It’d be hard to contain your enthusiasm for a guest house like the one Stacey Hill asked architect Jim Poteet to design. The San Antonio entrepreneur, artist, and co-owner of the hip gastro pub, The Monterey, lives on a lot near The Monterey. Her house sits on a former light industrial site right next to the King William Historic District, but it’s not big and Hill needed a place to stow guests. Her idea was to do something with a shipping container, and she asked Jim Poteet if he was willing to go along with the experiment. Poteet is partial to renovations and has rehabbed centuries-old dwellings, industrial buildings, and ornate Victorians. Repurposing Hill’s container would be the smallest of his projects, but it packed a lot of punch. On the rare occasions when Stacey Hill doesn’t have guests, her container can double as an artist’s studio.
The owner sourced her container from The Port of Houston, but you can also go online and search for “shipping containers.” This one is a standard size: 8 x 8 x 40. Poteet made subtle changes to the exterior, which is still the original blue and retains the original lettering and numbering on the side. Brett Freeman, an architect and welder in Poteet’s office, cut out part of the wall and replaced it with a sliding glass wall that serves as the front door.
The deck is framed with steel and made from 4 x 4 equipment pads built from recycled soda pop caps. Just visible underneath the container: recycled telephone poles laid horizontally that support the container a foot above the ground. Because the soil in this part of San Antonio is expansive, this was Poteet’s solution for protecting the container from shifting and settling. Balanced at the west end of the support poles, a vine-covered wire mesh trellis hides the HVAC system.
Because the roof-top garden is built inside a steel frame and held up off the roof, it provides an insulating air space as well as shade for the container.
Poteet extended the frame supporting the roof garden above the bathroom window for shade.
The exterior lights are suspended from the framework that supports the roof garden. Brett Freeman manufactured them using agricultural machinery disc blades for the shades. The overhang is highly durable blue polycarbonate.
The interior is lined in bamboo plywood; the sink cabinet is fashioned from the same bamboo plywood and topped with sheet metal. Red-painted sheet metal wraps from the bathroom onto the wall behind the sink where it serves as a back splash.
An electric composting toilet is regally ensconced underneath the round-domed skylight; walls are standard sheet metal painted red and the floors are epoxy; a shower curtain runs on a hospital track and adds privacy in this bathroom that’s basically a shower and meant to get all wet. All water is captured and pumped to the rooftop garden.
Floors and walls are also bamboo plywood.
A couple of inches of spray foam was pumped between the new walls and the pre-existing ones for insulation.
Because containers are inherently portable, it was easy for Poteet and his team to move the “guest house” around the site until they found the perfect permanent spot.
Overheard: “I wonder if anyone will notice if we never leave?”
ARCHITECT: Poteet Architects
PHOTOGRAPHY: Chris Cooper
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