By Keila Torres Ocasio, Sunday, August 21, 2016

With a full bathroom, a kitchenette and a sitting area, the 160-square-foot space features what many people might expect from a small pool house.

What is unexpected is the fact that it is all built into a steel shipping container.

Westport couple Elliott Kanbar and Barbara Rose knew they had stumbled upon a concept that could revolutionize the way Fairfield County residents considered construction — and how much they would pay for a project — when they read about the new trend of creating living spaces out of shipping containers.

“It is a very, very easy way of constructing that speeds up the process,” said Kanbar, who was in the film industry for decades and is the former president of the Quad Cinema in New York City. He said he was the first to come across the idea.

A year later, the couple, and their builder friend Matt Menozzi have launched ELBAR Pool Houses.

“Elliott had the idea. Matt makes it happen,” Rose, who designs the spaces, said.

Their pool house model has a $79,000 price tag, not including the permitting costs, foundation installation, transportation costs and utility and sewer hookups.

What is included is the custom-made cabinetry, quartz countertops, flooring, siding, microwave, refrigerator with ice maker, double cooktop burner, hot-water heater, an air conditioning and heating system and even an outdoor shower.

“We wanted to build a high-quality pool house because we are in an affluent area,” Kanbar said. “We wanted to make it complete so people who buy the house won’t be nickled and dimed with extras.”

Rose noted that each model is customized to fit the customer’s needs. Just because she preferred white cabinets and light flooring in her pool house doesn’t mean everyone else will, she said.

But the startup won’t just focus on its namesake spaces. They also have plans to build slightly larger spaces featuring one, two and three bedrooms.

“With shipping containers, you can stack them, like a Lego set,” Kanbar said.

At 960 square feet, the three-bedroom option will cost just upward of $200,000 and will be significantly smaller than the median size of an American home built in 2015, which is more than 2,000 square feet, according to the U.S. census.

The one- and two-bedroom options, at 320 square feet and 640 square feet, respectively, can even be considered “tiny houses,” a real estate trend that has gained popularity in recent years.

“Typically going tiny means living in a home that is 400 square feet or less,” said Elaine Walker, one of the founders of theAmerican Tiny House Association, in an email. “However, families are ‘going tiny’ by living in smaller than average spaces, too. For a family of four, going tiny could mean having a home of 800 square feet.”

She said prices for tiny homes generally range from $45,000 to $85,0000, but she has seen them as low as $15,000 and as high as $100,000.

“Going tiny requires a bit of a pioneering spirit, as finding a place to live in a tiny house can be challenging,” Walker said. “Many tiny house folks see themselves as trailblazers. Young single adults and couples with student debt, and empty-nesters getting ready for retirement make up a large part of the tiny houser population.”

She noted the tiny house movement has become more mainstream in the last four years or so, with television shows focused on the trend and manufacturers taking note.

“A positive consequence of this increase in popularity is that zoning boards nationwide are starting to consider changes in legislation to allow tiny houses,” Walker said.

Rose said before starting up their business, the trio reached out to local zoning offices to ensure that their product complied with regulations. She said they don’t anticipate any problems.

She noted their living spaces only take about four weeks to complete and are constructed off-site and then transported to the owner’s property. This removes the architect and on-site contractors from the equation.

“Part of our concept was to do this so people who aren’t prepared to spend a large amount of money could have a pool house for a fairly modest price,” Rose said. “We’ve received a lot of interest and we haven’t even started marketing it in full. It really is a remarkable concept.”

“It’s something different,” Menozzi added. “It’s definitely different.”

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