When Emily and Seth Britt broke ground on their first shipping container built destination vacation rental homes in south-central Ohio in 2017, there was hardly a mention of the now exploding concept of creating living spaces out of the ubiquitous steel containers.

Five years and three beautifully designed and constructed homes later, a cursory Google search for “shipping container homes” will produce over a million results. One of those landing spots will be at the website for The Box Hop, the name the couple chose for their destination resort.

The Box Hop Hygge

The Britt’s flagship is the Hygge Box Hop, which consists of seven strategically placed shipping containers. Completed in 2021, the Hygge (HEW-guh) – the Danish word that’s become de rigueur for describing comfort – features five bedrooms, two baths, a spa deck with a full glass barrel sauna and hot tub overlooking a wooded ravine, and two distinctive French-made Gyrofocus suspended wood fireplaces, one indoor and one out.

The iconic fireplaces have been winning prestigious design competitions since they were created in 1968. They’ve also been installed as exhibits in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Center For Contemporary Art in Grenoble, and other museums around the world.

These ceiling-suspended rotating hearths are fully functional heating appliances that take up no floor space, yet deliver a striking and unique architectural element to any space. In addition to indoor and outdoor wood fireplaces, after years of engineering and testing, the company just introduced a remote-controlled gas model.

Given the chill of an Ohio winter night and her desire to provide guests with the utmost in comfort and ambience, the Gyrofocus fireplaces were on Emily’s mind the entire time she was designing the Hygge.

“I remember seeing them in a magazine and I couldn’t get them out of my mind. They have such a clean, minimalist look and they’re unlike any other stove or fireplace I’ve ever seen,” she explained. “They just fit perfectly with the style aesthetic we wanted to achieve.”

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Social Media Savvy Helps Propel Growth

It’s another hectic night at the Britt’s Ohio home. Fresh off a busy day building their destination rental business, the couple sit down for their bi-weekly Instagram Live chat with some of their legion of over 100,000 followers.

While his 5-year-old son climbs his back wearing a Spiderman costume and his 7-year-old daughter wags bunny ears behind his head, Seth monitors and answers questions about building codes and the cost of container homes versus traditional stick-built, tells cringeworthy “Dad” jokes, and takes an occasional sip of his glass of bourbon.

Next to him, Emily balances a squirming nine-month-old daughter on her knee, listens patiently to their other three-year-old daughter asking questions off-camera, rolls her eyes at Seth’s jokes, sips her own glass of bourbon when it’s safe to do so, and delivers a concise explanation on how she hand-drew all the design plans for Box Hop.

This family performance is delivered with hands-on knowledge, humor, and an unflagging can-do American ingenuity. It’s clear from the questions and comments they receive on social media that their audience appreciates how they juggle raising a family and building a business from the ground up.

“It gets pretty crazy sometimes, I have to admit,” Emily acknowledges. “But we’re not trying to be anyone but us. The fact that we can do that and connect with so many people is pretty awesome.’

In short, whether they aimed for it or not, the Britt’s have become influencers. But, not that kind! No, they’re the working kind, with the blisters, pounded thumbs, hard-earned fatigue, and a growing community of true admirers to prove it.

The Exploding Shipping Container Building Industry

That all this has happened in the space of the five short years since they began plans to build their first vacation rental, the OG Box Hop, is emblematic of the explosion of the shipping container building market.

“When we started looking into this in 2017, there really wasn’t any information on shipping container construction aside from single container homes,” Emily explained. “Multi-container buildings were pretty much non-existent.”

The concept of shipping container homes can be traced as far back as 1962 to an article in a British academic publication. Across the pond twenty five years later, an enterprising man named Philip Clark received a patent from the U.S. patent office for his concept of multi-container buildings.

But, it wasn’t until the construction of a 40-container inn and hostel in Simon’s Town, South Africa in 1998 that the concept became a reality. The first container home in the United States built to UBC-conformity was conceived by architect Peter DeMaria in Redondo Beach, California in 2007.

Now, there are dozens of websites selling the 20’ and 40’ containers, many more dedicated to showcasing building projects from around the world, and others offering design and building resources. Yestermorrow, a building and design school in Waitsfield, Vermont, even offers a course in shipping container building and design.

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The Magic of Transforming Containers Into Luxury

The Britts got their start in the real estate business early on. Seth bought a duplex in a Columbus suburb when he was 22 and the couple had just started dating. Instead of holding hands and taking long walks on the beach, their date nights were spent measuring, sawing, sanding and painting.

“You get to know someone really well when you remodel a house with them,” Emily laughed.

They were both clearly happy with the outcome. The next year, just a few weeks before their wedding, they bought a HUD house in another Columbus suburb that had been vacant for three years. They spent the next 30 months remodeling that house, this time tackling bigger projects like electrical and plumbing.

Fast forward a few years as the price of available homes to buy and remodel skyrocketed beyond their reach. Seth had seen a shipping container home on his FedEx delivery route years before and told Emily about it. She squirreled that information away, and as they lamented the possibility that they might be priced out of the market, she retrieved that little nugget.

Soon after closing on the wooded 18-acre property near Hocking Hills State Park, the entire blended family swung into action. Emily’s dad owns an excavation company, which her brother also works for. Seth’s uncle is a home builder and his dad is an accomplished tradesman. It was all hands on deck.

They started with the three-bedroom, two-bath OG Box Hop in 2018. With its gas fireplace and rooftop patio, the cozy and stylish home provides a unique romantic getaway. Then they followed up with the BoHo Box Hop, a two-container unit that sleeps four, and features a full bath with a soaking tub and an outdoor deck with a hot tub, gas grill and chiminea.

The Hygge, their crowning achievement, was completed in 2021. The feedback they’ve received from guests who’ve stayed there makes all the hard work in designing and building it worthwhile, Emily says.

“People just love it. They love soaking in the hot tub and sauna, sitting by the fireplaces, and being surrounded by woods. I can’t tell you how many comments we get on what a unique experience it is for them.”

Rather than rest on their laurels, the couple is staying true to form and going full steam ahead. Seth quit his job as an executive at a dog food company to concentrate on the business. They just closed on a spectacular waterfront lot on the Lake Michigan shore, where they intend to build a single unit, and they’re exploring sites in Asheville, North Carolina and elsewhere.

Which means they’re on their way to becoming premier shipping container resort magnates! Right, Emily?

“I don’t know about that. But it’s a wild thought, and if you had told us a few years ago we’d be doing this, we would have laughed out loud! It’s a really cool experience and we’re enjoying every crazy minute of it!”


Story by: Robert Conlin

Robert Conlin is a freelance writer living in Wiscasset, Maine. A former certified chimney sweep and retail stove shop owner, he has returned to his roots as a journalist/writer in producing enterprise reporting and online content for a variety of publications and companies.

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