12 Shipping Container Homes That Challenge the Meaning of Shelter

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By Byron Loker / Published by Dwell
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Repurposed shipping containers have popped up all over the place in surprising ways—from homeless solutions in South Africa, to modern homes and shopping malls.

Utilizing the trusted shells of classic shipping containers, these unusual designs feature additions and modifications that push the boundaries of what homes have traditionally been made of.

1. Little Box on the Prairie in Livingston, MT

Welcome to the "Little Box on the Prairie." This modern house is made from two recycled shipping containers and is situated on 10 acres of rolling prairie land, just North of Livingston, Montana. It’s a 700-square-foot mix of rustic coziness and clean, modern design. Many of the finishes, such as the redwood flooring and plywood wall panels, were salvaged off-site, recycled, and reused. The outside deck is perfect for chatting over morning coffee, enjoying an evening glass of wine, gazing at the Absaroka Mountains, and likely spotting a deer or antelope. The house comfortably sleeps two people, and a third can sleep on the sofa, if needed.

Welcome to the "Little Box on the Prairie." This modern house is made from two recycled shipping containers and is situated on 10 acres of rolling prairie land, just North of Livingston, Montana. It’s a 700-square-foot mix of rustic coziness and clean, modern design. Many of the finishes, such as the redwood flooring and plywood wall panels, were salvaged off-site, recycled, and reused. The outside deck is perfect for chatting over morning coffee, enjoying an evening glass of wine, gazing at the Absaroka Mountains, and likely spotting a deer or antelope. The house comfortably sleeps two people, and a third can sleep on the sofa, if needed.

A small shipping container home in New Plymouth, New Zealand features a retractable porch. 

A small shipping container home in New Plymouth, New Zealand features a retractable porch. 

 Atelier Riri devised creative ways to make living inside a shipping container in Indonesia’s tropical climate both comfortable and economical. The architects layered recycled pine, glass, wool, and planter mesh on top of the home.

 Atelier Riri devised creative ways to make living inside a shipping container in Indonesia’s tropical climate both comfortable and economical. The architects layered recycled pine, glass, wool, and planter mesh on top of the home.

Purchasing a lot off the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, Martha Moseley and Bill Mathesius adapted an unused concrete foundation—remnants of its previous owner’s abandoned plans—to create a home that’s uniquely their own. "We were inspired by the site, and our desire to have something cool and different," says Moseley.

Purchasing a lot off the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, Martha Moseley and Bill Mathesius adapted an unused concrete foundation—remnants of its previous owner’s abandoned plans—to create a home that’s uniquely their own. "We were inspired by the site, and our desire to have something cool and different," says Moseley.

The recycled shipping containers were sourced from the Pacific Port of Caldera in Costa Rica. With a bit of creativity and understanding of local building techniques, the interiors can be modified for any client.

The recycled shipping containers were sourced from the Pacific Port of Caldera in Costa Rica. With a bit of creativity and understanding of local building techniques, the interiors can be modified for any client.

Peruvian-born designer Sachi Fujimori's grassed-walled Casa Reciclada, or Recycled House, was constructed from a used shipping container. Architects Anna Duelo, Úrsula Ludowieg OPhelan, and Marc Koenig also collaborated on the project.

Peruvian-born designer Sachi Fujimori's grassed-walled Casa Reciclada, or Recycled House, was constructed from a used shipping container. Architects Anna Duelo, Úrsula Ludowieg OPhelan, and Marc Koenig also collaborated on the project.

The architect and his team devised an armature on the back of the container that will eventually be covered with vines, concealing the AC and heating unit, the reservoir for graywater, and the composting toilet outlet.

The architect and his team devised an armature on the back of the container that will eventually be covered with vines, concealing the AC and heating unit, the reservoir for graywater, and the composting toilet outlet.

Two San Francisco art and travel addicts overhauled a loft—and customized a pair of shipping containers—to accommodate an art collection and reflect their passions. The shipping containers were stacked, joined with steel tubes, and lashed to reinforced floor joints to make them earthquake-safe.

Two San Francisco art and travel addicts overhauled a loft—and customized a pair of shipping containers—to accommodate an art collection and reflect their passions. The shipping containers were stacked, joined with steel tubes, and lashed to reinforced floor joints to make them earthquake-safe.

Architect and designer Todd Miller didn’t just use a shipping container for this home. He actually used an entire shipping company, since it took 31 containers to build this industrial home, which features a massive graffiti mural on the back wall.

Architect and designer Todd Miller didn’t just use a shipping container for this home. He actually used an entire shipping company, since it took 31 containers to build this industrial home, which features a massive graffiti mural on the back wall.

Mike McConkey, a superintendent for a general contractor, tasked Chris Bittner of OBR Architecture with designing an environmentally sensitive home for him and his wife in San Diego County. Utilizing three shipping containers and a bevy of cost-effective appliances, they managed to limit the budget to $160,000.

Mike McConkey, a superintendent for a general contractor, tasked Chris Bittner of OBR Architecture with designing an environmentally sensitive home for him and his wife in San Diego County. Utilizing three shipping containers and a bevy of cost-effective appliances, they managed to limit the budget to $160,000.

CG Architectes stacked two containers perpendicularly for this house in Brittany, France.

CG Architectes stacked two containers perpendicularly for this house in Brittany, France.

This three-bedroom home in Lille, France, is made up of eight stacked containers.

This three-bedroom home in Lille, France, is made up of eight stacked containers.