Boxed In

Olive farmer builds shipshape dream house

By Cecily Hastings
March 2023

About five years ago, Sebastian Bariani moved from his Land Park home to be closer to the Bariani family’s olive groves in Zamora, north of Woodland. He became intrigued with the idea of constructing his new farm home with steel shipping containers.

“My family’s connection to containers is strong. We are an olive oil company, we import our bottles and equipment from Italy, and we export our oils to places like Japan,” Bariani says. “It just seemed to make sense, especially as I wanted a modern home.”

Shipping containers had other advantages. “We are out in the countryside, not the city. We’re exposed to the harsh weather, including sun, wind and rain, so we needed something strong that would withstand all these elements,” he says.
His four-year building project started before the pandemic and suffered delays with shipping during the supply-chain crisis. He moved in about a year ago.

The home is 2,460 square feet on two levels with three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. Expansive rooftop decking with gorgeous views over the family’s 180-acre olive ranch extends the living space.

The home is built with eight 45-foot containers and two 20-foot containers. All are 9 feet wide and 9½ feet tall.

“The containers provide the exterior walls, and some of the interior walls. Steel is very conductive, so we heavily insulated the 8-inch walls,” Bariani says. “Instead of a standard ducted HVAC system we used mini units in each room, which is very energy efficient and comfortable.”

“My home was designed to create a living space for my 8-year-old daughter, who lives with me part-time. She, in effect, was my client,” he says.

The great room, which is one of the largest containers, combines living and dining spaces. The open kitchen has sleek European walnut cabinetry, with black solid surface counters and chiseled-edge details.

“There are no upper cabinets. Instead I added a large live-edge shelf built from a cedar tree we had to remove in our Land Park home,” he says. Cedar shelves show up throughout the house. The lower level includes a generous pantry, laundry room, half bath, and master bedroom and bath.

The two floors are connected by a temporary steel circular staircase. Bariani plans to install a glass elevator and move the staircase to connect to the rooftop deck from the exterior.

Upstairs space is devoted to his daughter and her many activities and interests. Bariani spared no detail with fun and custom touches.

A second rooftop deck features a wood-framed hammock and stand with generous shade canopy.

The interior has minimalist white walls, dark tile floors in several patterns, and modern fixtures and lighting. In the bathrooms he used faux silk flowers in wall panels to provide a cheeky contrast to the sleek design.

“I hung bath fixtures from the wall to make cleaning easier,” Bariani says. “We are in the middle of farmland after all.”

Italian crystal light fixtures add a sparkle and warmth to the living room.

The interior isn’t quite finished. “All of the steel columns are going to be clad in wood to simulate the look of trees,” Bariani says. “I do all of this type of work myself by hand so I’m looking forward to some downtime from our business.”

The exterior is sleek and striking. Bariani sourced fiber cement cladding from Japan. The material was installed in both a rectangular cement color tile and in simulated redwood planking. “The wood finish helps warm up the exterior color scheme,” Bariani says. “And connects it to the farm.”

The location is adjacent to steel warehouses used by the farm. Bariani shares a driveway with the farm, and created a generous gravel courtyard to separate the home from farm buildings. “I planted a long row of tall blue junipers that will grow and provide shade and create more separation,” he says. His other exterior plans include solar panels on shade pergolas and furnishing his rooftop decks for outdoor living.

Bariani says building with shipping containers used to be more cost-effective than standard construction. “But the cost of containers has skyrocketed, and it is no longer an affordable option.”

Country life seems to suit Bariani and his daughter. He enjoys the independence that comes with life outside the city. His long commute is over and there’s more time to work and for family.

“My daughter has loved the farm life since she was just a toddler running in the fields. At night it’s so dark and quiet out here compared to the city. The stars are beautiful, and we hear coyotes, raccoons and owls,” he says. “It is our piece of heaven.”

Cecily Hastings can be reached at To recommend a home or garden, contact Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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