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Shipping Container Homes

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Housing in New York has become so expensive that it’s time to think of some outside-the-box options. Being an old home lover, it’s always been my ambition to rescue broken abodes. But what if it’s too far gone? What if it’s actually a tear down? What if building on an empty lot is more affordable?

The building or even renovation process in NY requires going through a lot of red tape. Although I haven’t researched local specifications for pre-fab homes, I know that even developers are going modular. Shipping containers? Might not be to code right here in NYC but they are worth looking into.

The photo above, via Jetson Green, is actually an affordable housing development in Canada. It would not look too out of place right here in brownstone Brooklyn. Definitely better than some of those other new builds.

Each unit costs $82,500 and the entire process took about 8 months to complete. This building, as with many other shipping containers, exceeds the code requirements for insulation. You were asking yourself about the insulation, amIright?



Yes, my friends, the house above is a shipping container home. It’s actually three shipping containers located in China designed by Arcgency for World Flex Home. Be sure to hit that link and check out the interior shots.


You can purchase the “Hela 1280” Meka modular house right online for $189,200. This is the largest and priciest of their homes at 1280 square feet. A 320 square foot home goes for $52,500.  The website says it takes 7 days to assemble and that includes everything except city water lines, electrical current and foundation. Of course, it does not include dealing with the DOB. Let’s also not forget that shipping the shipping container may cost as much as the actual house. The company ships worldwide with the headquarters being in Canada.


If you’re saying “None of these look like shipping containers.” well, here’s one that does. The six container home was actually designed by students (friggin’ exceptional kids who aren’t drinking their youth away) and took two years to build (Ok, not THAT exceptional). The home boasts concrete floors, a roof deck and some exposed container interiors. Do check out the other pics, especially the exposed steel beams and support columns. It’s industrial looking yet totally homey and warm.

Ugh…and now I think I just found a new obsession.

Irish Castles

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So, tomorrow I’m off to Ireland to visit the in-laws. This time, instead of staying at the mother in law’s house in Dublin, I grabbed a package deal that includes castle accommodations.

Groupon alerted me to a great package trip via email but the crappy thing about Groupon is that they get you all excited only to find out the deal is sold out when you go to book it. Well, Aer Lingus was offering a similar Irish Castle package, so screw you, Groupon.

Since November in Ireland is pretty dreary and we’ll be schlepping around the countryside with an 87 year old with two bad hips, I’m thinking that I may actually be able to keep up with the blog. Check in this week for irregular postings on castle designs, renovations and garden ideas (no post tomorrow).

That is….if there’s wifi and I’m not out actually enjoying my vacation.

See back home next Wednesday!


Glenlo Abbey



Habitat Lego Build Challenge

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World Habitat Day was celebrated on October 7th. Some chapters held Lego Build competitions. Not all of the entries are online yet but New Zealand has a few that we can look at and vote on if we so desire. They are all winners!

Eight year old Adrian who built the house shown above says “This mansion is in the city for a whole family. It has water and solar power. The family has no car; they use a plane. They have treasures hidden inside.” Guess nobody told Adrian that a private plane negates the solar power savings, but it’s cool. Who wouldn’t want a plane?


Sanskruti Zaveri, age 11


Sophie McLean, age 11


Amos, 6, with his waterproof houseboat


Joshua Reynold, 6 years

Little Red Caboose

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Looking for alternative housing? We’ve covered airplane homes and shipping container houses here, but how about a train car? Check out some of these babies that are for sale. Buy yourself a vacant lot and convert it! *Building code terms and conditions may apply.

The caboose above has already been converted into a home, plus it’s located in New York State! That’s a good thing as shipping would cost upwards of $10k. Price for caboose: $45k.


Cute caboose! Built in 1911 with original interior that looks to be in excellent condition. Located in PA. $25k


This Milwaukee-Hiawatha Coach passenger car is currently undergoing restoration and even has it’s own blog. It’s not clear whether or not this particular car is for sale.


A Pennsylvania box car that is currently being used as an Italian restaurant is a mere $8,000. At least we know that it has a professional kitchen.


Finally, if you love the look of rail car homes but don’t want to deal with moving, restoring and going through building department red tape, there’s always a caboose replica kit.  Dogpatch and Western sells them for the low, low starting price of $2500 for a 36 foot unit. Of course that is just for the frame and undercarriage. Add on options will set you back a few more bucks.

Cave Hotels

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Cavecations may not be for everyone but it’s something I’ve decided to put on my own bucket list. Before you start thinking of a dark, scary enclosed area, check out some of these images and tell me they are not beautiful.

