Seriously, how do you even define a “real” house?

We get asked a lot when will we be building the “Real House” and most of the time my response is a polite, “The shipping container house will be the same as any other real house.”  When really I just want to jump up and down, screaming “what’s the big fucking deal?”

Is a real house one that jacks your mortgage up so high that you have to keep working full time jobs that only just pay the bills?

Is a real house one that’s picked off a plan and is exactly the same as 1000 other spec homes out there?

Does a real house have bricks or cladding?  Tiles or tin?  Stumps or slab? Single or double story?

This structure won’t be ugly.

I think a lot of people struggle to look past those bashed up metal boxes you fly over when coming into land at almost any airport in Australia.  Stacked sky high and dominating the horizon with their boisterous, hideous looks you can’t help but shudder when someone tells you they want to actually make a home out of one.

Basically everyone we spoke to assumed it would be some unapproved shanty style dwelling and that we would eventually be forced by the council to rip it down or build a “real house”.  Sometimes I wish we could connect people up to our imagination to show them what we see.

We wanted to put our own minds at ease before we even decided to sell our house so we drew up a comprehensive 3D model in Google SketchUp (a free tool that’ll blow your mind BTW) to make sure this house was going to be the dream home we’ve been planning for years.

Here’s the basic run down on what we’re planning to do with these fugly metal tins:

The General Exterior

  • The exteriors will be tidied up as much as we can (dings and dents removed) and painted in a neutral, modern colour that ties in with the natural surrounds.  Where we can, vines will be grown up the walls to help cool the inside in summer and allow the winter sun to bake when the leaves die off.  Deciduous trees will be planted outside the bedroom windows to again, shade in summer and allow heating during winter.
  • The incredibly industrial doors on each end will be replaced with floor to ceiling windows or doors surrounded by timber cladding to soften the design, break up the metal and flood the interior with views and natural lighting.
  • The entire house will sit up on stumps allowing us to avoid costly and environmentally disruptive earth works and provide old school Queenslander style ventilation through summer as well as a visual for termite activity.  This will also place our deck at the perfect level to have views of the entire property.
  • A huge deck joining the living area and bedrooms will give us even more living space in the warmer months and protection from the chilly winds during the colder months.  An outdoor kitchen bench with sink next the the BBQ will act as our harvest prep space where fruit and vegetables can be washed and packaged for storage.

The Interior Fit Out

  • Inside will be like any other house with a layer of quality insulation buried behind a timber stud and Gyprock wall.  Our stud work will be run on the shorter edge of the timber to allow more internal space.  We’ll have normal cornice and normal skirtings and architraves.  Nothing about the interior will give away our metal tin secret.
  • Two 40″ containers will be joined side-by-side to create a living area that’s 12m x 4.8m.  This space will include a butlers pantry to house our preserved harvest and a galley kitchen at one end of the space will provide us with over 3m of bench space along one wall and another 3m in the island bench.
  • The living room will feature a freestanding fire place and a window seat that will capture the afternoon sun, surrounded by ample storage for books, trinkets and firewood beneath the seat.
  • An ultra modern, timber clad hallway will connect the main living area to the bedrooms with glass louvers at each end, allowing breezes and natural light and a poly carbonate roof will act as a giant sky light.  Custom blinds on the ceiling will allow us to trap out that warm summer sun during the heat of the day.
  • The bathroom will be simple, minimalist and warm with a double shower opening to the outdoors in warmer months, large bath, family sized vanity, toilet and a sneaky laundry stashed in a cupboard.
  • The three bedrooms will be modest in size which is perfect for our outdoor lifestyle.  Our bedrooms are for sleeping and storing clothes so why take up valuable living space?  The internal walls for the bedrooms won’t run to ceiling height which will allow light and air to flow through the space, minimising the need for artificial sources.
  • A separate shipping container will be placed on the back side of the living area with access to a private home office via a sun deck from the kitchen.  The other half of this shipping container will be a private guest room with their own access and compact ensuite.

Isn’t creating a home more important anyway?

When we were kids, Mum and Dad built one of our houses with the occasional hand from friends and family but mostly on their own.  With Mum working full time to support the family, and Dad juggling building and stay-at-home parent duties, it took a few years of working 7 days until we could finally move in to what was then still and un-finished house.

During the build process, we lived in a shed through winters, summers, rain that was so loud on the thin tin roof we would hide in the carport which was thick, corrugated iron.  It was hot, it was cold, it was cramped and I shared a room with my brother.  When we look back on those years though, they truly were the happiest we had ever been.  I can’t even imagine how my parents managed it all financial, emotionally and physically but wholly shit, they gave us the most amazing childhood we could have asked for.

My point is, that shed with the summer snake invasions, winters around our car sized fire place and our bathtub in the backyard until a bathroom was built felt like a home.  The house with only builders paper for walls and an extensions ladder for stairs felt like a home.

Our life experiences and upbringings have taught us that a home can be made anywhere.  Shit, our couple of week long camp sites and Double Island used to feel like home once our mums had finished working their magic.

We don’t want a house that gleams and sparkles and could be featured in a magazine (although that would be pretty cool), we want a home that has heart, soul, memories and history.

They will come around to your ideas.

Eventually, our family and close friends came around to the idea once we showed them our little Google SketchUp of exactly what it would look like once we’re done so they now have a  little more faith in what we’re planning on achieving.

For those that struggle with the imagination side of things, they’ll just have to wait and see for themselves.  The only ones we’re really worried about not loving the idea are the people at Gympie Council who’s job it is to approve our build.  I’m hoping that by accompanying the plans with some 3D renderings and a letter from us, we can convince them that this will be a fairly “standard” house by the time we’re done with it.  It just won’t be built using conventional costly, timely and unsustainable methods.