The Ultimate List of
Shipping Container Ideas

By Yolanda

Have you ever dreamed about shipping containers? Most of us are intrigued by the idea of using them for unique and creative spaces.

A shipping container is essentially a steel box. So if a room as a box, why not make it out of a shipping container?

The obvious use for a shipping container is storage. Most of us could use some extra space to store all the stuff we don’t know what to do with. But shipping containers can be more that just a place to hoard things.

I searched the Internet and came up with a list of shipping container ideas.

  • Some of them I’m sure you’ve heard about.
  • Some ideas struck me as really cool.
  • Some surprised me.
  • Some left me scratching my head wondering why would anyone want to do that.

No matter what ideas appeal to you, keep in mind that you just can’t drop a shipping container on the ground and call it a day. You have to plan and design for the “room” you want… figuring out what modifications you need to make that space a reality.

I sorted the ideas into 7 categories. This list proves that if there’s a need for space, you can probably figure out a way to use a shipping container to create it.

Peruse the whole list or just select the category you’re interested in.

1. Places to live

Whether it’s our primary home or a second home, shipping containers can become places to live.

The 20 Most Amazing Shipping Container Homes

Shipping Container Home

Growing in popularity, shipping container homes are celebrated for their durability, modular design, cost-effectiveness, and availability. While they present a departure from traditional housing, leading some regulatory bodies to approach with caution, their advantages often outweigh concerns. Despite the fixed modular dimensions and the nuances of working with steel versus wood, these containers are becoming an accepted housing alternative. However, modifications, like replacing potentially contaminated flooring from used containers, are essential. For those keen on this innovative housing style, a wealth of online resources and professionals like architects or designers can guide the way.

Shipping Container Cabin

A shipping container can be a more affordable way to own a second home. A cabin is basically a house, just on a smaller scale. This is a good solution for a weekend getaway, hunting lodge, or just a small place to stay if you have some property out in the woods or on the lake and need a place to disappear for awhile.

These 16 Shipping Container Homes Will Inspire You to Build Your Own

Beautifully Upcycled Shipping Container Tiny House by Cubica Architects

Shipping Container Tiny House

Shipping containers are a natural fit for tiny homes. A 20-foot container is roughly 160 square feet. You can easily build a 150 square foot home when you take into account the modifications needed to make the container livable.

You also have the flexibility of putting the container on a trailer, making the house mobile.

You can also place it on the ground as a permanent structure. You can’t do that when you build a tiny house on a trailer.

Shipping Container Apartments

Shipping containers are an easy solution for affordable multi-family housing. Their modular characteristic makes them easy to arrange in various configurations, allowing for different designs and layouts.

They’re also an eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials.

Orlando May Be Home to Shipping Container Apartments

Shipping Container Houseboat: A Comprehensive Guide

Shipping Container Boat… Oh! You Mean Houseboat!

Growing in popularity, shipping container homes are celebrated for their durability, modular design, cost-effectiveness, and availability. While they present a departure from traditional housing, leading some regulatory bodies to approach with caution, their advantages often outweigh concerns. Despite the fixed modular dimensions and the nuances of working with steel versus wood, these containers are becoming an accepted housing alternative. However, modifications, like replacing potentially contaminated flooring from used containers, are essential. For those keen on this innovative housing style, a wealth of online resources and professionals like architects or designers can guide the way.

2. Get the Most Out of Your Home(stead)

Whether it’s our primary home or a second home, shipping containers can become places to live.

3 Reasons You Should Have A Mobile Office

Shipping Container Home Office

If you work from home, you need a space away from distractions. You know, things like noisy appliances, dogs barking, laundry and dishes calling your name, and children and spouses needing you all the time.

A shipping container office might be just what you need. You’re home but can escape the chaos that sometimes consumes the house.

There’s also the mental benefit of feeling like you’re going to work when you step outside the house, and then leaving work when you leave the office.

Shipping Container Guest House

A shipping container cabin, vacation rental, vacation home, or tiny house… they’re all basically the same theme… expect for the size and intended use.

See shipping container home.

Shipping Container Guest House (15 Pics)

Man Caves, She Sheds and Playrooms Using Shipping Containers

Shipping Container Man Cave/She Shed

You can turn any room into a man cave or she shed.

A shipping container is a room… let your imagination run wild.

Shipping Container Home Gym

Need a place to work out but don’t want to be seen at the gym… or pay for a gym membership?

Set up your own gym at home using a shipping container.

