An Arty Couple Say Goodbye to Their Handcrafted, Net-Zero Shipping Container House for $3.15M

The Boulder, Colorado homeowners clad the house in reclaimed wood and filled the interior with a colorful collection of curiosities.
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A recently listed home in the mountain city of Boulder, Colorado, is one-of-a-kind inside and out—just like its former owners. Comprised of two shipping containers, reclaimed materials, and other handcrafted details, the rectilinear structure occupies a narrow corner lot at the base of Flagstaff Mountain. The homeowners and designers, Mark Gelband and Courtney Loveman, spent years battling zoning ordinances to build the home in a way that reflected their blended families and world view. Now, they're ready to move on and allow someone else to enjoy their creation.

Mark Gelband and Courtney Loveman incorporated shipping contains into the design of their dream home in Boulder, Colorado. Partially clad in reclaimed wood, the containers were retrofitted to satisfy local zoning ordinances, as well as the confines of a narrow city lot.

Inside, the couple designed the home to match their own fun and quirky style. Immediately catching the eye is a metal staircase, the base of which is a 12" steel tube that Gelband  salvaged from a friend's industrial job.

The site once contained a 1950s home the couple hoped to replace with a funky, post-and-beam style residence. However, new setback rules reduced the buildable area on the already narrow site. "The lot is approximately 50 feet wide and 190 feet long but with only about 20 feet of buildable width." explains Gelband. Other local ordinances, including solar shadow rules, limited how the second story could be designed as well.

After disputes with neighbors and city officials derailed their original plans, the couple considered other ideas to fit within the tight lot—that's when they turned to shipping containers for inspiration. "I've been a long-time housing advocate in Boulder and very critical of the NIMBYism in town. So I said to Courtney one evening: Let's just redesign within our by-right building envelope. Shipping containers match the rectilineal nature of the lot. We'll do the coolest thing we can."

Another view of the entryway and a side door. The couple refer to the industrial-style staircase as "the whale spine."

The front hallway leads into a large open space that contains the kitchen and dining area. The couple handmade the dining table using the floor of a bowling alley lane.

Another view of the dining area shows the chalkboard wall along one side. About the light fixture Gelband says, "Courtney saw something similar in a high-end design magazine, with a price tag of $1,700 or something ridiculous. I ordered the light parts for about $55 dollars, and she bought the finials from an archery supply shop. We put it together in a couple of hours."

After the couple worked with local architect Mark Gerwing to dial in the original design, they set off to do much of the building work themselves. "We had our hands in designing and building everything: From the house itself to the light fixtures, kitchen cabinets, staircases, bathroom vanities, and more," says Gelband. Friends and other contacts contributed their services to finish out the home, which was also built to offer net-zero energy consumption.

"We have lower and bigger windows on the east and north, with smaller and higher windows on the west," he adds. "Cool air also circulates from the basement, where the ambient temperature stays between 68–74 degrees Fahrenheit." Rooftop solar panels, in-floor radiant heating, and closed-cell spray foam insulation add to the energy-efficient design.  

The lower level ceiling is clad in reclaimed barn wood. The hardwood kitchen cabinets were left unfinished, with the couple opting for simple inset notches instead of hardware.

The kitchen also offers commercial-grade appliances and a large pantry. 

Along the rear of the home, a garage door opens the living area to a patio and the backyard.

The covered patio offers a prep area, as well as a built-in grill and sink. A detached garage sits at the back of the lot.

Another view of the living area shows a floating staircase that leads up to a private bedroom and bathroom.

Loveman, who collected the objects and furniture from various places over the years, describes the home's interior design as more of a feeling, not a look. "The house is a vessel for the lovingly eccentric dynamic within our family," she says. "Mark and I don’t understand ‘polite design’ because the urge to make and share things that express our quirky worldview is so strong. The fact that so many of our more traditional friends are also inspired by it has been an unexpected reward."

At the top of the stairs, the bedroom and bathroom are located on opposite sides. "I’ve been an organized hoarder since I was a kid, collecting things nobody else wanted," Loveman says. "For me, it was about anthropomorphizing castoffs and loving colorful objects."

The sunny bedroom faces the back of the home and features a large picture window, as well as two balconies—one along the side (shown) and one along the back (not pictured).

Across the hallway, the bathroom features double sinks complete with a repurposed dresser in between. A large shower is located at the end of the space.

A closer look at the walk-in shower.

"Unconventional design was a by-product of the effort, not our goal," adds Loveman. She often references a quote from Hanya Yanagahira, editor in chief of the New York Times Style Magazine. "Genuine aesthetic idiosyncrasy isn’t born from a conscious choice to do something different," Yanagahira wrote. "Rather, it’s the product of someone who can’t imagine doing it any other way."

A rooftop deck connects the two shipping container sections. Doors from each of the upstairs bedrooms provide access to the outdoor space.

Another of the second-floor bedrooms, located in the second shipping container.

Another view of the entryway back downstairs. 

A staircase leads down to the basement.

The sunlit basement area is currently used as a family room.

Spread out across just over 4,000 square feet, the home comes with four bedrooms and four full bathrooms. The .22-acre lot offers rooftop views in multiple directions, including iconic Flatirons to the south, unobstructed Red Rocks and Foothills to the north, and eastern vistas over Downtown Boulder. The home is also within walking distance to several hiking trails. Keep scrolling to see more of the property, currently listed for $3,150,000.

Outside, a grassy area runs along one side of the narrow lot. The lower-level facade is clad in rusted corrugated metal and reclaimed barn wood, while the exterior of each shipping container was left exposed along this portion of the second story.

A view from the front of the home.

505 College Avenue in Boulder, Colorado, is currently listed for $3,150,000 by Zach Zeldner of Compass.

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