Man Builds A Massive Shipping Container Dream Home After No Designer Would Help
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That’s exactly what Houston, Texas-based designer Will Breaux was thinking when he was contacting designers to build the home of his dreams. The designs they came up with were in your classic townhouse mold, and Breaux wanted more. So he built it.
Over the course of two years, Breaux built the home of his dreams from the ground up in an empty suburban lot using 11 shipping containers and his own two hands. The “McGowen House,” so named because it sits on McGowen street in Houston, is one of the biggest and best of this new emerging style of homes and we’re floored by it.
It Took 11 Shipping Containers
To really bring to life the dream home he was seeing in his mind took 11 shipping containers. Even though it’s an atypical material, it’s one that Breaux says makes sense to use for home building, since “shipping containers are strong, fireproof, long-lasting, hurricane-resistant… and are designed to be transported, stacked, and locked down.”
Most shipping container homes we see and hear about are only comprised of about one-three containers and often stick to the designs of stacking on top of each other or being laid out side by side.
How It All Started
Breaux ambitiously looked at the McGowen lot that was originally designed for townhomes and thought he could work within the limits. Since the neighborhood around the lot is mostly three-four story homes, Breaux wanted to build his similarly as high as well as “capitalize on the downtown view.” So he stacked the shipping containers and built a home with plenty of windows and a rooftop deck.
Breaux and his team got a crane and in one day astonishingly were able to lift and put all 11 of the shipping containers in the right places. They secured the containers through concrete pillars in the ground and locked them in place all in one day.
It Took A Lot Of Welding And Waiting Through Hurricane Harvey
As you may have guessed, working with metal containers requires welding… and lots of it. Breaux’s ambitious design with stairs, windows, and cut-outs required extensive welding work all throughout the interior and exterior of the containers so they would stay joined together despite the wind, rain, and over time.
Even though the door looks colorful and stylish now, it was a big process to get it there. While Breaux was working on hiring someone to install the windows and doors, Hurricane Harvey hit and nobody could make it out to McGowen. So instead of waiting, Breaux took it upon himself to learn how to install his patio doors and windows.
Martha Stewart Would Approve Of This Kitchen
Despite a lot of people’s assumptions that shipping container homes are the new pioneer cabins of home design, with heated wood stoves, an outhouse in the back, and everything lit by candlelight, that’s not the case at all with the McGowen house.
Breaux has fitted the house with the works — it’s got full plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and insulation. The only issue Breaux has was with the water, where contractors and the city couldn’t find a water main or meter, and then there was confusion if the meter on the lot was a legitimate one or not. Luckily, Breaux persevered and is able to fill his glasses half-full from the tap now.
Despite Water Issues, Breaux Has A Dream Bathroom Now
Breaux began his project plagued by a saga of issues with the plumbing thanks to the city’s troubles verifying the water meter. However, once that was resolved Breaux found himself at the center of another water issue. Except this time, it was on the roof.
Before he installed proper drainage, the area where Breaux was trying to build his rooftop patio had a bunch of standing water on top that collected while he was building. Breaux had to vacuum up 45 gallons of water off the roof before he could even start deck-building up there. This bathroom is so pretty you’d never know how much Breaux battled with water.
A Living Room You’d See On A Magazine Cover
Breaux had the genius idea to install a slatted ceiling instead of covering the ceilings of the shipping containers with drywall and other materials. The slatted ceiling is great for sound dampening, acoustics, and hides any wiring, speakers, or plumbing that may be running above the living room space. Plus, it looks so cool.
During the entire building process, Breaux had city inspectors coming in and checking on his progress and seeing if it was up to code. While the inside may look amazing, what is really impressive is that everything was done completely up to building standards. One inspector even told Breaux that he couldn’t find “any negatives” with his welding and framing work.
A Cozy And Private Bedroom
The McGowen house ended up being a huge project that Breaux never anticipated would get as big as it did. He writes in a December 2018 blog post that he thought back in August of that year he’d be well-moved in already. He ended up moving in that December.
It pays to wait in this case, because while he was wrapping up essentials like water and handrails for the stairs, he was able to complete finishing touches that really tied the whole thing together. He really made his suite sweet and a cozy nook nobody would mind waking up in.
Breaux’s Feathered Friends Are Enjoying Their New Digs
Not only is Breaux going to be living and enjoying the McGowen house, but so are his two macaw parrots! They’re enjoying their new pad and massive cage inside of the McGowen house as well as the little view from the window Breaux put in.
As you can see from the walls of the cage, there’s no drywall or plywood separating the parrots from the painted and insulated shipping container walls. Having exposed walls is a bit of a hot debate around building houses with the material since many assume it can be toxic. Breaux assures people on his blog that that’s not the case, and even then a simple epoxy spray will contain it. So these parrots have nothing to worry about.
A Room With A View… Sort Of
While Breaux’s rooftop patio has a gorgeous view of the Houston city skyline, the sight from his second floor isn’t so similar. When Breaux first purchased the McGowen lot it was in a very up-and-coming neighborhood of Houston complete with a convenience store/church next door to the lot.
Much like Breaux saw potential in the block, so did other city developers, and over the course of the few years from whence he purchased the lot to the time the house was completed the neighborhood really sprung up. Looks like everyone loves the shipping container home enough to follow it wherever it goes.