The Cappadocia Cave: Argos Hotel (above) is located in Goreme, Turkey. Think 21st Century luxury hotel meets biblical era dwelling. FYI, the Cappadocia region is actually known for it’s caves and this is not the only cave hotel in the area.


Ok, admittedly, the room above has a slightly claustrophobic feel to it. The “Mine Suite” in Sweden’s Sala Silvermine is said to be the world’s deepest hotel room. There is only one underground suite in this hotel. The rest of the rooms have windows and stuff. Snooze.


Kokopelli’s Cave B&B in New Mexico looks like it stepped out of The Flintstones! And I loves me some Flintstones! Rooms are $260 per night and the whole place looks awesome. You better be clicking on these links to see the rest of the images.


Santori is the kind of place that comes to mind when I think of Greece.  Aris Caves Hotel is nestled in the cliffs overlooking the bluest of water. Sounds like heaven? Yeah, it probably is. I’m not much of a beach person, but I think I could deal with this.

Hey Moma,Can We Talk?

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NYC - American Folk Art Museum

So, MOMA, I hear you want to expand. How nice for you. No, really. That’s actually good news for New York. We do love a good art museum. Love it more when it’s a suggested admission and not some crazy, rip off price that’s too steep for actual working artists to afford, but I digress.

It seems a bit … oh, I dunno, ironic, that in order for you to expand, you want to tear down a 12 year old architectural work of art by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Do you think that only canvases and sculptures should be considered art? Does it not matter to you that these architects CREATED this building?

Excuse me, but how is this any different than taking a torch to a Warhol? Could you imagine the outrage if someone went and bulldozed a pile of Pollocks? You even have an architecture and design department in the museum, for fuck’s sake!

Do I love the building in question? Not really. I don’t have much appreciation for anything new. I’m all about the antique and vintage. But that doesn’t mean I want to see someone’s work being torn down. It’s not a cheap-ass brick Fedder’s building. It’s someone’s imagination being brought to life.

And I think you, MOMA, of all institutions, should not try to tear down anyone’s imagination.

The House on Macon Street

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The house had been sitting empty since the fire in 2003. It always seemed so crazy that a once majestic home was allowed to deteriorate while real estate in this pocket of Bed Stuy has remained tight.

I heard that it was going up for auction. First I saw the “suits” meeting out front. Then came the rubbish removal truck. I knew something was going down.

Today I weaseled my way into 91 Macon while my neighbor was waiting to let the water company in. He was put in charge for the day, flashlight and all. Since I’m a licensed real estate agent and it IS officially on the market, it wasn’t verboten even though I felt like I was trespassing.

So here’s how crazy real estate in Brooklyn is. They are asking $900k as is. Word on the street is that they intend to renovate but leave any detail that’s there (Praise God) and that price will be $1.5m. Public record shows that they purchased it at auction for $600k a few months ago. That’s a hefty profit although not quite the $300k it may look like. Perhaps there were other liens and taxes, clean up costs, legalizing “stuff”, getting rid of squatters or dead bodies…

In any case, high for Bed Stuy? Homes in the area have been hitting over a million. Although $900k seems steep, $800’s seems almost fair. It’s 4000 square feet. I’m gonna predict they either get $850k as is, $1.1 on a crappy flip or $1.3 on a nice restoration.





Stone House Compound

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The Stables (our rental)

I’m baaaack! This reclaimed chick couldn’t have stayed at a more appropriate accommodation in County Mayo as an appreciater of reclaim-ed-ness. Who knew? Twas my brother in law who picked the cottage, not moi.

The 100 acre farm has been in the Keane family since the 1600’s. There are still cattle roaming about. As a vegetarian, this made me sad, but I will say that at least these guys looked as happy as they can be even though their lives will be short. 🙁

The idea of converting the barn, granary and stables into vacation rentals was the idea of this generation’s Momma Keane. These impressive “country folk” have an awesome sense of design and style. Or they just hired realllly good architects and builders.

On to my horrible iPhone pictures!


The Main House (not for rent)

old house

The Barn


The Granary


Our Stone Fireplace with gorgeous beam


Sliding door that I want to show my carpenter (pay no attention)


Pitch Pine floors reclaimed from a nearby town


Antique tools and parts act as sculptures throughout the property.


Stone patio overlooking the cattle. They come to get treats just like dogs.

