Looking for a way to enjoy New York City in the summertime, a couple recently designed a seasonal floating residence out of reclaimed shipping containers, utilizing the breeze and waves of Rockaway Bay for a chill outdoor lifestyle.
“The goal of the project was to build a resilient, sustainable residence that responded to the needs of the environment but didn’t sacrifice the comforts of modern living,” says principal architect and owner Adam Wiesehan. “Building and living on water has been an incredible experience. Architecture on water has a more immediate need to be in tune with natural surroundings, and I’m grateful that this project has put me in closer touch with the local environment.”
Wiesehan, an architect with Rekstur, and his wife Margaret Day, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, both grew up coastside (in Texas and Massachusetts, respectively). After they met and married five years ago, they decided to build a home that would bring them back to the sea. “The [coastal] culture is fairly infectious. We wanted to do something ourselves that mixed in my background of architecture with our shared love of the water,” said Wisehan in an interview with Architectural Digest.
The resulting two-story “Kairu House” was constructed from two 40-foot-tall cube containers that were sliced in half diagonally and stacked on top of each other. The structure rests atop a welded-together platform of two 11-foot by 30-foot steel sectional barges. The couple describes the 470-square-foot dwelling as an “upside-down house,” with the bedroom, bathroom, and living space on the first floor, and the kitchen, dining room, and two decks on the second.
In lieu of traditional windows, the couple recycled old doors into fold-out awning-style ones. They also hired a local metalworker to provide a custom oversized front door.
“Unlike a lot of New York residences, it’s very much an indoor-outdoor home,” Day notes. “We have these big awning windows that we open up, the big front door, the big patio doors on the second floor, and in the warm weather, which is when we’re here the most, it so fits our love of nature and our desire to be outside.”
All that easy access to the outside also eliminates the need for an HVAC system. The couple stresses that they “don’t use air conditioners. We have no need for that in the summer because we get such a wonderful breeze through the house.”
The freight boxes inside were transformed into a fully-fledged home with the help of sapele hardwood floors and maple walls. Special accents include a kitchen backsplash of handmade turquoise tiles and a distinctive stone sink in the bathroom.
“We selected fixtures and finishes that reference our bohemian inspiration,” explains Wiesehan. To be extra sustainable, the design also features a composting toilet and plans to expand the existing DC power with solar panels.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the Kairu House’s potential for adapting to global warming. With its ability to move with rising sea levels along the coast, the design could mark the start of an affordable and resilient trend for future living.