Joining the ‘pod’ squad

Downsize your life and make the most of your space at the same time.

The Canberra Times recently ran a piece about a once homeless man who has been begun building tiny houses/container homes as temporary accommodation for victims of the bushfires. It’s a great idea – using available resources to bridge the gap between shelter and homelessness. The innovator in question, Daniel, was adapting container homes as temporary accommodation for bushfire victims.

These container homes, built as one of many solutions for those affected by the Summer 2019-20 bushfires, were designed and instigated while keeping several factors in mind. They’re relocatable, small, fireproof, and weatherproof. As a solution for people rendered recently homeless by bushfires, it’s a very effective one. But the idea can be used beyond the realm of natural disasters or crises.

When looking for a home, you’re going to want safety, and durability. That question may be raised around the use of shipping containers as the ‘foundation’ of a house. A home built from used shipping containers should last about 15 years without any major maintenance, and one built using new containers should last about 25 years. By using an effective form of external cladding, you can extend its lifespan by several decades.

Improved bushfire safety and relocatable

Shipping containers can be repurposed for this type of living. To ensure that they’re built to code and comfort, they need a fit-out that addresses both insulation and ventilation, while complying with a BAL assessment report, as well as local building requirements and codes. If you are cutting out sides to allow for sliding doors, it’s important to also consider fire shutters so you can protect everything that’s inside in the event that you make an escape. It’s also important you consider how wiring and plumbing could melt if it is directly in the path of a fire – it would be very much a ‘last resort’ option to hunker down if the fire engulfs you, for this you’d need something that is purpose-built to withstand enormous heat and smoke.

By including a composting toilet, your home can circumnavigate a full septic or bio cycle system. There remains water collection and disposal to consider, as well as other utilities: electricity, generated from solar or battery banks can be installed if you can’t hook up to the grid. Living this way is like camping with all the luxuries and lots more security.

A high-top six or 12 metre container could be delivered to many places (having access for delivery is very important) and then sat on a foundation of steel or a concrete slab. There’s also the option of creating a compound of pods. Consider that: sleeping containers, a living container, cooking dining container, several stacked to create covered outdoor area… the opportunities are endless.

How to set up your pod

In decorating, use only a couple of design ‘heroes’, such as using a strong wallpaper in one feature spot. Don’t over-decorate; by keeping colours monochromatic you’ll make the space feel easier. Add texture where possible, and pair back the interior. Comfort is everything, so make sure all the furniture is super comfortable. Look to bring the outdoors in so that you have a bigger feel, well positioned mirrors will grow the space as well.

If you’re on your own, the world is your oyster. Find a theme that relaxes you, something like beachside, a mountain cabin, a chic apartment, or a farmhouse. Use a few big pieces of your theme and then gently support it, don’t over decorate or use multiple small pieces as it will look super crowded and unrestful. In many cases if its sympathetic with the surrounding environment outside it will feel like a gentle transition from outside to inside, ‘from the world to your world’, that is, a cabin in the mountains will seem out of place at the beach, so a fishing shack or boathouse at the beach would be better suited. Position your pod to access good sunshine, breezes and privacy.

Life in ‘Podworld’

The difference between using one pod and multiples is very different from one country, region or lifestyle to the next. Communes invite the use of pods for sleeping and bigger structures for socialising and cooking. The very nature of it requires people to shift their tolerance levels and accept others and their behaviour. This kind of living is certainly not for everyone.

The best interior designs

Decorating a pod or a home constructed from a shipping container is a similar discipline to decorating a studio apartment. You can find endless ideas online, given how many millions of people live in small apartments in some of the world’s bigger cities. There are two designs on the site which stand out as great examples for adapting to pods.

1. Dawn Pirie’s brick interior (fourth example on the page). The touches of check cloth and the dark top to wall of the room are very effective, as they acutely set off the brick below. With clever diner table seating like this, you achieve a very ‘inside’ feeling space which would be highly suitable for winter months.

2. Mathilde Kubisiak’s work (13th on the same page) with the panelled walls and the split floor heights is also great. It all looks fresh and simple, however it has a depth and texture to it which makes it feel more like a home. This design has a lot of thought put in to it to achieve so many layers in such a small zone. It would be very easy to relax in a space like this.

Simple spaces for simple living like pods, granny flats, and tiny houses are much like studio apartments in that they’re easy to maintain, encourage minimalist living, and give you what you mostly need once you add some special pieces to make it home.

Keeping the design layout simple and creating separation and privacy are key to success in this type of design. This isn’t to say you can’t be tricky, as every square centimetre of the building needs to be used. Hidden storage opportunities need to be optimised, and easy access to daily items will take the pressure off.

At the end of the day, spaces like this make it hard not to give personality. The web is full of ideas. By taking on a pod or small space you’re already breaking convention, so load up the exterior and interior with a theme and make it home.

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