Homes made from wacky materials

Marcelle Sussman Fischler, Forbes.com
Humble materials get recycled to create outlandish homes, such as this dumpster house.
Photo: Forbes

Bedtime stories say the evil witch from Hansel and Gretel lived in a gingerbread cottage with window panes of sugar and a candy studded roof. And an old lady with so many children she didn’t know what to do lived in a shoe.

In real life, the possibilities are just as wacky, from paper houses to converted grain bins to homes made from a muddy mixture called “cob.” These architectural oddities — homes built out of recycled junk, gussied up dumpsters, or grounded airplanes — provide fodder for future fairy tales, or at least late-night shows on HGTV.

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In the Hamptons, a resort area usually associated with oceanfront mega mansions, abandoned steel shipping containers are being used to construct a 2,000-square-foot beach house with a deck and a small pool. Andrew Anderson, the builder and owner of beachboxit.com, says turning the containers into a home will ultimately help the planet.

“It’s the opportunity to take these products and give them a second life,” Anderson says. “You weld them together and tack them onto the foundation.” With loads of glass and an exposed corrugated ceiling in the upper container and an exposed corrugated wall in a lower crate, the shipping container beach house will be listed this spring for close to $1.4 million.

Here are five houses made from the most unconventional materials:


Fancy Fuselage
Where: All Over
Made From: Old Airplanes

The vintage Boeing 727's interior is adorned with teak paneling from cockpit to tail.
Photo: Costa Verde

Once they’ve made their last landings, Boeing 727s and Douglas DC-8s, don’t always get put out to pasture on the retirement tarmac. If not broken up for parts and scrap, the occasional airplane, wings clipped, gets transformed into a sealed, sturdily built fuselage-style private home. Corporate jets already outfitted with designer bedrooms, comfy leather sofas, media rooms and bars, may just need the seat belts removed.


Dumpster Home
Where: Berkeley, California
Made From: Dumpster

Extreme compromises include a toilet lid that doubles as a bed cushion.
Photo: Forbes

"A nice little home out of a garbage can." That's how artist Gregory Kloehn of Berkeley, CA describes, in a YouTube.com interview by Kim Aronson, the dumpster he made into a “luxury” compact home for urban living. The “elite waste” quarters boast stainless steel appliances, gas stove, hardwood floors, a toilet, storage and sleeping areas and a barbecue outside. At night its two front windows roll down into the elite dumpster for privacy.


Junk Castle
Where: Pullman, Washington
Made From: Car Parts, Sheet Metal, Car Windows

Building on a budget: this scrap-metal home cost less than $500 to build.
Photo: Forbes

Many folks have junk drawers. Victor Moore, an art teacher, had a junk house. Set on a hilltop with lookouts made from car windows and the glass from washing machine doors, the 1960s Junk Castle is filled with all sorts of, well, junk, from his workshop. The exterior walls are a mélange of old auto body parts, recycled sheet metal and household appliance parts.


Cob House
Where: Rutledge, Missouri
Made From: Sand, Clay, Straw

The 370-square-foot cottage took nine months to build.
Photo: Forbes

To build his snail-shaped "cob house," Brian "Ziggy" Liliola used 219 batches of cob, a wet mixture of straw, clay and sand. He chose the rustic building material used on 500-year-old thatched cottages in England, because of “how creative you could be” and “the flexibility and low cost and sustainable benefit” of building with local materials.


Converted Silos And Grain Bins
Where: The Midwest
Made From: Converted Silos, Grain Bins

Two grain silos were combined to create a unique 1,800 square-foot home.
Photo: Forbes

Silos and grain bins aren’t just for missiles or soybeans anymore. Structurally sound, ready made with a roof, round walls and a concrete floor loaded with interior space, the often abandoned, recyclable steel structures are easily converted into homes that are fire and termite resistant, weather proof and energy efficient. For larger lodgings, they can be placed side-by-side or stacked on top of each other. Even Rapunzel might let down her hair in these multi-story circular dwellings. After all, it’s like living in a metal turret.



See full story: Homes Made From Wacky Materials