Turning a Shipping Container into a Home Gym

Man Caves, She Sheds and Playrooms Using Shipping Containers

Shipping Container Playhouse

I remember an old joke about sending your kid to their room as a punishment, but the kid is thinking “Yeah! That’s where all my stuff is.”

Well, if you have a space designated as a playhouse, you can send your kid to their room for punishment knowing they won’t have access to their stuff. But if they’re tired, they might think, “Oh good, I need a nap.”

A shipping container playhouse gives the kids a place to play… and keeps their toys out of the house (and them if they’re old enough).

Shipping Container Storage Shed

Storage is the classic use for shipping containers. Everything is enclosed and you can shut and lock the door.

Shipping Container Shed Transformation Ideas that Will Change Your Life

10 Shipping Container Garage… That are Beautiful and Practical

Shipping Container Garage

The standard width of a shipping container is 8 feet.

The average width and width of a car is 6 feet x 15 feet.

That means the average car can fit into a 20-foot container.

Configure and add containers as you see fit.

Shipping Container Carport

This idea is just an extension of the shipping container garage.

You can add on overhang to a shipping container to cover your car, or you could go “al fresco” by taking the ends off the shipping container and just park inside.

10 Shipping Container Garage… That are Beautiful and Practical

Shipping Container Gardens

Shipping Container Indoor Garden

If you really want or need to control the environment of your garden (especially for special needs plants like orchids or another plant that is becoming popular), a shipping container could be a good solution.

Set up your rows and lighting. Then figure out how to provide water. You’ll be growing in no time.

Shipping Container Garden Shed

If you’re using a shipping container for an indoor garden, you need a place to store all you gardening equipment. How about a shipping container shed?

This isn’t all that unique because it’s a shed with a designated purpose. But it’s nice to keep all your gardening tools in one place.

Shipping Container Gardens

Shipping Container Greenhouse is Awesome Urban Farm-In-A-Box

Shipping Container Green House

This design for a greenhouse from Damien Chivialle with Urban Farm Units transforms the shipping container indoor garden to a whole new level… up.

You can garden year around with one of these. And you don’t have to worry about special grow lights, since natural light comes in during the day.

Another bonus is that you can keep the critters out of your garden by keeping the door closed.

Shipping Container Barn

A shipping container barn is another theme for using shipping containers for storage. I think you can get quite elaborate with the design especially if you want to use the barn for animals.

Although I’m not a farmer (and I don’t play one on TV), I think it would be pretty easy to set up stalls.

Shipping Container Goat Barn

Just Fine Design Build

Shipping Container Chicken Coop

This is another farm theme idea.

These guys actually cut a 20-foot container in half to make this coop. But you could make the job easier by using a 10-foot container.

Hmmm, I wonder what they did with the other half?

Shipping Container Dog Kennel

I couldn’t find any good pictures of shipping container kennels, but I imagine it would be easy to design one.

Just adapt a design for a barn or chicken coop. You just need to make sure the dogs have plenty of fresh air, access to water, and a comfy place to rest and play.

I recommend you take the same precautions you would take with building a home, especially the flooring.

A 10-foot container would be a good size for one dog. Bigger containers could accommodate more dogs depending on the number and size of dogs.

Shipping Container Gun Room

If you’re a hunter or a gunsmith, a shipping container is a great solution for a responsible gun owner. You can easily store and work on guns in this space.

A container is a deterrent for children because the doors are difficult for them to open.

Additionally, can you lock your guns in a gun safe in the container and lock the container door.

And you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your guns either.

You need a truck and trailer… and a way to pick up the container to put in on the trailer.

Someone would really want to steal from you if they go through that much effort.

Shipping Container Built Into A Gun Vault

3. Hobby and Leisure Fun

If you have any special hobbies or leisure activities that need their own room, look no further than a shipping container as a possible solution.

Shipping Container Vacation Home

A vacation home or rental is just like a house, just typically on a smaller scale.

A 20’ or 40’ container would be a unique vacation home. You could really play it up or play it down.

When not in use… rent it out.

Upcycled Shipping Containers Transformed into a Glamping Home for a Unique Florida Vacation

Container Pools

Shipping Containers Repurposed Into Swimming Pools And Hot Tub

Shipping Container Swimming Pool/Jacuzzi

I never would have thought about using a shipping container for a pool. But why not?

Shipping containers are already designed to keep water out. I guess they can keep water in too.

Although I’m sure there’s more involved than just filling up the container with water.

Shipping Container Sauna

A shipping container is a great solution for housing a sauna.

