Shipping containers can tell a story; the story of where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, but most importantly, the story of their owner.
With more people prioritizing recycling, sustainability, and the environment, shipping container homes have become the latest trend in alternative living spaces. These creative homes use steel shipping containers as the primary building material. Container living creates a sustainable housing solution while also creating a solution for the millions of used containers that are no longer needed for shipping.
Check out these shipping container house ideas and get inspired for your next home build.
1. Luxury Shipping Container Home
When you think of steel containers, luxury is probably the last thing on your mind. However, when you use several containers to create the ideal floor plan, you can have a luxurious piece of real estate on your hands. The key to elevating your shipping container house is the right piece of property, floor plan, and finishings.
Start by purchasing a desirable piece of property. This could be in the chicest part of downtown in your favorite city, on a mountain cliff, or beachside.
Whether you have two or twenty, your next step is to create the ideal floor plan. Aim for high ceilings and open spaces. Focus on adding large windows and glass doors to take advantage of your gorgeous view.
The final step is to finish the build with high-end materials. All of the walls should have spray foam insulation and drywall. Then lay real hardwood flooring or marble tile. You could have granite or marble countertops. Choose custom fixtures for the lighting.
2. Modern Shipping Container Home
A modern container home is similar to any modern home built. Construction of this style of home just happens to be easier and faster with recycled shipping containers. The container is metal, and when you add that to your concrete foundation, you have the same materials and fundamental design of modern style homes.
Enhance the modern look and brighten your container home by installing large windows. Be careful, though: Too large or too many windows can decrease your container’s stability and strength. Work with a professional to size and place your windows safely.
Keep the straight rectangular lines and boxy shape of the containers. You can build off of them by creating a sleek metal covering that creates an outdoor living space.
For more modern designs, click here.
3. Two Story Shipping Container Home
There are two common ways people create a two-story home out of two shipping containers. They either stack one on top of the other facing the same way, or they turn the top one 90 degrees. Either way, you can create more living space or higher ceilings.
Before you plan anything, decide if you’ll have the ceiling and floor cut out of the portion of the containers to create a super high ceiling. This can create a large living room downstairs. Then you can create a kitchen and bathroom in the rest of the ground floor container. Your bedroom will be upstairs in the second-floor box.
If you choose not to create a high ceiling, you have more space to create a master bedroom suite or a small office upstairs.
4. Tiny Shipping Container Home
Many shipping container homes on the market today embrace the tiny home movement. These homes will use one or two containers to create a small living space. You can create this tiny home style by placing two containers next to each other at ground level or placing one on top of the other for a two-story house.
While your tiny home may seem exciting and innovative now, you’ll quickly realize there isn’t much space inside. This can feel confining and cramped. You’ll want to plan for this, so include features that will help the home feel larger.
Start by installing plenty of floor to ceiling windows and large glass doors. Remember that both sides of your container are load-bearing. If you compromise this integrity with lots of cutouts, you’ll need to support the container somewhere else to compensate.
Then build hidden storage into your tiny house. You could build the home on a platform and then install lift panels on the floor. Or build out one end of your container with a separate storage room.
Your final step is to create an outdoor living space. You can do this by building a deck to create an outdoor extension of your living room or kitchen. Or, install a staircase that gives you access to the roof. You could then build a rooftop patio with an outdoor kitchen and bar area.
5. Single Shipping Container Home
While many of the container homes that you see will use more than one container, this isn’t necessary. You can create a completely livable space inside one container. You can use all of the same tricks that you would use when building a tiny home. This includes installing plenty of windows, an outdoor area, and a rooftop patio. But you’ll want to go further because space is a premium and you need to plan your home’s layout carefully.
Plan to put your bedroom at one end. Then to simplify the plumbing and electrical, try to place the kitchen and a small bathroom next to each other. This will minimize the amount of plumbing pipe and electrical wiring that you need to run. These two areas could be in the middle of the container or on the opposite end of the bedroom. Then plan for a living area in the remaining space.
When building with a single container, your home is a maximum of eight feet wide. This could limit how you place your rooms. Be sure to check your local building codes as they may have minimum square footage sizes.
6. Interior Ideas for Shipping Container Homes
The first rule of decorating your container home is to scale everything to your available space. You need the square foot measurement of each room. Then you can create your interior design plan to fit.
