It might sound a bit crazy and trigger feelings of pity at first, but trust me, this family of five living in shipping containers are far from those lines of thought.
Matt and Ilse live with their three children in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, in a fantastic sustainable home built out of two offset 40 ft. shipping containers. The family collect their water from a borehole on the property and use solar-generated electricity.
In an interview with Bryce Langston of Living Big in a Tiny House, the couple revealed they hadn’t always lived in container paradise . As their family expanded and more babies came along, they ended up in a massive five-bedroom house complete with a tennis court, a big pool, and lawns that consumed so much time and energy to be maintained. In the end, they just couldn’t keep up with the work.
“After living and working in that house for a year, we realized how much work went into mowing all those lawns,” Ilse said. “It took all of our time, it was busy. It was hard work but it was just more of the fact that we had three little children who just wanted to spend time with us and we didn’t have time because we had to get these jobs done.”
Ilse came across Langston’s YouTube channel and was introduced to a wide selection of ideas for minimalist, low-maintenance homes and they were sold on the container idea.
Downsizing and upcycling
The couple purchased two used containers that were in great shape but needed a bit of panel-beating. The containers were later repainted, soldered, refurbished and made to look like they were straight out of a manufacturing company. Matt and Ilse are engineers who co-own the Otto engineering company, and they are not new to steelworks.
The inside of the containers is lined with perfectly varnished plywood and a lot of the walls double as hidden storage units.
The home was designed to have rooms finishing off into the corners of the offset containers. The first room is a small foyer that may seem to be a bit of luxury in a tiny home but greatly useful. All the walls of this room are lined with hidden cabinets and storage units that maximize space use in the home. It also doubles as a mudroom for the kids who spend a lot of time outdoors.
The home may look small on the outside, but it’s surprisingly spacious and overwhelming on the inside. They focused on having a large lounge area that opens onto a beautiful deck with a kitchen off to the side.
While the kitchen is not exactly a dedicated room on its own, as an open concept the walls in the corner are fitted with so many storage units and a table so spacious it can accommodate three chefs at once. A large sink is embedded in the work table and the walls are fitted with a fridge, an oven, a coffee machine, and several other appliances.
The couple cleverly grouped their three kids into one room while still maintaining peace in their home. The children share a room divided into two compartments to look like one-story. The younger two, both boys, take the ground floor fitted with two beds and storage spaces while their older sister gets the upper level.
The parents share the cozy penthouse with a slanted roof that still allows for maximum space. The family shares a lovely Japanese-style bathroom fitted with a shower, a vanity, a sink, and a composting toilet. The toilet is covered with sawdust after used and it’s fitted with a ventilation system that keeps things “a lot less smelly.”
Using a 6KW, 18-panel sophisticated solar system fixed onto the roof of the house, the family generates a massive amount of electricity for all their needs and does not depend on the general connection. They have a borehole with a pump on their property that supplies all their water needs year-round. They are “basically disconnected” from the grid, in Matt’s words.
This family moved from a larger, difficult-to-maintain five-bedroom home into a cumulative 80ft of shipping containers and they are living their best lives, content and at peace in their spectacular home.
Most times, less is more.
- Bryce Langston. 40 ft. shipping Containers Transformed into Amazing Off-Grid Family Home. Living Big in a Tiny House. https://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/off-grid-twin-40ft-shipping-container-home/. Retrieved 24-02-2020
- Living Big in a Tiny House. 40ft Shipping Containers Transformed Into Amazing Off-Grid Family Home. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI71-qySsrE&feature=youtu.be. Retrieved 24-02-2020