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Name: Rob DePiazza, owner of Screen Arts, daughter Gisella DePiazza, and Bruno, 11-year-old Rat Terrier
Location: St. Augustine South, a mature subdivision located south of St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city
Size: 1600 square feet
Type of Home: Single family house constructed of shipping containers
Years lived in: 1.5 years since completion of construction
I purchased the original house that resides on this property back in 1988. In 2017, Hurricane Irma caused a large oak tree to snap at the base and destroy the house (while we were in it!), which led to the construction of my current home, the Prince Road Container House (PRCH). Within two days of the house being destroyed I made the decision to build a container house despite having never stepped foot in one nor having ever considered it. Choosing to build a house out of shipping containers meant I had to serve as the general contractor hiring all the sub-contractors and more importantly do much of the work myself. This wasn’t a problem since I had rehabbed a 1908 commercial building occupied by my screen-printing business and other residential projects over the years. Planning unexpectedly took nine months, at which point I ran out of the housing money provided by my insurance policy; this put further strain on funding. Construction was finally completed February 2020.
The overall theme of the PRCH is to reveal and celebrate materials and construction techniques that are typically concealed. It starts with the exposed corrugated steel exterior walls of the container from which the paint was removed to reveal the raw core ten steel and the natural corrosion. On the inside I revealed key interior walls that did not require insulation. With the exception of the painted wall in the main living space, I retained the original interior paint of the container along with the patina acquired over the many years of its use; the scuffs, scrapes, and dents that tell the story of the many transatlantic crossings made and the cargo transported.
The list of details of the Prince Road Container House is endless, many of which are intended to give pause to the routine of daily living; from the custom hanging lights I made from ’50s era streetlights to the mild steel kitchen backsplash I installed to display the hundreds of refrigerator magnets we’ve collected from our travels around the world, and finally the “upside down” container whose floor is now the ceiling. In the end, I wanted to create a home that’s not just a house, but a vibrant, cheerful, creative, and inviting space that celebrates living and doesn’t take itself too seriously; a coda I have tried to live by for as long as I can remember.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: ’50s era children’s TV shows
Inspiration: Romper Room ’50s TV show
Favorite Element: One of my favorite elements are the windows, especially the clerestory windows on the top level. Looking out all you see are the branches of the live oak trees covered in Spanish moss.
Biggest Challenge: Having lost my home of 32 years to Hurricane Irma, there were multiple challenges. From being underinsured and having to scrape together the money to build to being owner/builder and having to not only manage the sub-contractors but do much of the work myself all while running my business and parenting my child.
Proudest DIY: The entire project was DIY so I would have to say getting the certificate of occupancy (CO) was my proudest moment
Biggest Indulgence: Some of the materials such as the Parallam used for the stair treads/landing were fairly expensive and required much (of my) labor to finish.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Obviously the most unique aspect is using shipping containers to build with.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I’m a big fan of Kohler plumbing products because of the design and quality.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Don’t build too many closets; it will force you to keep only the most important possessions.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? BE FEARLESS!
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.