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Two tiny shipping container homes

Around the world, people are moving into recycled cargo containers to be near the city centre. A team of interior designers were set the challenge of transforming two identical 11-square-metre boxes into practical and personal homes.

People sitting on sofas and floor cushions with an umbrella and side tables in an outdoor area between shipping containers.
People sitting on sofas and floor cushions with an umbrella and side tables in an outdoor area between shipping containers.
I think this is just the beginning of how people are starting to live. We’re talking more and more about small spaces, temporary homes, a nomadic lifestyle, and communal living.

Anna Cardell, interior designer

A sociable setup
The first bedroom was created for Nike, a 22-year-old student who works part time. ‘She’s super sociable. Her door is always open, even if her space is small,’ says Anna. ‘Everything had to be visible and easy to grab, so we packed in plenty of open storage and hung foldable furniture on the wall. The desk can be turned around and used as a dining table when friends come over.’

Flexible living
‘When you do everything in one room, the layout has to be flexible,’ says Anna. A 24-hour daybed easily becomes a double if a friend stays over and it has built-in storage. ‘We chose furniture on wheels so it’s easy to move around and create a sociable layout, like a bedside table that becomes a coffee table.’ Stackable stools are a space-saving way to make room for extra guests.

Use this for that
With multipurpose furniture, you can squeeze many different functions into one small space. ‘In a studio home you have a reason to be inventive and use things in new ways,’ says Anna. ‘Like the kitchen trolley – it’s a DJ table on top, but underneath it stores the tableware. It’s easy to move around depending on how you’re using it, and it fits with the room’s industrial style.’

If you use one room for everything, share a space, or move often, portability is key. Think handles, wheels and lightweight designs wherever you go, so you can easily take what you need.

Anna Cardell, interior designer

A relaxing retreat
The second room was created for Liv, a 31 year old who prefers to socialise outside her home, so she sees her room as a sanctuary. ‘To create a restful and relaxing space, we used closed storage for a calm look, and lots of soft textiles and natural materials,’ says Anna. Layers of sheer curtains and plants help to control privacy, light levels, and soften the metal walls.

The bed is where everything happens in this room, so we chose a modular sofa bed. It has mattress-quality filling so you can sleep on it every night, and hidden storage for bedding.

Anna Cardell, interior designer

Customise your corner
In a shared hallway, a full-height unit can add vital extra storage. ‘Not just for typical hallway stuff but for other household items too, so they don’t take up precious space in the bedroom,’ says Anna. ‘It can also display your personality and make it clear who lives there.’ Look for extra storage opportunities on top of units, behind doors, and underneath shelves.

A bathroom for two
For the shared bathroom, the team focused on easy ways to make it more practical. ‘We chose open storage to make use of the space under the sink – with two sides each person can have their own shelves,’ says Anna. For a no-drill solution, the team added TISKEN suction-pad hooks and pots around the mirror to make small essentials easy to reach.

The gap between the containers was transformed into a meeting spot where neighbours and friends gather for a bring-a-dish meal – it’s a shared social space in their home environment.

Anna Cardell, interior designer

Planning smart spaces
‘We started out with two identical metal boxes, but there’s a really strong contrast between the rooms we created,’ says Anna. ‘They may use storage and space in quite different ways, but both are very carefully thought-out – when each home is just 11 square metres, you can’t afford to waste an inch!’

Made by
Interior stylists: Anna Cardell, Anna Hallberg
Photographers: Johan Månsson, Henrik Petersson