Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a shipping container?

Is it a house?

A pool?

What about a restaurant?

Chances are, probably not. But for some, it is.

For some, a shipping container is a building block, as seen by Rhino Cubed, Boxman Studios and StarkJames. These three companies have taken an innovative approach to the shipping container and are thinking outside the box – literally.

Rhino Cubed

Using art as an inspiration, this Boulder, Colorado-based firm transforms shipping containers into small artistic and sustainable dwellings. Their cubes can be used for rental income, cabins or homes.

Jan Burton and Sam Austin co-founded Rhino Cube, which uses re-purposed shipping containers to build homes ranging anywhere from 160 square feet to 800 square feet.

Burton“People are always surprised when they step into one of our homes. They feel much larger than they seem from photographs. We started creating these little units to provide unique solutions to people who want to live smaller. Our customers have dreamt up other uses such as music studios, long distance bike huts, Airbnb rentals and more.”

Jan Burton I Rhino Cubed

The company believes that the smaller the structure the better. Something that has flexibility, simplicity and security.


Because they believe that “spending time in nature enriches the soul and that the ever-increasing complexity of the modern world needs a complement.”


Jan Burton standing in the kitchen of the Rhino Cubed. (Photo courtesy of Rhino Cubed)

Rhino Cubed bases itself on these eight principles:

  • Structural Soundness – Homes built to last.
  • Everything Proof – Water-proof, rodent- and insect-proof, weather-proof and fire-resistant.
  • Artistry – Transforming raw steel, wood and other natural design elements into a unique artistic structure.
  • Security – Impossible to steal, hard to break into.
  • Transportability – Can easily be moved to address different needs during its lifetime and yours.
  • Quality – The high standards and thorough detail you would come to expect from a custom home.
  • Sustainable – Upcycling a used shipping container and building small.
  • Well-Travelled – Each cube has registered thousands of miles around the country.

Boxman Studios

Based out of Charlotte, N.C., Boxman Studios began constructing shipping containers in 2008 as a form of temporary and mobile real estate.

Since then, well, let’s just say business is “shipping” to new heights.

The company has transformed shipping containers into brand immersion venues, music stages, Wi-Fi villages, mobile restaurants, temporary and permanent housing, classrooms, trade show exhibitions, civic centers, popup retail and eateries, communication centers, vertical gardens, tailgating experiences and more.

Boxman Studios even teamed up with Facebook and Team A2E for the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

“Our entire team is thrilled to be able to work with Facebook and Team A2E on this project,” said Elaine Petitgout, a marketing strategist at Boxman Studios. “Facebook needed an iconic space that could successfully juxtapose their digital and physical presence. With the help of the Facebook and A2E teams, we created a beautiful space that empowers RNC attendees to share their experiences around the world.”

Boxman Studios

An outside view of Facebook’s activation at the RNC in Cleveland. The containers include a control room/green room, meeting rooms, concession/brand ambassador space, an Instagram Oval Office-themed photo op, studio space for FB Live and more. (Photo courtesy of Boxman Studios)

Whatever you can come up with, Boxman Studios can build it. As the company states, “there’s really no such thing as an off-the-shelf solution.”

After all, creating cool and sustainable environments is what founder David Campbell originally had in mind.


A small house made out of shipping containers is one thing, but an apartment complex?


Brian Stark (left) and Wesley James. (Photo courtesy of StarkJames)

That’s exactly what StarkJames, an Arizona-based design and build firm specializing in unique modern design, did last year in Phoenix when they built a sustainable housing project made of shipping containers located at Grand and 12th Avenues.

The fittingly named “Containers on Grand” features eight 740-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments built out of 16 shipping containers.

These units are equipped with a washer and dryer, kitchen, bath, storage and living space. At the time, the multi-housing project was the first of its kind in the country.

StarkJames didn’t stop there, though.

The company also developed The Oscar, another apartment complex made from shipping containers. The apartments are 740-square feet and start at $1,000 a month. The apartments are made out of five-ton shipping containers from the Port of Long Beach.