Florida Airbnb shipping container a hit with ’60s pop art

Author: St. Augustine Record / AP
Published: Updated:

Stepping foot into Rob DePiazza’s house is like winding back the clock to the height of the 1960s’ pop art revolution.

All Andy Warhol- and Keith Haring-style prints, bold patterns, primary colors and mid-century mod design, the structure DePiazza has designed looks and feels like a museum exhibit dedicated to all of those cultural influences.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that it’s all housed in nine shipping containers — proudly rusted out, mind you, as far as DePiazza is concerned. The display certainly stands out in this sedate residential neighborhood populated mostly by modest old Florida stuccos or split-level ranches off U.S. 1 in St. Augustine.

Converted container homes, with their utilitarian and stark industrial aesthetics, have been catching on in communities all over the country.

When DePiazza first built the home at 1369 Prince Road, he intended for it to solely be his family home, a replacement to the residence he’d lived in for more than three decades adjacent to the property that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Since the structure was completed in February of this year, he considered sharing his creation with others and renting it out on Airbnb.com whenever he travels. After getting the proper permitting in place, the listing is already up on the short-term rental website.

“A lot of people are always very curious about it, especially what it’s like on the inside,” said DePiazza.

They’re not alone.

According to a recent survey by Airbnb.com, 21% of travelers said different kinds of accommodations appeal to them: out-of-the-ordinary spaces like farms and yurts, tree houses and, yes, shipping containers.

In the first half of 2021, nights booked at unique listings grew 45% compared to 2019, and the number of searches for unique listings grew 94% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Airbnb.

For $350 a night, guests at what DePiazza calls his PRCH (Prince Road Container House) get 1,600 square feet of living space with room to sleep six, including a landing-pad lounge; a restored 1957 jukebox; retro-style dining booth/counter; BOSE sound system; Viking gas range; and a large collection of art.

Guests can also take advantage of the PRCH’s unusual deck space, which includes a barbecue, as well as kayaks to launch in the waterway nearby.

For several years, DePiazza played with the idea of a shipping container home. With the help of friend and architect Stephen Bender, he figured out the logistics of the project.

The longtime owner of Screen Arts, DePiazza has operated a successful graphics screen-printing business in West Augustine for years. The space has also acted as an art gallery as well, showcasing local and national art pieces known for their edginess and innovation.

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