Look for a smaller fridge for the kitchen, or a scaled-down vanity and sink for the bathroom. Don’t be afraid to accent the spaces with fun surprises. You could embrace the concrete floor and finish it with a stain and clear coat sealant.
As with any home, you should create outdoor living spaces that feel as comfortable as the interior does. Place couches, low tables, a rug, and lighting. Don’t forget to decorate the outside of your containers. You could paint a large mural or cover the metal with wood or stonework.
7. Sloped Roof Container Home
A sloped roof adds personality and interest to an otherwise very boxy home. It also serves two practical purposes. It prevents water and debris from gathering on the flat top of your container. It also allows you to position your home and roof to make the most of solar panels or skylights.
Source: @thecargodistrict via Instagram
If you’re building a single container or tiny house, you can use supports to have an elevated sloped roof above your box. If you’re planning to build a larger home, consider using three containers. Place two containers parallel to each other with some space in between. Then place your third container on top of one of the two. Then build a sloped roof to connect the top of the second story container with the top of the single container. This creates the perfect flat surface for plenty of skylights, but it also creates a large living space under the roof.
8. Multi Family Container Home
Container houses aren’t just for the wealthy or environmentally conscious. Many commercial builders are creating multi-family homes out of them. Often referred to as a container city, these communities will use many containers to create either an apartment-style building or independent cottages. Each resident has their own independent housing made of one or two containers.
Some of these communities are more urban and upscale. The containers will feature high ceilings, upscale materials, and plenty of large picture windows. Other communities address the affordable housing shortage. These single containers look like a standard suburban neighborhood. Each container has its own front porch.
If you decide to build a home to house more than your immediate family, then plan to use a lot of containers. At the bare minimum, you could create a three-bedroom home out of three containers. But keep in mind, the entire size of the home would be about 500 square feet. So to have a 1,000 square foot home, you’re going to need about six containers.
9. Guest Container House
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a separate space for your guests? Instead of having them crash on your couch or invade your bathroom. You could give them a guest house where they could retreat to. Building an entire guest house would be expensive and take up a lot of room. Instead, you can create the same experience with a single shipping container.
Source: @that_tiny_life_love via Instagram
With one used shipping container, you can have a bedroom, bathroom, closet, and even a mini kitchen area. This gives your guests plenty of space to sleep, shower, and even make their morning coffee. Complete the look with a large outdoor patio or deck area. Then you could venture out and meet them outside for a morning cup of joe or maybe an evening cocktail.
To make the space feel larger, consider installing a large glass door or two. Then your guests could open up the entire container and bring the inside out or the outside in.
10. Green Container Housing
If you desire to build a container home from your love for the environment, you’ll want to do more than just build with recycled containers. Consider making the entire home green by adding additional features to create a sustainable living environment.
Source: @universodoscontainers via Instagram
Start with your electricity and mount large solar panels on your sloped roof. This will capture the sun’s energy and convert it to power to run your home. Then place rain barrels around the home to gather and collect water. You could even mount a canvas panel to provide covering and shade while also collecting condensation.
Another option is to turn the top of your container home into a green roof. Hang a shipping pallet that you can then use as an herb planter. Build planter boxes to line the top of your container. Then you can head up there to garden and harvest fresh produce.
Shipping Container Homes FAQs
What type of containers should I use to build my house?
You’ll have to decide between new and used. New containers are more expensive but in perfect condition. Used containers are more affordable and can vary greatly depending on their size and condition. The type you use will depend on your budget and ability to repair any possible weak points in a used container. Consider “one-trip containers.” These have only made one trip across the ocean, so they’re cheaper than new and in better condition than most used containers.
What size containers should I use?
The standard container size is eight feet wide by 8.5 feet tall. Then the most common lengths are 20 and 40 feet. You’ll also find containers 9.5 feet in height. Known as “high cubes,” they give you taller ceilings in your home. You may discover 40-foot containers that give you the most interior space are the best value per square foot. But it could also be smart to mix sizes to achieve your desired floor plan.
How do I prepare for my shipping container build?
Always see the containers you’re buying. Never blindly trust the description and buy your containers sight unseen. Check your local building code and confirm you can build with shipping containers. Then find a contractor who can both prepare the containers and build the house.