Container Design on a Budget: 17 Awesome Ideas

Check out these awesome container design ideas that you can build on a tight budget.

We’ve picked out the 17 coolest (and most affordable) ways you can ‘go green’ and use retired shipping containers in your own creative way.

These relatively low-cost container designs struck a chord in us because they show the MANY ways you can turn “steel boxes” into usable spaces.

affordable container design ideas

Plus, each is designed and built sustainably. So they preserve natural resources AND your hard-earned money.

1. Barnhouse Container Design

If you need a barn, might as well get one that makes sense financially…AND brings some steeze.

A barn built from used steel containers offers the best of both these worlds. How so?

Let’s compare the cost of a regular wood barn vs. a container barn:

The national average for a 30’x40′ (1200 square feet) wood barns is $45,000 according to cost guide.

On the other hand, a 20ft used container (20′ x 8′) is about 150 square feet. Used 20 footers cost between $1,750-$2,500 depending on the marketplace.

A used 40 footer (40′ x 8′) is 300 square feet. Depending on current market dynamics, 40′ used containers run about $2,500-$3,500.

So if you arrange a few used containers on the exterior of your barn, you can cut costs significantly.

cheap container barn design

Especially if you do your due diligence with the right roofing system and flooring.

Beyond cost considerations, wood barns have hazard written all over.

  • In dry climates, all the hay around barns is a recipe for a fire outbreak.
  • In humid or rainy places, a wood barn degrades quickly.
  • And in places at risk for storms and tornadoes, a hay barn is a disaster waiting to happen.

The fire-protective and weather-resistant nature of steel containers make them perfect for a low-cost, low-hazard barn.

You don’t have to worry about your steel container barn burning, eroding, or getting shred to pieces during severe weather.

They’re also much cheaper than wooden barns and wooden sheds with equal customization potential.

By getting used shipping containers for your barn, you can keep upfront costs down. AND curtail the need for future repair or replacement costs.

2. Shipping Container Beach House

Shipping container beach houses pop. It’s hard to deny that they’re OUT of the box, and IN style.

Movable container beach house

And the best part? They’re easily movable.

Erosion and rising sea levels are becoming more and more apparent. The portability of container beach homes versus standard construction is more invaluable than ever.

Plus, container beach getaways can incorporate custom drawings and paint colors. Such artistry can add a rustic flair and/or brighten the mood to create a vibe that feels right for you.

And many beach areas have storms, heavy run, and even hurricane threats. But, keep in mind, cargo containers are Wind and WaterTight (WWT).

So a container beach home is a great way to protect your home and belongings, minimizing total lifecycle costs.

Now that’s staying ahead of the game!

3. Container Deck

Here’s to folks that are tired of maintaining your good ole’ backyard deck.

Don’t let the carpenter bees make their hives in the wood and little critters make themselves comfortable on your deck.

With a deck made out of containers, you kill two birds with one stone. You benefit from sustainable construction AND get protection from all the nonsense.

cost-effective container deck

These container decks are not a luxury spot for carpenter bees and critters to live. But rest assured these makeshift decks are low cost AND easy to clean!

Plus, they’re great for pop-up tailgating on a budget!

4. Pop-Up Shop Container Design

Pop-up (expandable) container designs are great for food trucks, festival shops, street food operations, and other retail applications.

pop-up container design

Many of these container designs have sliding or adjustable doors to fit your shop, making it that much more unique.

This simplistic but intricate design expresses the originality of what container architecture holds.

The 8-foot x 20-foot container cafe in Venice, Italy is a fantastic example.

expandable shipping container cafe

Built in 2007 by Adam Kalkin and Illy, this innovative shipping container cafe is a means of connecting beauty to art and design.

Four motors help to easily open and close the sides of the container. Lowering the sides of the container provides more space and enhances the experience.

This open and close function also means you can throw it on the back of a truck or vehicle for easy transport.

The pop-up, expandable container design includes a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, dining area, and a central library.

5. Container School Build-Out

sustainable, low-cost container school build-out

Many communities are on a tight budget when it comes to building a school for locals. But with container des containers are extremely reasonable!

And if high winds or tornadoes are a factor in your school district, these shipping containers are perfect for tornado shelters!

Now that’s using our resources wisely!

6. Table and Chair Container Design

If you’re into ole’ fashion furniture, then you’ll love this.

A refurbished table and chair made out of shipping containers. This is a fun way to jazz up your room while going green!

Don’t worry college students, it’ll take a lot more than a crazy house party to ruin this furniture! Or should we say “don’t worry parents!” Sturdy, long-lasting, and artsy-fartsy.

7. Low-Cost Container Pool

Did you know you can transform shipping containers into a trendy, low-cost swimming pool that the whole family can enjoy?

You can even add glass panels so you can see in and out of it.

sleek affordable container swimming pool

With the proper adjustments, you can creatively design your own pool to fits your needs.

Container pools can easily hold as much water as you want since shipping containers range from 10ft – 53ft lengths.

Budget Container Pool

And you can attach multiple containers together to widen or lengthen your container as needed.

Get crafty with the way configure your container pool together or paint the bottom of the pool whatever color you want!

8. Backyard Container Patio

Turn a shipping container into a stylish, post-modern patio for a cozy place to relax while enjoying the fresh air right in your backyard.

container patio build on a budget

Modify your backyard patio by installing windows that you can leave completely open to ease your mind with the breeze and warm sun.

What more can you ask for?

9. Portable Container Homes

Do you love to travel but also enjoy the comfort of your own home?

If so, pop-up container living may be the perfect way for you to journey into the unknown.

container trade show booth for popup living

Travel while going green. Skip the expensive hotel rooms and travel around the country on your own time!

