clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How filmmakers turned Atlanta’s first permitted container home into a zen-filled getaway

New, 40 comments

The 480-square-foot “Gimlet” in Reynoldstown exemplifies how ADUs can supplement income

A light blue rental home made of shipping containers.
The Gimlet of R-town.
Photos courtesy of Four x Productions

It wasn’t the first container unit to arrive and begin accepting guests in Atlanta. That honor goes to a short-term rental option on Kirkwood’s Hosea Williams Drive.

But Gimlet—a conjoined, two-unit tiny home in the backyard of filmmaking couple Jen West and James Martin—does have the distinction, among others, of being the first accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to be permitted by the city and receive a certificate of occupancy.

The two-year project was born, according to Martin, out of his motivation to offset his mortgage with rental income. He also wanted to have a place where family or friends could stay, one that would provide a sense of independence and privacy to both the occupants and he and his wife.

Martin says the 480-square-foot Gimlet cost half of what a traditional construction project would have. There were contractor estimates of $140,000 and higher, but he was able to bring the total down to about $70,000 for the buildout, plus $10,000 in furnishings.

The design was handled by Tea Grandstaff of Kindred Spaces, who calls Gimlet one of the “top three projects” she’s ever worked on. She says she came in at precisely the right time—with the exterior completed but not the inside—to incorporate her own creativity into Gimlet’s look and feel.

A little leather couch and coffee table.
The living room area.
Four x Productions

The idea is that teal paint coating the merged containers’ exterior, and the white windows and doors, all outlined in black, soften the industrial edge of the units.

A white room with photography and red baskets on the walls.
Nighttime pics of Atlanta in the “ATL Room,” shot by photographer Luke Beard.
Four x Productions

Once you’ve stepped upon the wooden platform leading through the front door, you enter the living room, where you’ll find the container home’s original layout sketches framed on pastel blue walls above a brown leather couch.

Just a few feet in front of you is a small dining room table for four, with white walls signaling you’re in a separate area of the home.

To the right, past the couch, is the “ATL” bedroom, with moody, sexy night shots of the Five Points intersection at Peachtree and Decatur streets, and a MARTA train platform, made by photographer Luke Beard.

To the immediate left is the “Zen Room,” where you’ll find a short stack of books sitting on a shelf (including a collection of quotes from the Dalai Lama), assorted crystals sitting separately in a wooden matrix frame of cubes, and a faux mantle that’s actually a pull-down Murphy bed in case you need an additional room.

A white room with a buddha head and brown curtains.
The “Zen Room” as meditation space.
Four x Productions
A bedroom with a turquoise bedspread.
The “Zen Room” as a bedroom.
Four x Productions

There’s also a galley kitchen with an electric range and standard-size refrigerator and freezer; that leads to washer and dryer laundry units, ending at a full bathroom with tub/shower and an adorably tiny sink.

A bathroom with subway tile.
The bathroom, at the end of the galley kitchen.
Four x Productions

Hard to believe all of this fits comfortably into less than 500 square feet, but Grandstaff says they employed a few design tricks to keep the container from feeling compressed.

From the subtle colors to a well-placed mirror in the dining area, intentional use of natural lighting thanks to windows that capture the path of the rising and setting sun on either side of the main room, and even the horizontal subway tile in the kitchen—it helps the sense of spreading things out. It also doesn’t hurt that Gimlet has eight and 12 foot ceilings.

“I wanted to ensure I made practical use of the 480 square feet of space, maximizing both the functionality and unique aesthetic that makes it such a cool Atlanta destination,” Grandstaff says.

“I kept the homeowners, location and future guests in mind, while creating a warm, inviting experience that married the history of East Atlanta to the ingenuity of tiny living,” she adds, “with an energy and a space that would feel like home to anyone spending time there.”

The kitchen counter.
Four x Productions

There’s also an add-on component to Gimlet, called “Eldon the Bus,” a short school bus converted to an RV, with its own miniature kitchen, sofa bed, and dining room. While not available to rent on its own, Eldon serves as a third bedroom option for groups.

And with a communal fire pit on the property beneath string lights, which illuminate the colorful mural painted on a nearby shed by local artist Jeremy Ray, it all makes for a unique inner-city escape that Martin says he enjoys for himself sometimes.

The blue container home at night.
A shot of Gimlet’s exterior at night.
Four x Productions

Although Gimlet has served as his own separate studio for work, or a venue for random taco nights with friends, Martin happily gives up the backyard to guests who prefer to have the container home and its surrounding grass to themselves.

For now, Martin wants to continue booking Gimlet for four-day weekends twice per month. He’s already had 11 guests since it became available to rent in November. An added bonus is that he always serves local goodies to those renting the containers, including coffee from Taproom and East Pole, chocolates from Xocolatl, and pastries from Little Tart Bakeshop.

Future plans include a tree swing, and possibly more. Martin is prohibited from expanding on the ground, but city code allows for the possibility of stacking another 20-foot container on top of Gimlet to make a rooftop patio.

From all the detail involved, it’s clear Martin, a cocktail enthusiast who made a short documentary about the famous New Orleans sazerac, loves Gimlet as much as Reynoldstown. He’s on the board of directors for the Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League neighborhood association, and says while he champions his community, he knows from his own experience that affordability is a big issue in the rapidly changing area. Gimlet, he says, allows him to be more deeply committed to staying in this part of town.

“We created these ADUs to assist us in staying in our awesome neighborhood and to pursue our careers as filmmakers,” he says. “As artists, supplemental income is imperative for big-city living. We also plan to host other creatives and retreats for those like us looking to enjoy what Atlanta, as an artist’s haven, has to offer.”