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This Kamloops woman is living the tiny life of luxury

The shipping container home is sometimes available to rent for the night on Airbnb.
Image Credit: AIRBNB- Black Box Container Home
June 06, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops woman traded in her 2,200 square foot home for a 704 square foot shipping container.

Catherine Marshall has been a resident of the Kamloops area most of her life but always stuck to traditional stick frame homes. She and her husband knew they wanted to downsize, but wanted to do something a little different.

“We didn’t want to do a traditional build,” Marshall said. “We felt that this was a nice opportunity to not have to commit to a build ourselves and have somebody do that for us.”

She had seen shipping container homes while on vacation and was intrigued by how this style of living was more affordable, sustainable, and modern.

“I had been to Austria and I had seen some really cool apartments and just a completely different alternative for housing that doesn’t cost as much, the cost of living was cheaper, the banks totally supported that concept in Austria,” she said. “I thought ‘wow, that’s kind of a cool, forward-thinking, smaller footprint style of living.’”

When she came back to Canada, she decided to build her own.

Marshall had returned to her family property after 30 years to be closer to her mother after her father passed away. She was adamant about having her own space and thought the shipping container would be the perfect fit for the location.  The property, east of Kamloops, needed a new foundation, septic tank, and hookups for electricity and water.

“I looked into getting approval and everyone laughed at me and said, ‘there’s no way',” she said.

According to Rod Martin, with the city's development engineering and sustainability department, there have been no permits to build these structures within the city.

“I was kind of paving the way for this, and I didn’t really have anyone I could call and ask ‘how did you guys do it?’” she said.

The process took much longer than the couple had anticipated due to the fact they were one of the first to inquire about these kinds of homes. The structures are simple and can be erected in a day, but she claims there was a lot of confusion when it came time to get necessary permits.

“We originally thought we could build our own, but getting through the red tape was not appealing,” said  Marshall. “I just remember them looking at me like I had three heads and I thought, OK, I’ll go back to the drawing board.”

Although she had already decided what kind of home she wanted, she had to spend years getting the land prepared and approval from the district.

“It’s been in the process for about two years,” she said. “We had a year of planning and then we purchased it a year ago.”

She had initially wanted to build the home herself, but she had a stroke of luck when on shopping trip to Kelowna. Instead of just getting some new shoes, she found a new home.

She says noticed a “weird black box” in the parking lot of the Orchard Park shopping mall. The company that had set up the display would soon be the ones to help her set up her new home.

The company, HONOMOBO, specializes in revamping recycled shipping containers into homes. According to a spokesperson for the company, they have built homes in many places including Edmonton, Calgary, California, but only have built one, Marshall’s home, in this region.

Marshall had decided on the HO4 model, one of the four styles of the shipping container homes available through the company. Marshall explains that the limited choices worked well for her since she often finds even the small decisions to be hard.

“If you ever stand there and try to pick out a box of crackers, it’s kind of overwhelming,” she said. “So this is what appeals to me is the limited choices, which I think makes that process easier.”

According to Marshall, the homes come with everything needed to move in on the day of installation.

“The cabinets are in, the flooring is in, the walls are in. It comes on separate trucks and then it’s all clicked together, it’s quite fascinating to see it happen. I obviously had no idea because I had no idea what I was doing. They said ‘we’ll show up around ten,’ and they were gone by four.”

The build included a 704 square foot home, a breezeway, and a 384 square foot studio. She sometimes rents out the home on Airbnb, and has gotten many positive reviews.

Although there was a lot of red tape and preparation to get through, she says she is very happy with her home.

“Overall, with hookups, reconstructing foundation, and build, it still cost less than the average home in Kamloops,” she said.

Not only did the construction cost less than a traditional stick frame home, but she noted how much she has saved due to the fact she doesn’t have as much space to fill up with unnecessary purchases.

‘I wouldn’t want to get involved in a big house anymore. I like downsizing, it’s been really cathartic” she said. “It makes you really consider what you’re buying. In smaller spaces, you have to consider that, whereas before I didn’t really think much about it. You know, my consumerism was a bit more aggressive and now I have to really consider what I’m purchasing because it just doesn’t fit. You don’t buy as many shoes. You don’t have anywhere to put it.”

Although she may have to turn down cute shoes every now and then, she said she is very happy with her home.

“It’s all windows on one side, so I really live a charmed life and I’m fortunate to look at the South Thompson river. That part of it, you just can’t get tired of it,” she said.

“My dad would love that I’m here,” she said. She said she feels his presence on the land they used to share.

“This is the way for me now based on where I live and the land I live on. I love it. It’s my life.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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