, though, hidden costs may not make them quite as affordable as many people think.

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Building homes with shipping containers

Ryan Thewes, an architect in Nashville who specializes in unique and energy-efficient designs, has worked with clients who are interested in this unique type of housing. “Most of their interest stems from the assumption that a container home is a much cheaper alternative to conventional construction. However, that isn’t necessarily the case,” said Thewes. “What we found in a few case studies is that once a container is purchased and shipped to a site and the proper foundation is built, the amount of work preparing that container to be a code conforming habitable space ended up costing more than what it would have cost to build the same size box out of conventional lumber.”

Existing container homes

 container house in San Antonio, Texas

This San Antonio guest house was constructed from a single container. The windows and large glass sliding door really open up the space on the end that houses the living area furnished and decorated with somewhat retro and minimalist pieces. A study can be seen on the opposite end with a bathroom located through the doorway on the far wall. The sink that’s located just outside the bathroom also functions as an auxiliary sink in lieu of a kitchen. With a patio outside the entrance, this guest house is much more inviting, functional, and attractive than you would expect from something that’s essentially a giant metal box.

shipping container home

Created on just a $40,000 budget, this lovely compact home in Costa Rica is made from two 40-foot containers. Even though shipping containers evoke thoughts of a dark and dingy interior, their numerous windows create a very open, airy living space. This home is designed with a central walkway that bisects the space down the middle with living areas to either side.

An incredible home made from six containers

If you have your mind set on a more spacious home, take note of this big beauty made from six cargo containers in Flagstaff, Arizona. The exterior evokes cubism while being somehow modern and retro at the same time. However, the interior of the home is stunning; you can’t even tell that the home is made from recycled metal boxes.

Flagstaff home's interior

Concrete floors and metal paired with walnut cabinetry, plenty of glass, and natural light converge to make the space elegant with a sense of industrial chic. The living area is open and quite spacious with a long kitchen that offers plenty of utility while echoing the industrial themes seen throughout the home. A rooftop terrace offers panoramic views of the home’s grounds and neighborhood while also being a nice place for the residents to relax and enjoy the fruits of their creativity.

“It takes a special client to take on a project like this,” Thewes added. “One who is not motivated by budget, but by other factors.”

Other factors, we have to assume, include being at the forefront of an exciting new architectural style, as well as a strong interest in sustainable, green housing.

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