High Rise Trailer

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I’m doing a marathon home search of Ulster County today. A 2.5 hour drive up, look at nine houses and drive back. All by my little self. It took me most of the day yesterday to sort out the listings, map out and schedule my day and make appointments. Last time I looked for a house in the country, the realtor did that for me AND took me out to lunch. Now I have a license and I can save a few bucks on the purchase by doing it myself. But ya gotta hand it to agents outside of the city. They work twice as hard and earn less than half as much.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I came across this house in High Falls and was briefly interested until I realized that it’s a trailer with extensions. At least that’s what I think it is. My husband thinks it’s a modular home. In any case, that is one funky high rise for $50k.

Not sure if it’s still available. I found it outside of the MLS.

Solar Decathlon. And the Winner Is…

Solar Decathlon. And the Winner Is… published on 1 Comment on Solar Decathlon. And the Winner Is…


It’s not often I get a fun AND informative expense paid weekend. Once again, thanks to the Plastics Make it Possible campaign for inviting me along to the Solar Decathlon in DC. I was honored to be included among such bloggers of awesomeness as Jetson Green, Dwell, Shawna Coronado and Ugly Duckling House .

The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, but we struggled through it like troopers. The first home we toured with Brooks Utley was the Caltech Compact Hyper Insulated Prototype or CHIP. I’m not gonna lie. The interior was nice, but this house was alllll about the exterior for me. Anything that looks like a space ship is fabnificent in my book. The CHIP does not have any insulation, not because they are from sunny California and don’t need it. It’s because that funky puffy “siding” acts as the outsulation, a word they are trying to get into the dictionary. CHIP’s skin is made of heavy-weight (24oz/yrd) recycled white vinyl. White was used to reflect as much of solar radiation as possible, reducing cooling load. The “siding” is highly durable and waterproof.


Florida International University also had an impressive exterior. Their perFORM[D]ance House has layered walls designed to protect the house from undesired elements. Check out their website for energy performance on the walls and windows. It’s the louver system I want to discuss. The PVC and aluminum panels shade and protect the house as well as provide hurricane protection. Looks a bit nicer than the plywood or duct tape people were using here for Irene, no?

University of Maryland First Place in Solar Decathlon

The winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon was the University of Maryland with their Watershed project. They best utilized sustainable design for running the entire house.


Check out the home’s control panel with an easy button thrown in for good measure.


The dehumidifier is a work of art. The Innovative Liquid Desiccant Waterfall (LDW) system was developed by Maryland’s 2007 LEAFHouse team. A high-saline solution absorbs humidity from the air as it falls through back lit plastic “jellyfish”. It’s beautiful AND smart.


My personal favorite was New York’s Parsons School of Design. Not because I’m partial to NY (I am). Not even because I thought the house had the best overall design. It’s the story behind it that I fell in love with. The EmpowerHouse is a Habitat for Humanity home and of all the houses we toured, this one felt like a HOME. It’s probably because the lucky family who are inheriting the house were there on hand. Their photos were on display. This was actually someone’s home and I got a little verklempt when I met them.


My own honorable mention and the winner of the People’s Choice Award is Appalachian State’s Solar Homestead. Whereas some of the entries felt a bit cramped, this home had space and style. Once again, it was the exterior that blew me away.


The modular porch with outbuildings is kept dry by a bifacial PV canopy that acts as a net zero energy source for the home. The technology allows each 195 watt panel to collect sunlight bounced from below as well as above.


But honestly, the had me at the bark siding. Yes, this is durable and water resistant as long as it’s not sitting in a flood zone. The bad news is that it’s expensive.

Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on some other innovations I saw and easy DIY techniques we can steal for you kids to try at home. The bark included. Yum!


Grand Entrance

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Before: hallway

I was just looking back on some old Flickr photos of my Bed Stuy renovation and realized that I never blogged about my fabulous parlor floor hallway. (Nor various other little projects)

That’s the before shot you see above. The previous owners “renovated” the house. Oh please, don’t get me started. Everything in the hallway was painted a glossy shit brown…the bannister, the newel post, the doors and the molding.

After: Hallway

We took the double doors down and stripped and repaired them. They were in pretty bad shape and needed some fill in material. The back door with that badly home made transom was switched out for an antique door that actually fit into the frame.

Ah, but my pride and joy is that newel post! The one that was there when we bought the house consisted of four pieces of plywood boxed together with a Home Depot doodad on top. We found a gorgeous salvaged newel post that would have been original to a brownstone of this era and replaced it with that. The post was stripped and stained to match everything else.

The Victorian light fixture and ornate radiator were also salvaged finds.

This stuff doesn’t really take much design skill. It’s kind of just like putting back what was taken out.

Bed Stuy Walking Tour

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Spending your Memorial weekend in NYC and thinking of things to do? Free tour of Bed Stuy’s historic Bedford Corners district, led by “Montrose Morris” and “Amzi Hill” will take place on Saturday.

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