Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley is
made up of four stacked shipping containers

| 16 comments

A balcony shaded by steel fins projects from the upper storey of this house in Northern Ireland, which architect and farmer Patrick Bradley built using four used shipping containers (+ slideshow).

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

Patrick Bradley developed Grillagh Water House for a picturesque site on his own farm near the town of Maghera, taking advantage of local legislation that allows farmers to build dwellings on their land.



Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

Having originally designed a house that employed conventional construction methods, the architect realised that he needed to reduce the cost to meet his budget, and instead came up with an alternative solution.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

"I didn't want to change the idea or the aesthetics of the design but I had to come up with an alternative that was more affordable and that's where the idea for shipping containers came from," Bradley told Dezeen.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

The construction of the property was documented last year on British television show Grand Designs, which Bradley said has led to several thousand emails including requests to design houses in dozens of countries around the world.


Related: more buildings made of shipping containers


The containers were purchased in the town of Bangor and trucked to the site, before being assembled around a steel framework.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

Two of the metal boxes extend from the entrance at the end of a gravel lane. They both sit on top of the other pair of containers, which nestle in a perpendicular orientation in the lee of a gentle slope.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

The upper level cantilevers over the lower storey, culminating in a balcony surrounded by steel fins that protect the interior from unwanted solar gain.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

The stacked formation of the metal boxes also creates space on top of the lower portion for a terrace, surrounded by a glass balustrade and connected to the garden below by a minimal metal staircase.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

"Even though it's a house made out of containers I didn't really want it to look like a house or like an idea of a farm building," added Bradley, who cited Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Falling Water house in Pennsylvania as inspiration.

"I actually wanted it to act like a sculpture in the landscape but still blend in with its surroundings."

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

To ensure the building complements the forms and colours found in the local area, the containers on the upper level are clad in grey powder-coated expanded metal sheets, while the lower portion is covered in panels of pre-rusted Corten steel.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

"This is a very rural part of Northern Ireland so I tried to use materials that are common in the area," explained Bradley.

"The grey colour is similar to many of the agricultural buildings around here and the Corten steel cladding was used to blend in with the landscape and the rock that was already on the site."

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

To make the containers habitable, they were insulated and weatherproofed to prevent the build-up of condensation that could cause the metal surfaces to rust.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

The entrance on the upper level opens into a corridor. This leads past a galley kitchen to an open-plan living and dining area, which looks out across Bradley's farm through full-height windows.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

A staircase between the kitchen and living space descends to the lower floor, where a window frames a view of the rocky earth.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

"The way the house is designed with two levels creates an open space on the top floor that makes the most of the views and then the lower two containers provide a more private and intimate space," the architect said.

"The idea was to create a completely different atmosphere between the two levels."

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

At the bottom of the stairs is a screen that opens onto a bathroom with a suspended hammock-like bathtub.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

One end of this level is occupied by a bedroom with a sliding glass door. It faces out onto fields, as well as a water trough that creates a boundary to stop livestock from coming up to the house.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

This level also accommodates a boot room and the master bedroom, which is concealed behind a hidden door and features an en-suite bathroom with an open shower area.

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects

Photography is by Aidan Monaghan.


Project credits:

Client: Patrick Bradley
Architects: Patrick Bradley Architects
Quantity Surveyor: AD Group
Structural Engineer: Joe Young Engineering
Main Contractor: Thornton Roofing

Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects
Location plan – click for larger image
Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects
Site plan – click for larger image
Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects
Upper ground floor plan – click for larger image
Grillagh Water House by Patrick Bradley Architects
Lower ground floor plan – click for larger image
  • Tom

    This was a great project to watch on Grand Designs. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2041kuJs1xw

  • Guest

    Beware condensation. Kev’ll know what to do.

  • Muggins

    That looks f*cking slick as f*ck!

  • DaBronxY

    I would want to live there.

  • EFS

    Simply put, I want to live in that.

  • zee

    Yes it was, I enjoyed it too!

  • David

    Surprised by the cost of this project. Very cheap and great value. Congratulations.

    • Ralph Kent

      Of course that’s assuming the figures quoted by the designer / owner are genuine and complete, which in my experience of TV design shows and magazines is rarely the case.

      Designers and clients are either embarrassed by how much they actually spent and so deliberately understate, or designers / architects want to try to hook new clients on the promise of great value building (which they won’t be able to achieve).

      Anecdotally I reckon that most published projects (be that in print or on TV) significantly understate the actual total cost. Easiest way of doing this is playing fast and loose with what constitutes the contract value? Are windows included? The kitchen? Bathrooms? Finishes? A lot of this stuff is frequently ‘post-contract’ to flatter the published contract value.

    • SCAQTony

      The cost is almost unbelievable considering the bath tub was £34,000 I believe, and the kitchen looks pretty swanky too.

      • Zespoke

        We supplied some of the furniture free of charge of course, I would be very sceptical of any figures quoted on any of these shows as it’s not the first time we have given products away to get some publicity

        • SCAQTony

          I am glad you shared that. I was looking at that figure as a potential budget. Thank you

  • Ralph Kent

    First rule of Grand Designs – or indeed any of the TV home building shows – don’t believe any of the figures that the punters on them trot out about build costs. They will generally understate by about 50%.

  • Leo Moriarty

    Great project, shocking TV show.

  • SCAQTony

    Could this be duplicated with light gauge steel framing? Any opinions would be supremely appreciated?

  • Linda D.

    Absolutely brilliant design. I adore the way the architecture completely embraces and enhances the site.

    It’s not just about preserving views; it’s the way the house and land belong to one another. I haven’t liked anything so much since some of E Fay Jones designs, though I suppose – on reflection – I like this more.

    More practical to my eye, more liveable and more ecological. Bravo, Mr. Bradley!

  • Kiara Woodsland

    I don’t know if I plan on making a building, or even a playhouse out of shipping containers. However, the thought came to my mind to store one of my cars away in one of them. I’m leaving on a trip and I need something that I can rent for cheap to store my vehicles in.