The Goal = Turn Two 8’ Wide Metal Boxes Into A Shipping Container Home, Part #3

Priority #2 – The Kitchen

Every woman wants a kitchen to call her own, especially a mother.  It’s her space, whether she is a gourmet chef or simply trying to feed the kids. Dave and I have 5 of those amazing big people together, and while 4 of the 5 aren’t living at home, I still wanted  to try and have a space where they could come and enjoy a home cooked meal. My kids thrive on mom’s cooking and not making room for their needs in our tiny home, even when they were older and no longer living with us, just seemed selfish.

Have you ever looked around at your kitchen – there are so many needed spaces. Counters, sink, cupboards, fridge, range, venting, windows and even more. I am a lazy woman in the kitchen and cooking and cleaning up after preparing a meal just is not my favorite thing to do.  Thankfully, my husband has taken over this chore for me in the past couple of years, God bless his heart. But in my laziness I knew I wanted -no, needed, a dishwasher. We may be planning on living in a shipping container, but priorities, people 😉

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Because our finished inside footage was going to be less than 7’ wide, I decided early on in the process on a galley style kitchen.  We were able to use standard size cupboards on one side of the room that encompass a large bar/seating area that gives us 32” x 48” of open counter space.  We can have 5 people at the counter for dinner, and while it is cozy, it works and that makes it perfect!

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In my research, I found a tiny family owned stonework store about an hour from our home.  While looking for countertops, I found a large, deep rectangular sink. I knew as soon as I saw it that is was perfect for our home.  The store was family owned and were more than happy to come and install our custom countertops and sink for us. They showed up on a Saturday in their little van and set up an outdoor cutting station.  They then came in and inspected our pre-work and told us it was terrible – no kidding. Funniest thing ever, because we took such pride on our craftsmanship. But apparently, to them, it was terrible. So after about 30 minutes of completely re-working our underlayment, they brought in the granite slab to cut and sand and router and make every single piece to fit perfectly for our tiny build.  If we ever build again, we will use them to build our entire kitchen. Look for family owned stores if possible. They take pride in their work and you aren’t just another number.

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I know I have mentioned that dreams do come true.  I have a tiny kitchen with a full size dishwasher and a full size oven range. Over the range is a microwave hood combo unit that sits in an upper wall full of cabinets. At the end of this length of counter and appliances, I got really creative.  Our cabinets are stock cabinets that we purchased from the local hardware store.(Trying to do things on a budget and they were hickory, which I love!) I took 3 of the standard sized cupboards and stacked them on top of each other to utilize the space we had left over and also provide us with a pantry/small appliance cupboard.   

On the opposite side of the kitchen space, is our fridge/freezer.  Now, there are so many options for appliances and while you usually would choose your appliances towards the end of a traditional home build, when you are building custom and tiny, you need exact measurements to utilize every single inch of usable space.  While shopping appliance options, we discovered that we could purchase a ‘counter depth’ fridge. This meant that instead of our fridge sticking out 6” past our counters or into the walkway, it is recessed back allowing for a wider walkway 🙂

Next to the fridge, I have a full size stackable washer and dryer.  Mama is happy!

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All of the appliance doors open, except for our oven door which is about 1” short of opening up completely.  This was a beginners error on our part and would have been an easy fix if we had realized during the framing part of our project.  FYI – install a recessed range outlet. This allows for your range to sit flush to the wall, not protruding into the room an extra 1”.  Once completed, our galley kitchen has a walkway of approximately 23”. Legal walkway is 22” – so we meet that requirement 🙂

Side note – In a traditional wood home, you can cut in microwave and dryer vents and install them fairly easily.  Want to add a window over the sink or a door, no problem, just cut out the desired space. With a shipping container home, every single opening that we would need in the metal had to be pre-planned, pre-measured, pre-cut, pre-grinded, pre-welded, pre-finished.  Every single opening had to be created and finished prior to starting any of the interior work. This included the wood framing, insulation and sheetrock. All of these are combustibles, and because welding and grinding is such a hot process, we couldn’t take the chance of a fire later in the process.  As an example, when we originally laid out our kitchen we had almost 3” from the end of the upper cabinet to the edge of the window that was centered over the kitchen sink. When we actually installed our cabinets, we had less than an inch between the two spaces.

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Now, there are lots of reasons that measurements were off slight.  Our biggest obstacle that we had to overcome between the design stage and the building/installation stage, was my husband’s spontaneous ICH that occured mid build.  In wood construction, these slight deviations wouldn’t have been such a make or break issue. Wood is more forgiving, but with the metal, my husband had to be WABO certified to weld on our home.  It wasn’t so easy to find a replacement to step in and finish our build. With metal, when your measurements are off, there is simply no easy way to reinstall your metal Cortex siding and cut out another window.  

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Each of the early planning steps we took to complete our build, especially in critical spaces like the kitchen helped make our project successful.  If we hadn’t of taken the time and paid close attention, I am 100% confident that we would not have such a beautiful home.

I know that I am giving a lot of details about each step, but I know that we saved ourselves so much time, money and effort on our project by designing and laying out each piece of our home to the inch. When your building tiny, inches really do matter.  On your build, take your time. Do your homework and measure, measure and measure again. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Here is a sneak peek into what our kitchen looks like today – enjoy 🙂

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If your chasing your dream of building a shipping container home or a tiny home, don’t give up!  It isn’t impossible – if it was easy, though, everyone would have one 😉

Catching our dreams,

Jaimie & Dave

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