Exterior Shipping Container Design Photos and Ideas

Located on New Zealand’s North Island along the Coromandel Peninsula, this timber-clad shipping container house by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects captures the simplicity of living with nature. An open-plan layout extends the interior toward the surrounding landscape and ocean, while a built-in mechanism reveals a drop-down deck on one side of the unique holiday home.
Owner Stacey Hill was instantly drawn to this shipping container’s existing blue color and chose to leave it unchanged. Architect Jim Poteet added floor-to-ceiling sliding doors to allow light in, as well as a cantilevered overhang to shade a window on the left side, which houses a small garden storage area.
Transforming shipping containers into habitable spaces is a growingly popular subset of prefab. Just off the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, Martha Moseley and Bill Mathesius adapted an unused concrete foundation to create a home made from 11 stacked shipping containers. "We were inspired by the site, and our desire to have something cool and different," says Moseley.
The roof of this residence was made from scraps taken from the sides of the shipping containers. Its slanted design creates a wind tower effect that provides natural ventilation and negates the need for air-conditioning.
Atelier Riri devised a creative way 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 to help keep temperatures down.
Located at The Proxy in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, AETHERsf is a concept space constructed from three 40-foot shipping containers stacked on top of each other. In addition to a curated selection of design-focused outerwear, the space features a custom, glass-encased cantilevered lounge with reclaimed oak floors and a belt-driven "dry cleaner-style" conveyor system.
Australia-based firm Contained specializes in transforming cargo vessels into well-designed lodgings. Each 20-foot shipping container easily opens up, flips out, and unfolds into a luxurious hotel room.
Located on owner Lucas Steyn’s family farm in Botrivier, South Africa—about 90 minutes from Cape Town—Copia is an eco-retreat comprised of two shipping container cabins.
Made of two 40-foot-long shipping containers that are offset from one another, the Model 6 by IndieDwell offers 640 square feet of living space.
This prefabricated kit house by Adam Kalkin is designed from recycled shipping containers. Its 2,000-square-foot plan includes three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The shell of the Quik House can be assembled in one day, and the entire home can be built in three months or less.
The H4 is HONOMOBO’s most efficient shipping container home. At just over 700 square feet, the home has two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a full kitchen, and one bathroom.
Tomecek Studio’s Container House in Nederland, Colorado, is a 1,500-square-foot residence anchored into a rock outcropping. The dwelling—which comprises two insulated shipping containers clad in fireproof plank siding—is powered by photovoltaic rooftop panels and takes advantage of passive solar strategies to keep energy demands to a minimum.
In addition to saving on construction costs, upcycling an old container can be an eco-friendly alternative to building from the ground up.
Keeping size in mind is key. Container lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
For Bret and Dani Stone’s house in Santa Barbara, California, Barber Builders erected a concrete-and-steel ground level capable of supporting a second story made mostly of shipping containers. While the project as a whole took 19 months, the containers were craned into place in a single day in 2016.
This eco-friendly escape is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine—and it even includes a full bath.
The outdoor terrace folds up, and the roof can be detached so that the container home can be easily relocated.
The eco-friendly escape is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine—and it even includes a full bath.
This shipping container office cantilevers over its concrete foundation by seven feet and draws utilities from the property’s 1930s residence.
The ruddy Cor-Ten facade contrasts with its verdant surroundings.
A large deck extends from the front of the home as well.
A solo backyard container houses a photo studio and storage space.
A staircase made of Cor-Ten steel leads to the home’s rooftop deck. “I just thought it was so unique to have a roof deck in the country,” says Victoria. “In the winter, when there’s less foliage, we’ll be able to see clear to the Catskills.”
A floating, secondary roof with solar panels offers shade and facilitates passive cooling.
Amy Plank and Richard Vaughn linked three 20-foot shipping containers to create a striking and sustainable home in Victoria, Australia. The house is clad with interlocking Colorbond steel panels, accented by windows and doors framed with silvertop ash.
Amagansett Modular House by MB Architecture
Sited on a typical 25-by-100-foot corner lot in Brooklyn, this 5,000-square-foot residence was built with 21 stacked shipping containers cut diagonally along the top and bottom to create a step-like structure with four tiered levels and a small pool between the two lower levels.
In February of 2007, two San Francisco art and travel addicts purchased a 3,200-square-foot former Chinese laundry and tooth-powder factory with column-free interiors and a zigzagging sawtooth roof in lower Pacific Heights. They customized a pair of shipping containers to accommodate their collection and reflect their passions, and hired a local company to sandblast the interior to expose the board-formed concrete walls and replace the carpeted floors with Georgia hickory pecan planks to further lengthen the loft and make it look more like a warehouse.
