Shipping containers transformed into ecofriendly accommodation in Wolseley

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Lanterns from Builders; kist from Carl Stassen Auctioneers
Lanterns from Builders; kist from Carl Stassen Auctioneers
Two shipping containers enhanced with a shapely design were transformed into a unique ecofriendly farmstay.

Photographs Greg Cox l Production Marian van Wyk


Claire and Duncan Dicey

WHERE Wolseley, Western Cape

SIZE 106m²

The pod is made up of two connected containers covered with Chromadek. To boost the pod’s structural integrity, support beams were added between the container ceiling and the sloping steel container roof. Indigenous garden design by Johann van Biljon of Intaba Environment Services

The corners of the pod are made from fibreglass; here, they provide a place for the geyser and gas bottles.

Heat-resistant steel panels cut from the containers, such as this one behind the fireplace on the stoep and another one in the living area, were built in to enhance structural integrity. Sustainable Lunawood was used for the deck. The 2.5m-long dining table is a second-hand find that Claire restored and painted black.

Storage seating by Sublime Cupboards; cushions and covers by Tannie Elmarie; kist from Carl Stassen Auctioneers; sarong from Arabesque

The view of the Mostertshoek mountain through the curved frame of the deep undercover stoep is a showstopper.

The wooden cladding in combination with the curve creates a sense of being nestled. – Claire

In 2018, we featured Claire and Duncan Dicey’s first shipping container conversion: a self-contained guest cottage on their fruit farm Palmietvlei in Wolseley.

That conversion boasted the typical box shape of an old shipping container; but since then, Claire and Duncan have come up with many more creative plans and they couldn’t wait to get stuck into their next project.

The couple rent container homes out on Airbnb as holiday accommodation on their 80-hectare blueberry and pear farm in the Western Cape, with panoramic views of the Mostertshoek mountain.

Their latest project, the CouplesPod, is a real eye-catcher – mostly due to its rounded shape, reminiscent of an iconic American Airstream caravan. But there’s more to this container home than meets the eye; it’s still a shipping container, but with a brand-new frock!

When the Diceys said they wanted “something different”, Len Douglas of Innovative Modular Concepts, who constructed the pod, suggested the interesting, curved shape. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he started making plans – but he readily admits that it was tricky to give a rectangular shipping container a curvy look. In the end, this innovative design not only creates aesthetic appeal, but the rounded sides also add an extra 6m² floor space.

“The shape of the pod works beautifully in this setting and the windows create ‘framed’ views that change according to the time of day – it’s really special,” says Claire, a horse trainer who also organises equestrian events and safaris through her company Equiknow.

“We export the fruit from the farm in shipping containers and love the fact that after many long voyages, two containers have come full circle to rest right here.”

Dark grey and wood create warmth in the compact kitchen, while diagonal subway tiles add visual interest.

In the kitchen, additional floor space afforded by the pod’s curve was used for a built-in storage bench and cupboards. Vinyl-wrapped cupboards in gunmetal grey by Sublime Cupboards

Hertex Seagrass rug from Elevenpast; blue cushions from Mr Price Home

Throw from Mr Price Home

Taking shape

The curves of the unit were created by attaching rebar to the outside of the original container (see construction pics below) and covering this with polyurethane panels followed by corrugated steel roofing sheets. “The newly created ‘cavities’ are excellent for window seats and cupboards, without using floor space,” explains Len.

One of the biggest challenges in transforming the container’s form was to ensure that each of the curved steel bars was the right size and perfectly aligned to create the shape. Once the entire rebar frame was made, it was connected to the container shell. “We measured everything from every possible angle,” says Len.

Inside, the curved walls were finished with beautiful and sustainable Lunawood, which is perfect for indoor and outdoor use. Left untreated, it will weather to a beautiful silver-grey patina over time. Lunawood was also used on parts of the ceiling. To create the rounded corners, Len and his team cladded thin 3mm layers at a time to achieve the right thickness (18mm).

“The curve is definitely making waves in décor and design right now,” says Len, who is already thinking ahead. “Maybe I will tackle an octagon or hexagon next – something with sharp edges.”

The bedroom and bathroom are separated by a partial steel ‘wall’. It is made from one of the container’s doors and still has the original locking handles attached on the back side. “We wanted to echo the aesthetic in the interior, too – because once you’re inside, you wouldn’t know that you’re in a shipping container,” says Claire.

“While the surrounding garden becomes established, we’ve erected screens for privacy,” explains Claire. “One day, we hope to remove them and use only the lush, forest feel of the nearby trees to separate the bath from its surroundings.” Wooden screens from Builders; concrete pot from Tulbagh Nursery

Between the en-suite bathroom’s two showers (second picture) is a door that opens onto the deck with the bath (this picture). Towel from Arabesque

“We decided to spoil guests with a bath, two showers and two basins,” says property manager Candice Theunissen. Len installed the copper taps and pipes. Mirrors from Coricraft; basins by CP&B

The construction process


The pod in its final stage of being built at the Innovative Modular Concepts factory in Grabouw, over 100km from the Diceys’ farm.


Poles were used as markers to ensure that the two adjoining containers would fit comfortably on the allocated piece of land.

The foundation preparation gets underway and the bank between the pod and dam is pushed up.


The two containers arrived on separate trucks before being offloaded by a crane. “At one stage the crane looked so precarious, I was sure it was going to land in the dam!” says Candice. Once the containers had been delivered, the roof and deck for the outdoor bathroom were added, the finishes were installed, and the interior was decorated.

Concrete strip footing was built on site before the containers were delivered.

The windows are aluminium with wooden frames added to the exterior to tie in with the natural surroundings.


Built to endure long voyages, shipping containers are extremely durable. “Some of the containers we get were built in the early nineties,” says Len Douglas of Innovative Modular Concepts.

“They have been at sea for about 30 years but there is very little wrong with them. The Corten weathering steel these containers are typically made of is more durable than mild steel and is treated against rust as well as mildew and mould.”

These units don’t develop the problems associated with a conventional build such as sagging foundations, cracks or rising damp. “Their biggest enemy is rust but after they’ve been treated with ceramic insulation paint, you won’t have any problems for at least 100 years,” says Len.

Apart from the eight tons of steel (including the rebar used to create the rounded shape) reused to make the double container pod, the floors are made from recycled plastic (on which vinyl boards were installed), the insulation is made up of recycled material, and the pod’s internal walls consist of reusable and recyclable MgO board.

“This pod, as with the rest of our container builds, doesn’t require water for construction and there’s less time and labour involved when compared to a conventional build,” Len adds.

CONTACT: Innovative Modular Concepts 082 426 1985,


Arabesque 061 072 1054

Builders 0860 284 533

Candice Theunissen (property manager) 083 499 1524

CP&B 021 853 7886

Carl Stassen Auctioneers 023 316 2053

Coricraft 011 611 8700

CouplesPod 083 499 1524,

Elevenpast 021 201 1211

Hertex 0860 437 839

Intaba Environment Services 072 734 7287

Mr Price Home 0800 212 535

Sublime Cupboards 082 328 2055

Tannie Elmarie 082 495 7527,

Tulbagh Nursery 023 230 0694

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April 2023

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