February 5, 2020

Brazilian Architect Marilia Pellegrini Creates Minimalist, Sustainable Home: Casa Container

The exterior of the home melds seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Photography by Ruy Teixeira. 

When tasked with designing a sustainable home, which debuted at CASACOR São Paulo last summer, an unconventional structure caught the attention of Brazilian architect Marília Pellegrini—shipping containers. Undeterred by the material’s imperfections, Pellegrini managed to transform two 40-foot-long metal receptacles into a meditative, high-end guest home called Casa Container.   

Though Pellegrini is far from the first architect to repurpose shipping containers—otherwise costly to melt down and discard—her design marks a departure from often-employed industrial aesthetics. Instead, the 645-square-foot guest pavilion is informed by Japanese minimalism, featuring clean lines and muted tones that enable the house to coexist with nature. The roof is designed to be compatible with solar panels and outfitted with rain water captivation systems which feed into the garden. 

“The idea of re-using these containers in a high-end construction project was the main challenge here,” says Pellegrini. “There was one thing about the containers that piqued my interest—the finish. Every container home I saw had an industrial look and a very rough feel, which I didn’t like much.” To tackle this challenge, Pellegrini applied Cosentino’s water- and stain-resistant surface Dekton to the skeletal frame of the two adjoined containers, creating a smooth white façade that melds seamlessly with the home’s interiors. The floors, kitchen countertops, and bathroom surfaces also feature Dekton in varying shades of white as well as Cosentino’s Silestone, which reimagines patterns found in marble.   

The space is compact yet outfitted with everything one needs to live comfortably. Photography by Ruy Teixeira. 

“I envisioned a white house from the very beginning, since I like the space to be big—to feel big—since the container is small,” says Pellegrini, who draws inspiration from Japanese architect and MUJI creative director, Kenya Hara, who maintains that emptiness offers a receptacle for creativity. “When it came to the flooring and exterior cladding, I wanted something white in order for the design principle of emptiness to work.” At the same time, Pellegrini also sought out a surface that would perform well outdoors, making Dekton an ideal choice.  

When we first brought Dekton to market in 2013, our goal was to create a material for architects and designers that knew no limits to its application,” says Massimo Ballucchi, director of marketing for Cosentino Americas. “We were so delighted and inspired to see how Marília [Pellegrini] took this to heart—especially on such a noteworthy, international design stage like CASACOR São Paulo. Just as her creativity knows no limits, her vision for Casa Container demonstrates that Dekton at its core is unlimited, as well.

Dekton transforms the interiors of the house into a calming oasis with its white hues. Photography by Alexandre Disaró.

During the construction of Casa Container, navigating the containers’ quirky shapes proved to be one of the most significant challenges. “These containers have spent their whole life on ships being kicked and twisted, so they are not even remotely straight,” says Pellegrini. “To do a high-end finish, you need a straight surface.” This meant Pellegrini needed to approach the containers with the precision of a surgeon—carefully adjusting each metal stud to shift the shape of its frame, ensuring the proper alignment of details from windows to lighting fixtures. 

As for the furnishings, most of the pieces in Casa Container are custom created by Pellegrini. “I had to design things to fit in without swallowing the tiny space” she says. This led the architect to develop her own furniture line expected to launch in February, which will feature minimalist pieces in soothing shades. “I think it’s important to have minimalist items with very functional behavior,” she adds. 

Casa Container’s bathroom is outfitted with the necessities. Photography by Marília Pellegrini. 

Ultimately, Casa Container invites those who enter to step into Pellegrini’s vision and embrace the idea that emptiness is enough. “Casa Container is what it’s meant to be,” says Pellegrini. “There are no bigger intentions there and, at the end of the project, it filled up my heart when I stepped into the space; I felt calm and this feeling is very important.”     

The home’s neutral palette is accented with pops of green from a few plants. Photography by Alexandre Disaró.
Pellegrini designed this custom bench made from Brazilian marble, which snakes alongside Casa Container. Photography by Ruy Teixeira.
Subtle lighting fixtures add depth to the monochromatic space. Photography by Alexandre Disaró.

Read more: 15 Small Spaces With Big Impact

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