A 10’ container is a perfect size, but with a 20’ container you could have a dressing and sitting area outside of the sauna.

So when it’s cold outside you’ll have plenty of space to hang your winter clothes while you’re in the sauna.

Self-Sufficient Shipping Container Sauna Box Will Get You Hot & Steamy

Shipping Container Transformed into a Giant Camera & Darkroom

Shipping Container Dark Room

With the capability of digital cameras, there are probably fewer and fewer people who actually use and develop film.

But if you’re a diehard photographer, I can imagine there’s a great deal of satisfaction watching your pictures come to life when you develop them.

A shipping container would make a perfect darkroom.

Shipping Container Craft/Art Studio

There are lots of design and storage ideas for craft and art rooms.

Instead of taking up a bedroom in your home, you can use a shipping container instead.

Many crafts and arts come with all kinds of tools and materials. Having on place to put it all is a huge bonus. Of course, organizing it all is another matter.

Bonus: If you have other people in the house who like to borrow your craft and art items, but don’t return them (ask me how I know), you can lock the container door so they can’t get in.

Art Studio Shipping Container

Shipping Container Workshop – Custom Designed To Meet Your Needs

Shipping Container Work Shop

Do you need workshop?

I don’t typically think “workshop” when I think art or craft. But the idea is the same… a place to do something you love.

Shipping Container Kiln

There are all kinds of kilns, like ceramic, glass, and wood. If you need a space for a kiln, a shipping container would probably work well.

A shipping container makes it convenient to keep the kiln away from prying eyes when not in use… and everything you need for a kiln could stay in one place.

I don’t know anything about kilns, but I imagine one of the biggest concerns is ventilation, so make sure you address the safety and health concerns that come with using a kiln.

How I built a wood kiln out of a 20′ shipping container

4. Adult Lemonade Stands

A shipping container turns a lemonade stand into a grown up version. Let’s relive your childhood dreams.

Arquitetura Pré-Fabricada

Shipping Container Kitchen/Food Truck

Who doesn’t love food trucks? Basically it’s a kitchen on wheels. And guess what, you can put a shipping container on wheels.

Shipping Container Restaurant Bar/Cafe/Bistro/Coffee Shop

I was going to separate these “micro” eating establishments, but they are too similar to treat them differently.

A shipping container would work with any kind of food specialty shop… a bakery, pizzeria, hot dog stand… anything you could sell from a food truck.

You could even put the container on a trailer and turn it into a food truck if you wanted to move your store around.

A 20-foot size container lends itself to a quaint and cozy setting especially if you can set up an outdoor siting area as part of the curb appeal.

39+ Floor Plan Container Restaurant Design

Container Juice Bar

Repurposed shipping container will debut as a bar at Breese Stevens

Let’s Talk About Land! What You Can Do With it?

5. Make a Living

These next ideas take the adult lemonade stand to another level, comparable to brick and mortar stores.

10 Stores That Used Shipping Containers to Stand Out

Shipping Container Retail Store

If you can sell food and drinks from a shipping container, you should be able to sell all kinds of merchandise from a container.

Shipping Container Art Gallery

If you are an artist, one way to showcase your work is in a gallery.

I’ve actually seen a retail store dedicated to an artist’s work, specifically, Thomas Kincad. So there is a precedent for an art gallery retail store.

And you’re not limited to just paintings (or things we tend to think of when we think “art gallery”).

You could show off and sell fabric arts, glass, woodworking, anything handmade.

This Guy Built His Own Backyard Art Gallery Out of a Shipping Container

Here We Grow Again

Shipping Container Nursery

A garden center “centered” around a shipping container retail store. Seems like a very natural fit.

Shipping Container Dog Grooming

A dog grooming container would be great next to a dog park or a popular place to walk dogs.

You could even set up a shipping container cafe with outdoor seating. People can have a snack while waiting for their dog to get dolled up.

Oh! Add a pet vaccination station and a small pet supply store… all with shipping containers.

What a cool way to upscale taking your dog for a walk.

You could keep it simple by putting the dog grooming container on a trailer making it mobile. Then drive to all the popular dog walking places.

Suds & Stripes

Multi-Sport S – Team Training System

Shipping Container Commercial Gym/Sports Center/Yoga Studio

You can get take this idea into all kinds of directions.

Imagine setting up several containers, each dedicated to a certain exercise, with an outdoor area or running track.

Or how about renting out containers to personal fitness instructors with a one shipping container serving as the main office with one or two containers setup as men’s and women’s shower areas.

