Shipping Container Home Making Waves in St. Charles

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Zack and Brie Smithey bought a parcel of land out of foreclosure five years ago on a rather busy stretch of Elm Street in their hometown of St. Charles, MO. The lightly wooded lot, between two traditional homes rises sharply from what is more a road than a street on this stretch. The Smithey’s planned to build a nice home that fit it, then they changed their minds.

Now poised above Elm Street are eight industrial red shipping containers emblazoned with “K”LINE, the brand-name standard for shipping containers. Eventually, the containers will be painted taupe. Four of the eight containers have doors swung open, eventually to be welded ajar, revealing recycled windows. A peak inside reveals recycled materials everywhere one looks.

The interior is raw, a full-blown construction site. Work is moving quickly as the entire process is being filmed by a major television network (we can’t tell you which one). Until the show featuring the St. Louis area’s first shipping container home airs in October, we’re not allowed to share interior images.

Beyond the shipping containers, as much as the interior as possible is being constructed of recycled materials. Kitchen countertops and stair treads are repurposed wooden cable spools. Bedroom doors are more than a century old.

But it’s not the interior that’s that going to attract the attention of most people. Already, the site of the red corrugated metal boxes has received widely varied responses.

An effort in St. Charles to restrict any future container homes to sites zoned for mobile homes is underway. The proposed ordinance was rejected unanimously by the St. Charles city planning and zoning committee. The city council would have had to endorse the ordinance with a super majority to overrule the committee. A 5-5 vote there is not yet a conclusion. The council decided to address the issue at a future meeting.

The Smithey’s have learned a lot in the process already and are looking ahead to where else, and for what else containers can be repurposed. Affordable housing, artist lofts, market rate housing, restaurants…there is no shortage of ideas. But the first task to complete the home they plan to move into as early as September.

Zach Smithey is an artist and he and Brie are co-owners of the restaurant Miss Aimee B’s. Brie is also the owner and founder of Brie’s Protein Bars.

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  • Bobby Blaque

    What a missed opportunity from a massing standpoint. The lot was more beautiful in its natural state. When first I heard about this home I was excited, but the more I see the less I like it. I’m sure it will look better upon completion but I do wish they had worked the containers across the landscape in a more integrated way.

  • Tysalpha

    The “colonial” grid on the windows seems out of place on a building made of shipping containers, IMO. And upside down? Presumably will make more sense when it’s all done and painted. But that’s my nitpick of the morning.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yeah – they’re repurposed obviously, which is the larger point of the project. Originally there were to be identical windows as a mirror image to the upside down ones. I believe one or more of them broke and couldn’t be used as planned.

  • Steve Kluth

    It looks cool and once finished will probably fit in better with the neighborhood than anyone expects. Once you add in the reuse factor, I think people will be impressed.

  • Tim Eby
    • Alex Ihnen

      As more/less a one person effort, I’m not able to always be first to report everything happening in our region.

      • I know Alex … You do an amazing job as a one person show!

  • Roobah

    Very nice. Missouri needs more of the same.

    • Max Ztloh

      Do we, though? Not sure this is a shining example…

      • Eldon Hughes

        Wait for it. Look up Zack online. He’s a local artist with a big love for the community. My bet? It will look quirky and cool and still show regard for the community.

        • Brian

          I took a drive by today. I’m still waiting for it to look quirky and cool. What a mess.

          • Jim Schmidt

            Brian, construction in progress will always be a mess until it’s finished. I’m impressed with what they’ve done.