By Mary Fitzgerald | Photographs by Janine LaMontagne
Born of necessity, husband and wife team Elliott Kanbar and Barbara Rose of Westport came up with a brilliant solution to their pool-house dilemma. They had hoped to build a cabana on their property, but soon discovered that the cost and headaches of stick building on site were prohibitive. A fortuitous newspaper article, a little research and some creative problem solving led them to their unlikely answer—a shipping container. Within a month, they had retrofitted the steel box, with the help of their contractor and now business partner Matt Menozzi, and created their dream pool house. They were so enamored with their affordable and innovative alternative that they decided to go into the “tiny house” business. Elliott Kanbar talks about the process.
What inspired you to create a pool house out of a shipping container?
My wife and I often have pool parties—guests and kids would walk in and out of the house with wet bathing suits and it became a nightmare. We decided we needed to build a pool house. By the time we figured the costs—architectural plans, permitting and construction—this tiny 160-square-foot structure became as time-consuming and complex as building a home. We saw an article about steel shipping containers being used as architecture and thought it was the wave of the future.
How did you start your company?
Barbara, Matt and I founded Elbar Tiny Living in 2016. Our goal is to provide buyers with a fully constructed and equipped architecturally advanced house that can be delivered anywhere in the world by truck, train or ship. We remove the worry and stress buyers often encounter when they venture into home construction.
Where do you get these shipping containers?
We use new containers, built from Corten steel, that we order from the Port of Newark, New Jersey. [Note: The containers are brand new, so there is no fear of contamination from chemicals or critters.] They come in two sizes: 8-by-20-feet and 8-by-40-feet and can withstand severe weather conditions. They do not need a foundation; however, the buyer must provide a concrete slab or wooden blocks on which the house will be placed and secured upon delivery.
What is the cost, and what is included?
There are four models. The smallest, pictured here, is 160 square feet and costs $69,000. The package includes vinyl siding, foam insulation, glass doors and windows, with finished and painted interior walls. Air conditioning, heat and hot water are standard. The unit features a kitchenette with stone countertops, high-end appointments and LED lighting. The bathroom has conventional-size fixtures and a tiled shower. An outdoor shower is also included. The price covers interior plumbing and electrical wiring, but the buyer is responsible for hooking up the plumbing and electrical on site and securing necessary permits.
Can the units be customized?
Yes, multiple containers can be placed side by side or stacked one on top of the other to make different styles and structures. Buyers can also change the siding, the flooring and the appliances. We can build houses in any style: Contemporary, Colonial or Cape. We can also add small touches like shutters or extra windows, but some custom changes may result in additional costs.
What do you see in the future?
The containers can be adapted to be used as a guest house, artist studio, vacation cabin or office. With home and rent prices out of reach for many people, tiny living has now become a go-to option.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2017 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Have Cabana, Will Travel. Full article