How a Shipping Container Home Reconnected a Daughter With Memories of Her Father

Near Hocking Hills, Ohio, a design-savvy couple nestle a glossy black shipping container within a heavily wooded—and sentimental—piece of land.
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When Troy and Dianna Shurtz—the owners of Creative Cabinets, Ltd who live near Lancaster, Ohio—thought to design and build their own shipping container home as a getaway, they knew it should be located near Hocking Hills State Park, an area south of Lancaster marked by sculptural cliffs, gorges, and waterfalls. "I spent a lot of time in Hocking Hills as a child," Dianna says. "My father passed away at the age of fifty-nine and I’ve always felt closer to him when I’m there, hiking or just visiting." 

The Lily Pad is a 280-square-foot black-painted shipping container home located near Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.

For years, Dianna dreamed of building a cabin near Hocking Hills as a way to reconnect with the memory of her father. "We found the right piece of land two years ago while driving on it during the dead of winter," she says. Located only two miles from Old Man’s Cave—a recess in a rock wall named in honor of a renowned local hermit—the undulating topography of the wooded site was idyllic. The Shurtzes were drawn to the land, but also to the idea of a shipping container. "We’ve always been intrigued by shipping container homes and knew we wanted to create something unique and special for this property," Dianna says.

The glossy, black-painted home, named The Lily Pad, features 280-square-feet of living space and a shed-style metal roof that cantilevers beyond the walls of the shipping container. It shields a large porch area where the Shurtzes arranged a hot tub, a living area, a gas grill, and a swing bed. Pale oak timbers frame the windows, providing warmth and contrast to the sleek black exterior. "Our goal for the outdoor living space was to keep it as open as possible, but still sheltered from the wind, rain and snow," Dianna says. "This allowed us to include many amenities."

The home features 280 square feet of outdoor living space that includes a swing bed, a fire pit area, a hot tub, and a large gas grill.

Owners Troy and Dianna Shurtz, who designed The Lily Pad, used the doors of the shipping container to create a screen that offers privacy for the hot tub.

"The fire pit area seats four and is great for making s'mores," says Dianna.

On the interior, rooms are flooded with sunlight that bounces off of bright white walls, making the home feel larger than its 280 square feet. A motorized, industrial-style garage door in the living room rolls up, effectively removing a 10-foot-wide portion of the wall and connecting the space to the large porch and the landscape beyond. "We wanted a lot of natural light and to bring the outdoors in," says Dianna, who selected furnishings that feature leather and wood, materials that reference textures found in nature. 

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The Shurtzes framed the windows and doors with oak timbers that offset the glossy corrugated siding of the home. 

A garage-style, aluminum-framed glass door that's motorized rolls up and links the interior to the porch and its wooded surround.

The interior is outfitted with a round wood table and velvet-upholstered chairs in the dining area and a leather-covered sofa and a wood bench-turned-coffee table in the living space.

A large, custom-designed window floods the open-plan kitchen with more sunlight. "It’s a picture window that allows you to admire the outdoor scenery," Dianna says. a clerestory window above the fridge lets in additional light.

 The kitchen’s white cabinetry is topped with light grey quartz and displays gold hardware and pulls. "Since cabinetry is our forte, we custom built the entire kitchen," Dianna explains. "We knew we needed small appliances, so we purchased a 24-inch-wide microwave and an induction cooktop and retrofitted the refrigerator. Once we figured out how much space we needed for these items, it came down to the cabinetry, which is constructed of MDF and painted with a white lacquered finish. All of the doors, drawers and pull-out storage trays are soft-close and there’s a fireclay undermount porcelain sink." 

"We knew we wanted the kitchen to have a beautiful view of the outdoors so we designed a large picture window that allows you to admire the scenery," Dianna says. Low maintenance coffee-colored vinyl flooring offsets the room's bright white cabinetry. 

"The large window in the bedroom lets you feel like you're sleeping outside," Dianna says. "We added a motorized shade for privacy is needed."

A sliding barn door provides access to the bath, where a gold-framed vanity mirror adds an elegant note.

When the aluminum-framed glass garage door in the living room is rolled up, The Lily Pad’s 280 square feet of overall living space increases to 480 square feet. And from a distance, the sheen of the shipping container’s black corrugated exterior is like a siren call in the woods. "This property is beautiful, rural, and filled with pine trees and rolling hills," Dianna says. "When we first saw it, I felt my father’s presence and knew this is where I wanted [our house] to be."

When the roll-up garage-style door is open, the living room links to the porch, creating an indoor/outdoor living experience.

"The shipping container was placed on a cinder-block crawl space, which contains the furnace, the plumbing, and a tankless hot-water heater," Dianna says.

The Lily Pad is available to rent on Airbnb.

Related Reading: 

An Architect Crafts an Off-Grid Cabin on His Family Farm in Ohio

4 Companies to Know If You're Building a Prefab Home in Ohio

Project Credits:

Design and construction: Troy and Dianna Shurtz, Creative Cabins / @creativecabinsllc

Photography: Levi Kelly / @levimkelly


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