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Shipping container house is a light and airy take on desert living

Repurposed with style

A shipping container house constructed near Joshua Tree, California.
All photos by Brandon Aquino/Goal Zero

Shipping containers have been a growing trend the past few years, used in everything from urban farms to off-the-grid getaways and all-in-one pools. As a potentially eco-friendly alternative to traditional materials, owners love the retrofitted structures for their industrial style, durability, and portability.

But upfitting a surplus container into a livable home takes a lot of work. Just ask Ben Uyeda, the founder of HomeMade Modern, a creative agency founded in 2013 that distributes free instructional design content over the internet. As part of Uyeda’s latest project, the trained architect and designer set out to build a shipping container house in California near Joshua Tree National Park.

With plans to both live in the house and rent it out on Airbnb, Uyeda has documented the building process on his website, The Modern Home Project. From buying the land to getting building permits, selecting materials, and finishing the home, the website provides info on what it takes to build a shipping container house from start to finish.

The Joshua Tree design uses three shipping containers in total. One is used for living space, one for work space, and a smaller unit functions as a guest cabin. Uyeda wanted to open up the boxy shipping containers to get a more airy feel, but he knew that the hot desert climate would make too many windows inefficient.

Instead, he designed the home with bi-folding glass doors directly opposite each other, maximizing the outdoor space while having minimal openings in the containers. Cedar decks and concrete pavers give the landscaping a sleek feel, and the interior of the home continues the look with whites, woods, and open shelving.

Uyeda wasn’t tied into the grid so electricity wasn’t an option during the 20-week construction period. Partnering with Goal Zero, he used Boulder solar panels and a Yeti power station to keep his battery-operated power tools charged. Once construction was complete, Uyeda installed a Home Integration Kit, a Yeti 3000, and a Yeti Tank Expansion Battery as an energy storage system that provides backup power to the house in case of an outage.

Interested in more? Check out the photos below and don’t miss Uyeda’s popular DIY You Tube channel.

The interior of a shipping container home. A long galley kitchen has wood floors, white cabinets, open wooden shelving, and views onto the dining room and couch.
A photo of a man, Ben Uyeda, sitting on a DIY turquoise and white couch with a yellow tree coffee table on his left.
A concrete paver patio has string lights above and a large lounge couch in the center. Shipping containers on either side have been repurposed into a home.
A sunset view of two shipping container houses, one in the background and another with sliding glass doors that open onto a cedar deck.
The concrete paver patio at night, with shipping container homes on either side and two people sitting on an outdoor couch.