Shipping Container Consumer Storage

We’ve all got stuff… some of us too much.

It’s pretty obvious how much stuff we have when you see the number of self-storage business just within a few miles of where you live.

As I mentioned earlier, storage is a classic use for shipping containers. It’s an easy jump to using storage containers for a self-storage business.

Using Shipping Containers to Establish or Grow a Self-Storage Business

Boxpark: London’s first Pop-Up Shipping Container Mall Opens in Shoreditch

Shipping Container Mall

Start with a shipping container retail store, repeat several times… and you’ve got yourself a mall.

Let’s go shopping!

Shipping Container Bike Shop

I see a bike shop as a cross between the retail store and the dog grooming business.

You can set up shop along a popular biking route and offer quick fixes.

Just like the dog grooming business, you could set up a shipping container cafe with outdoor seating so people can have a snack while waiting for their bike to get fixed… or just to take a break.

Upscale your container by painting the outside to reflect the vibe of the area, like this bike shop in Ausin, Texas.

As Autinites are fond of saying, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Using Shipping Containers to Establish or Grow a Self-Storage Business

Beauty Mistakes Out of the Box

Shipping Container Beauty/Nail Salon

The size of a container would make a quaint and cozy place to get your hair or nails done.

Set one up near neighborhoods so residents don’t have to travel far. This would be a great option for neighborhoods where older people live.

Hmmm… I wonder if putting the salon on wheels would be a viable business? You could visit places where salons aren’t readily available.

Shipping Container Kiosk

This reminds me of the refreshment stands at little league parks. You could set these up anywhere.

This would be the perfect compliment to the dog grooming or bike shop shipping container ideas as a place to rest and get refreshments.

Kiosk Window

Shipping Containers for Events

Shipping Container Event Space/Trade Show

A shipping container is a tidy and secure solution for a conference or trade show.

You can use it outside or inside.

And when you’re done, secure everything in place, lock up the container, pick it up, and take it to the next event.

Shipping Container Wedding Venue

Hosting an outdoor wedding? Need a place to serve drinks and food?

How about decking out a shipping container for providing refreshments to guests?

You could do this for any kind of outdoor event, think concert, beer garden, picnic.

I think guests would enjoy the vibe.

Geelong man builds open-air bar venue out of shipping container for his wedding — and you can rent it

6. Serve the Community

Shipping containers can be a less expensive alternative for providing services and amenities to a community.

Minimalist Shipping Container Hotel Can Travel Around the World

Shipping Container Hotel

A shipping container hotel would be an interesting and different solution for finding a place to stay for a few nights.

Just the uniqueness of the idea would be attractive to potential guests.

Shipping Container School

Shipping containers can be a low-cost solution when there isn’t enough money to build a brand-new school. You can be very creative with how the shipping containers are arranged and used.

I think the children who go there would find the experience of going to school in a nontraditional building exciting.

You could even let the kids help design the school.

Upcycled Shipping Containers are Reborn as Colorful Schoolrooms

Shipping Container Playground by Phooey Architects

Shipping Container Playground

We were just talking about a school… and a school needs to have a playground.

So let’s continue with the shipping container theme by using them to make a playground.

Can you come out and play?

Shipping Container Theater

A shipping container theater would be a cool place for kids to watch movies. Maybe you can create a stage and use the container for storaging theater supplies.

You can add a few containers together to get a larger seating space.

Or maybe put one container on top of another and hang a sheet or projector screen from the top container to get a big screen experience while enjoying the outdoors.

Great Ocean Road Pop-Up Cinema Trail

Shipping Container Clinics: A Clever Solution

Shipping Container Emergency Medical Facility

Not only can a shipping container medical facility be used in case of a disaster, it can be used as a medical facility in remote locations.

Shipping Container Disaster Shelter/Relief

Besides food and water, shelter is a primary need when disaster hits. Shipping containers can be a quick solution, especially if they are ready to be deployed.

Because of their strength, they can be used long-term if necessary.

Shipping Containers for Post-Disaster Relief Housing

Container Laboratories

Shipping Container Laboratory

A shipping container can serve as a laboratory for all kinds of needs.

It can be used in disasters, in remote areas, or for temporary environmental studies.

Shipping Container Bathrooms

They’re tough, they’re strong, and they’re weather resistant.

They can definitely be bathrooms, making them perfect for a for a park.

If you keep them mobile, you can use them for events.

