Couple Likes Being 'Boxed In'
Bryan and Gwen Blackwell are accustomed to thinking outside the box. So, it's a little ironic that the couple lives in one.
📅 Fri May 20, 2016 - National Edition
The Blackwells say that there are many misconceptions about shipping container homes.
ONEONTA, Ala. (AP) - Upon meeting Bryan and Gwen Blackwell, it's easy see that the pair is accustomed to thinking outside the box. So, it's a little ironic that the couple lives in one.
Well, four to be exact.
The Alabama couple designed and built their 2000-square-foot home out of four 40-foot-long shipping containers that came from a port in Miami. They use a fifth container for storage.
When the construction industry started to tank around eight years ago, they decided to make a change. They sold the building that housed their steel construction business in Florida and decided to move to Oneonta, Alabama, in the summer of 2009 where they owned land.
Bryan moved the containers one by one from Fort Myers, Florida, also transporting the steel beams, and other materials needed for the house. All of the steel used in the home are leftovers from jobs they did back in Florida.
So why use containers? “It was just the next step in an adventure. Let's go from one thing to another. Every time, we'll try something a little more creative,” said Gwen. “This was the next step.”
Shipping container structures are incredibly strong, durable, and eco-friendly. The giant building blocks made perfect sense for their unique home.
“I've wanted to build one of these long before they ever started showing up on the internet, so we did it,” said Bryan. “It's the strongest method of construction there is right now other than poured concrete.”
They lived in a travel trailer for two years while they put the home together themselves. They moved in shortly after completing the necessities - the master bath, bedroom, and kitchen.
The Blackwells say that there are many misconceptions about shipping container homes. One they hear often is how inexpensive an elaborate shipping container build is. “They know you can buy a shipping container for cheap, but then they think that's the end of it. They don't realize how much work it takes to modify one and the expense that comes with it.” said Bryan. “It's like buying a truckload of lumber and expecting that to be all of your home costs.”
Doing it themselves allowed them the flexibility to do whatever they wanted and the time to work on it, think about it, and work on it some more while adding creative touches as they thought of them. They finished the rest a year later.
“I don't know if you can rush through something like this because we kind of ad-libbed as we went,” said Gwen.
Take for instance some of the interior features. They repurposed discontinued ceiling tiles they bought from several area Lowes stores to cover bedroom and bathroom walls. Stained plywood trim frames doors in the home, most of which are recessed. Inexpensive clip lights wired together create industrial lighting in what they call the gallery, the home's main gathering space. They converted an old propane tank they got for free into a ceiling mounted fireplace that heats the entire space. The even used automotive parts pallets to make up parts of the gallery walls.
The home sits atop eight steel posts with footings buried in concrete so while it is not tornado proof - “You can't build anything that god can't tear up,” said Bryan- it is storm resistant.
All of the touches come together to form a home that is as unique and creative as the couple who lovingly put it together. “It makes it more interesting don't you think?” said Gwen. “Why build it like everybody else? Where's the fun in that?”
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