Enjoy our beautiful earth and all it has to offer in your eco-friendly house while still being able to sleep in your own bed.

10. Container Playhouse Design

Wouldn’t it be nice for your kids to have their own playroom outside where they can be as loud as they want to?

You can customize a shipping container playhouse to be a complete kids area or add a TV for your kids to have a movie night with their friends.

affordable container playhouse for kids

Letting your kids play outside and release all their energy is great for them, but even better for you!

And you can size your container and configure your ultramodern, industrial-chic playhouse so it fits perfectly right in your backyard.

Or, get your own backyard “playhouse.” Fun container designs aren’t just for the kids.

Design a low-budget DIY container workshop if you want your own escape to get your handiwork done.

11. Pop-Up Container Garden

Are deer or other animals eating your garden away? Growing a garden takes a long time and a lot of labor.

Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

Shipping container gardens help to ensure your garden comes to fruition.

Plus, they’re perfect growing spaces if you’re on a budget. Hippy-dippy, budget container gardens are also super easy to maintain.

budget container garden

But be sure to choose the right size shipping container so it can handle your produce when it’s fully grown.

And then prefabricate it into a fruitful modular greenhouse. By doing so, you can grow delicious fruits and veggies WITHOUT worrying about animals getting to them first.

Many folks are even using container greenhouses to feed entire schools and communities.

Plus, you can get creative with it by installing sliding windows on all four sides. Go wild and makeshift your container garden so it enjoys just the right amount of sunlight.

12. Container Playground

green container park playhouse

Playgrounds are full of kids screaming, laughing, running, and playing games. Kids have the most creative imaginations when it comes to making up new games to play.

And different playground styles make kids think of completely different ideas for what games they are going to play!

An artsy, DIY container playground is definitely a first for many kinds and a great place for them to exercise their imagination!

13. Eco-Container Bridge

A fantastic example of the usefulness of steel containers is the eco-friendly container bridge functioning as a gateway into Ariel Sharon National Park.

ecocontainer budget bridge

The park itself was previously a landfill. Now, it’s a beautiful green space for the community in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

It’s now a place for folks to escape the busy city life.

The 525-foot-long bridge is a continuous line of reclaimed shipping containers.

Together this bridge and the park symbolize the notion of creatively recycling and reusing something for the greater good.

14. City Container Design

London’s Container City is an affordable housing development made from retired shipping containers.

This durable, cost-effective structure features a whopping FIVE floors of pure steel containers.

The structure is home to eco-friendly studios and dual-purpose lofts.

money saving container city living

Urban Space Management envisioned this unique, low-cost container space. And architects Nicholas Lacey and Buro Happold made it possible.

London’s Container City is based on 3 principles:

  1. Tread lightly on our treasured earth
  2. Be timely, site-specific, and cost-effective
  3. Leave space for creativity and listen to the place and people.

Container City has been a visionary model for other projects in London as well.

Similar shipping container design projects include BBC Broadcasting Studios, Portishead Quays, Islington Boxing Club, and Necropolis Waterloo.

15. Funky Container Lounge

New Orleans Voodoo Music and Art Festival is another great example of the innumerable possibilities of recycled shipping containers.

In 2009, the annual, funky festival repurposed and modified six 40-foot retired shipping containers to create a VIP lounge and storage space.

Voodoo container lounge low-cost buildout

Steven Beese of RE:BE Design used innovative container design to bring to life what the Voodoo festival is all about: creativity and unconventionality.

The spunky two-story structure features a large balcony made from two of the six containers.

The other four containers create the base. This level showcases perforated cutouts of the word “VOODOO.”

This groovy cut-out stretches across the sides, creating viewpoints to look upon the festival.

The four containers that make up the foundation of the structure encapsulate a luxury bar and lounge.

Plus, the container structure is a storage space for other festivals and gigs when VOODOO fest is not in action.

16. Eco-Cargo Container Home

The Cordell House could be one of the most eco-friendly container homes in Texas.

This epic container living build-out was designed by Christopher Robertson and developed by Numen Development, L.P.

It’s a visionary example of the beauty and cost-effectiveness of “upcycling” shipping containers.

Upcycled Eco Container Home

With its energy efficiency, green design elements, and minimal construction waste, this container design screams creativity and innovation.

The sustainable container home features bamboo flooring, low emission paints, a white roof, non-toxic insulation, and a shiny finish.

The shipping container design plans include a driveway made of 80% recycled glass and 20% recycled granite.

Plus, shipping container home designs such as this one are great for passive solar systems.

17. Mini Farm Container Design

Burt’s Bees sponsored the design and construction of an eco-friendly “pop-up” mini-farmery a few years back.

This mini container farm now brings beautiful green walls and aesthetics to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina.

sustainable, low-cost container farm and market

This shipping container farm yields local and organic food that customers can pluck right off the green, living walls!

The Mini-Farmery is comprised of a retired 20-foot shipping container and standard greenhouse components.

The green roof inside the mini container farm helps mushrooms, tomatoes, flowers, and sweet potatoes grow and flourish. And the bio-walls nourish herbs and other greens.

This solo 20-foot container design is just a glimpse of Ben Greene’s innovative agriculture project.

The Farmery also converted a 45-foot recycled shipping container into an indoor, organic market. The market sits right upstairs from the farm. This way, the container farm is a one-stop-shop powerhouse for local produce.

The goods are grown below. And the market sells them FRESH on the upper level.

Alright…now it’s your turn…

Find Your Inspiration

Exercise your creativity and bring your container design vision to life. Connect with us today to create your own idea from start to finish.

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