Home Sweet Shipping Container

An early look at a Pacific Standard story that's currently only available to print and digital magazine subscribers.
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(Photo: MOLPIX/Shutterstock)

(Photo: MOLPIX/Shutterstock)

Big dreams; small shipping containers. Inside a new Bay Area housing market.

Kyle DeNuccio's Pacific Standard story is currently available to subscribers—in print or digital formats—and will be posted online on Wednesday, March 11. Until then, an excerpt:

Walking inside Iseman’s shipping container, which measures 192 square feet, is not unlike entering a friend’s studio apartment. Space is at a premium. Along the back wall, his bed is elevated to the height of a standing desk for convenient double-duty as a workspace. Beneath the bed are shelves for his clothing. Above the bed, a projector screen drops down to give privacy from the rest of the room and provide home entertainment. A full-size door and four windows, all cut out of the walls of the container by Iseman, provide easy access and plenty of natural light. The floors are varnished bamboo. The container can run comfortably off-grid, although it is currently hooked up to the city’s water supply. Solar panels on the roof provide electricity—more than enough to run household items including Wi-Fi, a video projector, and an outdoor washing machine. A hose connected to the container supplies the water; a propane tank heats the container and the water, and fuels the stove. Iseman paid $12,000 to convert his container into a finished home, and his company, Boxouse, recently began accepting orders for similar units, which cost between $10,000 and $29,000, depending on the level of customization.

Before moving to West Oakland, Iseman and his girlfriend, Heather Stewart, lived in San Francisco’s Mission district, where, with a roommate, they rented a two-bedroom apartment for $4,200 a month. Appalled at the cost, they moved to Oakland, rented a vacant lot, and each converted their own shipping container into an off-grid tiny house. Soon a number of their friends and acquaintances were subletting on the property, living in old buses and campers; Iseman and Stewart were making $1,000 above the rent. Eventually, that lot was put on the market and sold for well outside their price range, and they decided to buy one of their own: the lot in West Oakland where Iseman’s container now sits. Moving his house was as simple as wheeling it across the neighborhood using a forklift and a trailer.

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