Shipping Container Bathrooms

7. Say What!? Unexpected Creative Ideas

The following ideas were surprising. I don’t think I would have thought of these on my own.

Containerised Fuel Tanks

Shipping Container Fuel Tank

I saw a comment that shipping containers could be used as fuel tanks. So I checked it out.

Sure enough, there are fuel tanks made out of shipping containers.

These are used in industrial settings. The fuel tank shown here is for diesel which, from what I understand (I could be wrong) is more stable than gasoline.

Shipping Container Bridge

If you need safe passage across a ravine, creek or valley, whether in a vehicle or just walking, a shipping container can be the bridge to get you safely to the other side.

You could even cut out some window to enjoy the view as you go across.

Creative Uses

Yuma Mayor Says Shipping Container Border Wall Makes His City Safer

Shipping Container Border Wall

Arizona was been in the news about using shipping containers to create a border wall.

They’ve been placing the contains along open gaps in their border with Mexico. This is forcing people to wait for Border Control to come and process them before they enter Arizona.

Here’s a thought… use the containers as temporary housing for immigrants.

The side facing Mexico could be the front. Some containers could be converted into bathrooms with showers, living areas, and kitchens. Others could be converted into private “rooms” for families to stay together.

There are plenty of examples of similar projects to look to for ideas and guidance, such as tiny home communities or affordable housing projects.

Shipping Container Quonset Hut

The idea of using a shipping container as a quonset hut seemed off to me. So I looked it up.

According to World Atlas, “A Quonset hut is a simple semicircular prefabricated structure made from corrugated steel.” They were used a lot in World War II for housing and storage.

What do you get when you connect two “prefabricated” shipping containers with a prefabricated structure made from corrugated steel?

A cover that bridges over two containers. In my opinion, this set up is more quonset hut inspired.

You can use the containers for most of the uses we covered already, and then use the area between the containers for something else. The height of the quonset hut roof lends itself to several options.

For example, depending on the height of your roof you can park/store your RV.

Learn More About Container Covers

You could even make this your permanent RV spot and live there.

Use one container for storage, live in your RV, and use the other container for something else, like extra living space, office, shop, indoor garden… or more storage.

The area inbetween can also be used as a car port providing shade on your vehicles and protection from rain and hail.

Or the space could be an patio, a play area, an outdoor kitchen, or a dog kennel.

You could also use this set up as the start of an actual house.

Quonset Hut

Learn More About Container Covers

How To Build An Underground Bunker On a Budget

Shipping Container Bunker (Not)

When I think of bunker, I think unground shelter. So putting a shipping container under ground isn’t safe because the walls and roof can’t withstand
the pressure of dirt or any other heavy weight.

They could crash in on you. That would be a very unpleasant experience, especially if you die.

The strength of the shipping container is its frame. So if you wanted to bury a container, you will need to reinforce the walls and roof somehow. You’re basically placing a container within a bunker.

But why bother with that? You might as well build a regular bunker.

You could bury a container part way, but you will probably still need some sort of reinforcement for the sides.

But then what would be the point? It wouldn’t be a real bunker.

Shipping Container Zombie Fortress

There are some serious concerns about zombies… and “preppers” aren’t the only ones taking it seriously.

In 2011, the CDC thought a zombie apocalypse was something to prepare for. On thier blog was a post titled, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.

However, they were ridiculed. Now the title of the post is First There Were Zombies; Then Came Hurricanes!

(Maybe they know something they don’t want us to know.)

The bonus of a zombie fortress is not only are you protecting yourself against zombies, you’re also defending yourself against all kinds of threats… doomsday or otherwise.

Zombie Fortress

Shipping Container Cabinet

Shipping Container Furniture

The idea of shipping container furniture is to take the container apart and use the pieces to make furniture.

There are some pretty cool ideas for making furniture out of shipping containers, especially if you’re looking for an industrial look.

I propose using containers that are no longer useful for anything. Some containers are in really bad shape. But taking them apart and repurposing the steel is a great way to extend the life of the steel.

Here are some very clever ideas for furniture made out of shipping containers. Just imagine what an expert metal worker could do.

Shipping Container Cabinet

Noemi Shipping Container Cabinet

Blue Shipping Container Bedside Cabinet


As you can see, there are lots of ideas for using shipping containers.

Some are just variations of a theme, but the ideas are only limited by your imagination… and the willingness to make your idea happen.

The benefit of having access to the Internet is that you can look at design ideas for any kind of room and adapt them to a shipping container.

Remember, if you need a room, you can probably use a shipping container for it.


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