Home: Southern Rhode Island

RWU-educated architect modifies a shipping container into a streamside tiny home


"I think the whole thing is clever – a shipping container house that can close up and be moved anywhere a ship and a truck can go,” says Cameron Chafee, which pretty much sums up the 20-foot shipping container he modified into a tiny home, situated by a stream in South County. “It’s been my favorite build so far,” says the outdoors enthusiast who traded a desk job to design and build his own projects.

“I have always enjoyed working with my hands, whether building a birdhouse, helping my dad with a house project, or making scale models in architecture school,” says Chafee, who graduated with a masters in architecture from Roger Williams University, and then worked at an architecture firm on modern and historic projects. “I realized quickly that sitting in front of a computer all day was not my ideal job.” He started playing around with tiny house designs and hasn’t looked back, continuing to challenge himself with new projects while maintaining a fluid schedule that allows him to hang with friends during summer and teach skiing through the winter.

The idea for the tiny house came from discussions with his dad, and Chafee was originally looking at school buses until the idea of shipping container took hold and an online search delivered. He estimates the project took one year from start to finish. He designed everything inside, and a friend helped pick out elements like cabinet finishes and the backsplash.

“I am sort of a perfectionist and was trying to keep the build as cheap as I could, so I built everything except the bathroom sink vanity – that’s IKEA. Everything was custom; the cabinets, couch, drawers, shower stall, sliding shower, and bed frame that raises and lowers.” Throughout the process Chafee always kept his aim of keeping the lodging mobile – meaning the home could be closed up and shipped any time.

Despite its size, the interior is bright, courtesy of many windows cut out, light wood fixtures, and white walls and ceilings. Well-insulated, Chafee notes that it stays whatever temperature you want it to be. Floating shelves keep kitchen essentials within reach, and a clever shelf with bar stools beneath is a handy place for eating, working, or both. The consistent use of black hardware, white-and-black patterned accents, and touches of seafoam green keep the open spaces cohesive and contemporary; and the always-visible bathroom mirror creates movement and space. “I love the overall design,” says Chafee. “Would I change a few things now? Yes, but I’m very very happy with how it turned out.”


Get Rhody Style

Ideas and resources for making the most of living in the Ocean State.

Local Scene

Chafee enjoys downtown Newport and cites Thames Street Kitchen – where he made the benches – as a longtime favorite, along with Perro Salado and Goat Island Marina Pub. For ice cream, it’s Clementine’s in Middletown (second location in East Greenwich); and over in South County: Shayna’s Place in Wickford and Matunuck Oyster Bar.

Explore More

When not building, Chafee enjoys being by the water and traverses the state for nature walks. Beavertail in Jamestown; King Benson Preserve Trail, Saunderstown; Rome Point Preserve, North Kingstown; Saunderstown; Sachuest Point and Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown; and Narragansett Beach all top the list.

Web Cam

Peek at other projects, including two more tiny houses, furnishings, and more at Cam-Builds.com



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