After traveling the seven seas for many years, shipping containers have become increasingly popular as an affordable green building material. LOT-EK, the forward-thinking firm of New York-based Italian architects Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, pioneered the adaptive reuse of container material for dwellings, and they designed this one-of-a-kind house in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, using 21 shipping containers.
Now in contract with a last ask of $5 million, the property has been listed with Jon Capobianco and Quinn Ferree at Compass. The owners, Brooklyn-based restaurateur Joe Carroll and wife Kim — their handful of fashionable establishments include the Belgian beer bar Spuyten Duyvil and the neighboring “anti-steakhouse steakhouse” St. Anselm — purchased the property in 2010 for $699,000 and demolished a single-family house to make way for their unique home that was completed in 2016.
The building, which resembles a monolith jutting from the ground, nods to the neighborhood’s industrial past and, despite its distinct wedge shape, manages to sit lightly on its corner lot without being obtrusive or out of place. Of course, it’s somewhat ironic that the birth of container terminals for shipping in the late 1950s signaled the death of most of the working waterfronts of New York City, including Williamsburg’s.
Standard shipping containers are just 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet high by either 20 or 40 feet long. (In the case of this house, 20-foot containers were used.) To assemble the dwelling on the 25-by-100-foot corner lot, the architects placed three containers side by side, and sliced them at an angle before they cleverly stacked them together in a manner that formed the four-floor home’s slanted shape. Structural columns interrupt some of the rooms and, given that containers are just 8.5-feet high and flooring, mechanicals, and lighting needs to be subtracted from that, ceilings are on the low side. The unusual shape, however, does allow for walls of glass that fill the house with light and open to set-back terraces on each of the three aboveground levels.
The ground floor contains the main living area, with a combined kitchen, dining, and sitting area, along with a stadium-seated media room and a dining terrace. The listing notes the living area includes “New York City’s last permitted wood-burning fireplace.” There are three small bedrooms on the second floor, along with a home office, a den and two baths, while the third floor is entirely given over to a primary bedroom that includes a spacious walk-in closet and a private terrace.
Extremely handy and desirable in the crowded, parking-strapped neighborhood, the 3,500-square-foot building sports two driveways, one in the front, one in the rear. There’s also a garage on the cellar level, as well as a den/music room and another itty-bitty bedroom for staff or guests.
Kudos to the architects for creating such a striking, attractive building out of material that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill, and for creating a delightfully singular residential addition to the historic neighborhood.