Visitors to the Old North St. Louis neighborhood regularly pause to stare in wonder at the home of Travis and Gina Sheridan, the first house built out of shipping containers in the city of St. Louis. The couple completed the house last spring after seven months of construction. They bought a three-parcel lot through the city’s Land Reutilization Authority program and brought in nine shipping containers.
At the time, they lived across the street in an 1899-built row house, so they were able to watch the daily progress of their new home. The corner lot, with a view of the Gateway Arch to the south and just a few blocks from Crown Candy Kitchen, had sat vacant since 1981. It was the spot that the Sheridans were first drawn to when they discovered the Old North neighborhood, but they weren’t quite ready to build at that time. Once they were ready to custom build a house, they knew that was the place. The design came out of practicality.
“After meeting with a few architects and seeing what we could afford and wanted to spend in the neighborhood, what we would end up with is something we didn’t like at all like a suburbia house plopped in the middle of the city,” Gina says. “Or, if we wanted something really unique that we could play with like Legos, it was a container house.”
The Sheridans were inspired by local artist Zack Smithey and his wife, Brie, who had built the area’s first shipping container home in St. Charles a couple of years earlier, and collaborated with him on their home’s design.
“I did the initial design and then sent it to him and asked, ‘Is this even possible? He helped tighten it up and was invaluable in helping to bring it to life,” Travis says. “I learned a couple of things from him. Number one, it’s possible, and it can feel like a home.”
Gina was skeptical at first, not wanting to feel like she was living in the back of a semi-truck, but, she says, “I knew we could get what we wanted on the inside.”
Once she opened her mind to the idea, she envisioned incorporating a mural by one of their favorite artists, Robert Amador, who is from Travis’ hometown of Fresno, California. When construction was complete, the Sheridans flew Amador and an assistant out to paint the mural on the east side of the house.
“He got St. Louis and understood the neighborhood right away and engaged with people who would walk by. It was perfect,” Gina says.
As avid collectors, integrating art into the house was part of the design process from the beginning.
“Oftentimes people will find a piece of art and then try to figure out where it fits in their house. This was our opportunity to actually take our art collection and build a house around it,” Travis says. “That was our driving thought. How can we build a house that is like living in a gallery?”
The completed home is just that. The Sheridans intentionally kept things simple inside to let the art stand out. On the third floor, Travis installed a pair of sliding and rotating gallery “walls” that hang from steel I-beams and allow for the display of large-format artwork.
The floors throughout the house are the original containers floors composed of a mix of metal plates and plywood covered in a whitewash stain.
“Some areas are more worn than others, and I think it just gives it a lot of character,” Travis says. “We wanted to keep as much of the container inside as we could but also make it look like a house.”
Each floor features at least a small area of exposed container wall as well as the corrugated metal container ceilings. The Sheridans used 9 ½ foot tall “high-top” containers to make it feel more spacious. There are three per floor, with the second floor containers cantilevered — Travis’ idea — to create a covered deck in front and a carport in the back.
The deck, off the open master suite, is the perfect perch to watch the neighborhood and glimpse the Arch. “It reminds me of old stoop life in New York or New Orleans,” Travis says.
Another feature Smithey collaborated on was the “floating” bed, which is centered in the master suite and affixed to the wall. The open master bath is behind it. It leads into a dressing area and large wet room with an open double shower and oversized freestanding tub sitting under a skylight. Small plants in white planters affixed to the exposed container wall give the space a tropical spa feeling.
“The great thing about containers is you’re working with a fixed space,” Travis says. “Each one is 8 feet wide, so you can play with the dimensions of the room.”
“I love the symmetry of it,” adds Gina.
Those who want a closer look at the house can do so this spring when it is open to the public on the annual Old North St. Louis House and Community Tour, which is scheduled for May 9.
Travis and Gina Sheridan
Ages • Travis is 46 and Gina is 41
Occupations • Travis is senior vice president and chief community officer for Wexford Science and Technology; Gina is branch manager of the Lewis and Clark branch of the St. Louis County Library
Home • Old North St. Louis