A glassed-in walkway connects the open-plan living areas to a separate bedroom wing.
The architecture follows the natural contours of the wedge-shaped site: the building is placed on higher ground on the site’s wider east end, while exterior decking steps down to the pool to the west.
“The structural design of the 10' pop-out on the second floor is unique. There are no beams under it—it looks afloat,” explains Behrooz, who notes that the pop-out was originally cut down from a 20-foot container. “Technically it is not a cantilever—but it is structured from the top (roof) and held back in tension, down to the foundation on the opposite side. It’s kind of a structural breakthrough—we used the inherent structural strength of the containers to our advantage.”
The architects applied BM marine-grade paint to the containers’ corrugated metal walls. The home is deliberately compact to match the scale of the neighborhood homes
A glimpse into one of two bedrooms housed in the single, 40-foot container placed on the north side of the site.
The container house is designed to wrap around an existing oak tree.
Photovoltaic panels top the roof of the building.
The underside of each solar fin was painted a metallic burnt orange as a reminder of the COR-TEN steel that the containers are constructed from.
The end face of the containers were cut out and replaced with a fixed double-glazed window that spans the height of the unit. The glass is fritted on the lower part for privacy.
The shipping containers are stacked five across and five high. The modular system enables the building to be dismantled and relocated at the end of Stow-Away’s lease.
Located on one of London’s oldest market streets, Lower Marsh, Stow-Away Waterloo is within close distance to many of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.
The units were designed to accommodate green roofs, which were part of the initial design intent, but put on hold for budgetary reasons.
The project is designed to encourage outdoor living and communal interaction among residents. In addition to the central gathering space, front-facing porch swings and covered outdoor spaces nudge homeowners to relax and socialize.
AHMM kept 10 existing trees and introduced other local plants that would be able to absorb rainwater runoff from the buildings, paths, and paving.
The car ports at Squirrel Park were designed to segue from the street to the lot entrance, which then leads to a central green space. The ports can also accommodate solar panels in the future.
Honomobo is also behind the Honomobar, a 100-square-foot mobile bar built from a recycled shipping container.
Known as the "project that kicked off Cargotecture," Hybrid’s Studio 320 was fabricated in 2004 and delivered to Enumclaw, Washington. The interior is lined in reclaimed plywood formerly used on the bleachers of a local high school gym.
Clad in white HardiePlank siding, the duplex was designed to mimic the industrial look of the shipping container extensions.
Two San Francisco art and travel addicts overhauled a loft—and customized a pair of shipping containers—to accommodate their collection and reflect their passions.
Bold, red-colored shipping containers were used to create a (12 meter long) visitor area extension for the National Theatres Company of Korea. Designed as a social zone for theatregoers, the space was equipped with internal sliding partition walls that can be opened or closed to allow for flexible use of the interior spaces.
Established in 1997, Artisans Group in Olympia designs modern homes throughout the greater Seattle and Portland areas. Their design-build models allow the company to provide full design services, and thanks to a partnership with Phoenix Haus—a Passive House panel fabricator—they are now able to develop Passive House prefab homes.
"Each project is unique and requires a customized design, communication, and implementation strategy with an integrated design process and approach by a team tailor, the necessary specialists are recruited internally or externally," says sculp(it) of Antwerp, Belgium.
Dietert Ranch by Thotenberry Wellen Architects is located in Midland, Texas and exudes a rustic feel despite its industrial materials.
Designed for an artist and entrepreneur client, this guest house features lots of light, access to the outdoors, and an industrial vibe.
French hotel group AccorHotels road tested the Flying Nest in various locations. The nomadic rooms will sit at the ski resort until the end of March.
The self-sufficient rooms are connected by small terraces.
The stackable rooms are clad in eco-friendly wood paneling and they can be quickly assembled on-site.
The Flying Nest's current incarnation is called Avoriaz 1800—a reference to the hotel's location at 1,800 meters above sea level.
The mobile hotel rooms are made from repurposed shipping containers. Here they are shown stacked in a warehouse and ready to be deployed.
A narrow and long 8 by 40 feet empty steel shipping container in an artists’ community in San Antonio, Texas serves a playhouse, garden retreat, and guesthouse for visiting creatives.
Insta-House by MB Architects
M02 by HONOMOBO
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