It All Lights Up At Night
On his blog, Breaux assures readers that the project is still far from complete. As he moves in he wants to continue adding features and design elements that will continue to transform the shipping containers.
Breaux has clearly brought his dream house to life with nothing more than shipping containers, design knowledge, and a can-do attitude. We’re tremendously excited to see what forms his home takes and how he’s going to improve on the already very unique and very big project.
Breaux Isn’t The Only One Building Incredible Shipping Container Abodes…
If you’re impressed and inspired by Breaux’s shipping container home design, then look no further than China for another incredible project. Seriously, shipping containers have captured the attention and imagination of people worldwide and have led to the creation of projects like the WFH house.
The WFH house, located in Wuxi, China, was finished in 2012 by Copenhagen architecture and design agencies Arcgency, Esbensen, Teknologisk Institut. The house is made out of three shipping containers arranged in an “L” laying on its side formation. While modern and beautiful to look at, the really impressive part of this project lies in its environmentally friendly bones.
Just Recycle Your Home When You’re Done With It
Converting used shipping containers into homes is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials that often are unsustainably produced and not recycled. However, the designers for the WFH house have taken this initiative a little farther and made the house have a 50% lower energy class than the standard for construction in Denmark.
The home can be recycled when you’re done with it, it has solar panels on the roof that generate enough power to make the house self-sufficient for power, and it has a roof with rainwater harvesting that can be used for toilet flushing, washing, and cleaning.
You Can Order Your Own Custom Version Online
So you’ve probably read Breaux’s and the McGowen house’s story and you’re probably interested in your own shipping container palace but don’t really know where to start. How do you even buy a shipping container in the first place? The team at Argency must’ve heard your calls because they made their container homes, like the WFH, completely customizable and available online.
Argency offers an online customization feature in their ordering process that gives their clients the option to decide what the layout, size, facade, and interior will look like of the house. Now that’s online shopping.
The WFH Has “Playful” Nordic Design Principles
Since Argency is a Copenhagen based design firm, it only makes sense that they’re going to create beautiful homes founded on Nordic design principles. So if you’ve ever been to Ikea and spent hours wandering around wondering how they came up with their style, then these homes may interest you.
WFH and other Argency homes are founded on the Nordic design principles of flexibility, good lighting, healthy and recyclable materials, access to nature, minimalism, and greenery. You can really tell how these shine through on the WFH.
The HO4+ Is Spacious Thanks To Four Shipping Containers
Breaux’s McGowen house is designed to fit in a townhouse lot, so that’s why it’s so tall. But if you’re curious to see what a shipping container home that’s made for a larger lot looks like, look no farther than the HO4+ homes that are being designed by architecture agency Honomobo.
The Honomobo homes are made of four shipping containers stitched together and their designs feature options of either three or two-bedroom layout with varying sizes of living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens.
Honomobos Are Homes Made To Order
What’s amazing about this new trend in shipping container homes is that more and more companies are popping up that will do all the heavy lifting for you.
Honomobo lets you design and purchase your shipping container home online, but they also take care of pretty much everything down to the permits, construction, production, utility connection, and shipping and crane placement of your new container home. All you really have to do is design and buy your dream home from your couch.
You Can Make Honomobos Look Nothing Like Storage Containers
Sometimes shipping containers can look like… shipping containers. People largely buy these home alternatives for their environmental and cost benefits and not for the industrial look of actual shipping containers.
Honomobo seems like they know that since they offer exteriors in three different shades that really cover up your standard shipping container logos. They also offer exteriors with the option of siding placed over them so that you can’t see the corrugated steel of the shipping container at all. It makes a surprising difference since this container looks like it would fit right in as a beach-front villa in Greece.
HO4+ Models Have Floor-To-Ceiling Windows
Honomobo seems dedicated to getting rid of every misconception that people have in their heads about shipping container homes. When we think of shipping containers we think of boxes with one opening and that’s it—they don’t have windows. Honomobo definitely wants to take that misconception out of people’s minds since one entire wall of their HO4+ is dedicated to windows.
Besides completely defying every expectation we have about shipping containers, these windows let a lot of light in which in turn makes the space look bigger and more modern.
Even In Tasmania Shipping Container Homes Are Popping Up
Constructed in 2015 by Cumulus Studio designed and called “Devil’s Corner” and nestled in the scenic Tasmania landscape, this shipping container home is actually more of a vineyard. Actually, it is a vineyard. This artistic and architecturally unique structure just goes to show you that shipping containers can really replace all kinds of buildings.
This structure won a couple of awards at the 2016 Tasmanian Architecture Awards and it’s clear why. The two shipping container buildings coupled with an incredible view from the timber tower “lookout” really pushes the boundaries of what vineyards and shipping containers can look like.
Devil’s Corner Blends Design And Functionality
Even though the winery is supposed to be known for its… wines, what really stands out about the building designed by Cumulus Studios isn’t its capacity to hold wine, but its ability to stand out from the crowd. Cumulus Studio actually has a lot of projects similar to this where they play with timber-blocks and other geometric elements inspired by shipping containers.
The tower lookout is the crown jewel of the award-winning building since it offers guests an incredible view of the Tasmania landscape as well as being great to look at itself. Even though it’s made of timber and steel and not shipping containers, the tower really compliments the shipping containers resting below and shows how well the materials can aesthetically blend together.