Property peep show: Shipping-container house in Williamsburg (slide show)

Take a tour inside a Williamsburg abode built with stacked shipping containers and furnished with repurposed materials

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  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    With help from 30 friends and neighbors, handyman David Boyle constructed the three-story, 1,600-square-foot house he shares with his girlfriend, Janet Brown, on a plot of land in Williamsburg bought in 2008. Bolted together with heavy-duty connectors, the six stacked containers—chosen for their affordability and sustainability—are coated with Supertherm paint and insulated with heated floor pipes. "It’s almost like a living thing," says Brown.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Four outdoor areas provide ample space for gardening and grilling. According to building-code standards, "there was too much floor space for the lot," recalls Boyle, "so we had to make some of the interior into exterior space."

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    “We are collaborative,” notes Boyle. The couple transforms repurposed materials, such as garbage can lids, into wall art.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "The kitchen is a work in progress," confides Boyle, who plans to add stainless steel appliances. To save on storage, the couple uses magnets to artfully display their cutlery.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "They give you a menu and you pick out your colors," Boyle enthuses of the Chinatown shop where he scored the forest green banquette benches that sit in the living room. He fashioned a table from an outdoor umbrella base and desktop, both street finds. Brown topped it with her grandmother’s tablecloth and roadside resurrected candlesticks.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "This was done intentionally as a teaching tool," admits Boyle of the exposed plumbing. The couple often invites inquisitive passersby in for tours.  

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Uneven plywood shelves support Boyle’s extensive book collection. "Each shelf is the bookend of the one next to it so that when you pull one book out they don’t all fall," he explains.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    The entire second floor serves as the master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and balcony overlooking the street. Boyle constructed what he describes as a "zoomorphic" lamp to hang over his bed and furnished the space with Salvation Army finds.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Boyle displays this model of his home in the living room. The concept of using shipping containers was the brainchild of his now deceased wife, a former professor at New York Institute of Technology, who was inspired by her students' entry in the Solar Decathlon design competition. "There are three million unused shipping containers in the U.S.," notes Boyle, who hopes that his home will encourage others to consider repurposing alternative building materials.

Photograph: Rayon Richards

With help from 30 friends and neighbors, handyman David Boyle constructed the three-story, 1,600-square-foot house he shares with his girlfriend, Janet Brown, on a plot of land in Williamsburg bought in 2008. Bolted together with heavy-duty connectors, the six stacked containers—chosen for their affordability and sustainability—are coated with Supertherm paint and insulated with heated floor pipes. "It’s almost like a living thing," says Brown.


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1 comments
Jesse D
Jesse D

Great job Melody! Love the concept design and reading about homes like these.  

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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