At one time, the American dream meant owning your own spacious property, surrounded by a white picket fence. However, as that set-up becomes ever more expensive, some people have been compelled to reconsider what the ideal home actually is – and the results have been outstanding.
Somewhere in Texas, an unremarkable-looking shipping container hides a big secret. Yes, while from the outside it may simply look like an old red metal box, the inside is sleek and modern. And what’s more, it’s good enough to live in.
That’s because this rather inconspicuous shipping container is in fact a tiny home that’s on the market. And while it’s completely off-grid, the humble abode is equipped with all the mod cons. Indeed, its occupants have access to hot water, a washer and dryer, a fridge and a fully functioning shower and toilet unit.
It’s perhaps the simple yet sophisticated decor that makes this home so special. For instance, a compact but contemporary kitchen greets visitors as they enter through a simple white door; there is a sleek worktop, a chrome basin and an electric stove.
From there, the kitchen leads onto an open-plan living room, which features nice light wood flooring and walls and has plenty of space for a comfy sofa. There’s also a television to keep occupants entertained during the evenings.
Next up is the home’s inviting bedroom – a cozy space just big enough for a double bed. And while the room may be on the smaller side, there’s no skimping on amenities. Indeed, an air-conditioning unit and wide-screen television provide the perfect finishing touches.
Walking back through the kitchen and living area, the home feels surprisingly light and airy. And at the end of the space, past the kitchen’s light blue cabinets, potential buyers will find the bathroom. Here, there’s the toilet and shower unit. Oh, and the current owner has made clever use of the space with additional shelving.
At the moment, the shipping container also has access to a sunny courtyard with stylish patio furniture and vibrant plants. However, unlike with many properties, the outdoor environment of the house is completely changeable. That’s because any owner could move the tiny home to a location of their choice.
In fact, the flexibility offered by the so-called “tiny-house movement” is one of its biggest draws. Compact houses without foundations offer owners the opportunity to relocate with relative ease. Hence, they are often attractive to those wanting to live a more nomadic lifestyle.
Moreover, tiny homes are often more affordable than traditional bricks-and-mortar houses. The Texas shipping container is on the market for a measly $50,000 for 320 square feet of space. And because they are usually more energy efficient, these small abodes tend not to cost a fortune in bills.
Naturally, the tiny-house movement is also attractive to those wanting to downsize. While the average home in the United States is 2,600 square feet, tiny homes usually cover just 100 to 400 square feet. Plus, as suggested, choosing a smaller home can give people greater financial freedom.
In the States, people will spend up to half of their incomes on housing costs. As a result, around three quarters of the population live from one paycheck to the next. However, the tiny-house movement offers people another option.
One of the most popular styles of tiny home is in fact the humble shipping container. That said, setting up home in a metal box isn’t exactly cheap. Eric Reynolds owns Urban Space, a company that built a village of container homes in London, England, and according to him, the cost of conversion works out at around $100 to $120 per square foot.
But that’s not to say it can’t be done cheaper. When Luke Iseman and Heather Stewart set up home in a container in San Francisco, California, they spent $12,000 to make it habitable. This didn’t include the $2,300 cost of the box itself, though, or the expense of renting the land to place it on.
Before purchasing a shipping container, buyers will also have to consult their local authority to secure planning permission, and the building plans must meet certain safety standards to be approved. In America, a container build is generally more likely to get the go-ahead in rural areas or places where they already exist.
However, despite all the red tape, Iseman said he’s now living out his “dream.” Furthermore, he added, shipping containers make surprisingly sturdy homes. “You have a watertight box that is way more structurally sound that you can possibly need,” he told the Daily Mail in 2015.
And it isn’t just shipping containers that make amazing alternative homes. In 2015, for example, Sarah Carter moved her life onto a sailboat in San Francisco. Now, not only does her home help her feel close to nature, but it also gives her the opportunity to move wherever she wishes.
“I grew up in the country, and a constant problem in my life has been that I love being around nature, but the jobs I want are in cities,” she told Business Insider UK. “I get exhausted if I don’t have some contact with nature. So going home to my sailboat every night and recharging is a really fabulous solution.”
Meanwhile, Brian Sullivan, who lives on a converted bus with his wife and three children in Renton, Washington, has said that the tiny-house concept gave them more freedom. “We are ridiculous people and this is a ridiculous lifestyle and it just works,” he was quoted as saying by The Sun in February 2017. “We now have money to eat the foods that we want and go to the places we want.”
So while some may assume that living in a small space might be restrictive, it could actually offer homeowners greater freedom. And not only that, but for some people it might be the answer to ever-rising housing costs. It seems, then, that when it comes to homes, thinking inside the box could be the way forward.