A Road Not Taken

The first among several unusual construction approaches I'd considered was to use old shipping containers, a trendy thing to do. There was actually a very strong possibility I'd have pursued it, were it not for a discussion I had with an architect friend who advised against it, because the process of modifying the containers to suit the northeast's climate would have been as involved as conventional construction. Had I not had that chat, my home might have looked like this:

The plan comprises five containers: four of them are merged to become the main living area, and a fifth is connected to the house by the roof so as to form a carport. What I liked most about the design is how the four containers are staggered to produce an interesting footprint; the deck in particular would have had some character, despite being one level.

The grey circles in the floor plan are footings to hold the containers up off the ground, while the carport would be a concrete slab. The green shading represents the roof, which would have been flat, and the tan area is the deck. I'd have sheathed the sides of the containers with board-and-batten. And it would have been located at the end of the driveway, facing the ravine, instead of down in the ravine, the way the house is now—which would have also meant having to take out fewer (if any) trees.

Although the deck is a single level rectangle, I like it better than most other designs I've made because it's partially covered by the house roof, and the shape of the house creates an interesting enclosed area that's kind of cozy. Sliding doors would allow me to go out on the deck either from the bedroom or the living space.

I'd gone as far as plotting out the structure's boundaries:

The deck ended just shy of the ill-fated stand of trees:

I often wonder what things might have been like had I gone this route. Yes, it would have been a smaller home—a mere 640 square feet of living space (versus 800), plus another 160 for workshop and storage (versus 200). But construction would have cost much less, and proceeded much more quickly, so it's quite possible I'd be living in it by now. And the size would have been fine, too: I've lived long enough in a camper and a cabin that I've become quite accustomed to having a lot less space. Strangely, a part of me believes I might have liked it better than what I'm building, which by comparison seems positively gargantuan.

And while work on the house was stalled, I'd thought about this even more, sometimes obsessively; I'd even sketched some new "what if" variations, with the carport and main living space on two different levels. I've regretted having that chat about adapting the containers, because I'd like to have had the opportunity of exploring this option. But I mustn't think like that—regrets only amount to self-destructive abuse. There's no going back. And yet, I can foresee myself sitting in the "sprawling" living room still thinking of what might have been.


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