PHOTOS: Couple build French home out of old shipping containers

Total costs for the 145m² home - and a rental unit within - came in at under €275,000

Capucine and Florent transformed six metal shipping containers into a modern family home
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The village of Franois in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté sits between Dijon and Switzerland, and is about as land-locked as anywhere in France. It is a pleasant anomaly, then, to find a young couple here who have built a home entirely from shipping containers. 

Florent Baulard, 33, and Capucine Covarel, 32, attended the same school but went their separate ways for two decades before work brought them back to the area in 2018, when they fell in love and decided to live together. A television programme in spring 2019 changed their destiny.

“We were watching a series about unusual homes, and it featured someone who had converted a shipping container,” explains Florent. “We loved the idea, but we had no idea where to start. Capucine was a nurse and I was an estate agent, and our building experience consisted of weekend DIY projects ”

Starting from scratch

The couple researched similar projects online, designing how they wanted their home to be, and this was worked up as an architectural plan, giving them 145m² of living space that included a 13m² mini-studio. They found a specialist company who could source and deliver a total of six containers for €18,000, so the next step was to choose the location. 

Their first choice of village was sceptical about both shipping containers and the flat-roof design, but they found a 800m² plot in Franois – 10km west of Besançon – where the council listened to the couple’s plans for construction and took time to understand the design.

“In terms of planning permission, the administrative procedures are exactly the same for using shipping containers as they are when building from stone – it isn’t a shortcut!” says Florent. “We bought the plot in July 2019 and secured the planning permission in January 2020, so it all started around the first lockdowns for Covid. That was certainly an unforeseen difficulty, because certain steps took a lot longer, and many building materials ran out of stock immediately, it was really complicated to get hold of what we needed to get the work done.”

They employed a company to do the groundworks and foundations, including reinforced concrete pilings, and the containers were delivered in July 2020. The next stage was cutting them into shape, removing nearly three tonnes of metal to achieve the required formats. Other than employing one more contractor for the waterproofing process, Florent and Capucine carried out the renovations themselves, sacrificing every weekend and most of their evenings until finally, after nine months of construction, they moved into their brand-new home in April 2021.

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Child-friendly environment

“That was really something,” Florent remembers, “living in these metal boxes, but now we don’t even notice it, this environment is our everyday life. Our son, Emile, was born a year ago, and he loves it – he has space to play and we don’t have to worry about his bashing toys on the walls because they’re metal so he’s not going to damage them! When we designed the house, we imagined having children and we feel extremely lucky to be parents now. Living here as a family is every bit as good as we imagined, back when it was all just a dream for the future.”

The original shipping-container plans had always included a 13m² mini-studio, which the couple rents out for short stays of up to a month. This compact, self-catering space offers visitors the chance to try container living and the tiny-house experience, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And of course, as a young family, it’s an additional income source that helps the budgets.

Read more: French design kit house can be built in a weekend by two people

Speaking of which, Florent and Capucine have now completed all the main elements of the project and can calculate the costs. Having paid €110,000 for the plot and €150,000 in total for the containers, materials, building work and labour, their unique home cost a total of €260,000. Not bad for a detached 145m² home with its own rental unit.

You can see photos of the inside and outside of the home below (click on arrows to scroll). 

“When we first talked about our plans, a lot of our friends and family warned us that it would be like living in a ghetto, freezing in winter and roasting in the summer,” remembers Florent. 

They carried out a thermal study early on, insulated the outside with 100mm PU foam panels and two layers of waterproof roof insulation, used 22mm wooden flooring throughout and clad the exterior in Siberian larch, so you would never guess the maritime origins of their home. They have since added a decking area and a swimming pool, creating a truly original property.

“We have a home that is unique, welcoming and stylish, and quite a few of our friends are thinking about doing the same thing, which is a good sign. It just goes to show that you should not listen to other people if you have a clear idea in mind and you feel strongly that it is going to work.”

Florent and Capucine have published a book about their quirky home, called Maison Container, encouraging others to take the plunge. 

Capucine continues her work as a nurse, but Florent has left real estate to become a self-employed construction worker. 

To see more photos and get the latest on their unique lifestyle, you can follow their Instagram page: @Homebox25.