A couple of years ago Paul Stankey built a little cabin in the woods outside of Duluth, Minnesota, out of a couple of shipping containers. It is all over the web these days and all over the country too; Analee Newitz at i09 puts it in Massachusetts.
Now, after building a great reputation in modern prefab with Hive Modular, Paul and partners have started Intermodal Design to take their shipping container ideas to market. And these guys know what they are doing.
For one thing, they are not hacking the containers apart. Shipping containers are monocoque construction; the walls are the structure. When you start cutting them out you have to put in beams and pretty soon the economics of using off-the-shelf containers stops making sense.
They also get that containers are small; they were not designed for people but for stuff. So they have designed some interesting built-in furniture that folds out of the walls:
creating a dining area
and even a fold-out bed.
Intermodal quotes Thoreau: "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!" and claims to "believe in the power of simplicity, the importance of affordability and the necessity of green spaces to enjoy the comfort and beauty of nature."
If you are going to squeeze into a space only 7'6" wide, you have to keep it simple, and be willing to live with a little bit less. Intermodal has kept their designs simple and unpretentious. Nice work at Intermodal Design