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Emergency Lockdown Home Office Reveal

This blog post is coming to you live from our new emergency lockdown home office!

If you are one of my Instagram followers, you’ll know that we spent much of Level 5 of South Africa’s Coronavirus lockdown working on our lockdown home office; just in case. Things are a little uncertain at the moment. An office would make a good bedroom if someone close to us found themselves out of work and in need of accommodation. Or, we could use as originally intended – an office or study.

Why We Need a Home Office

Our plan was always to have a home office; one that could be used for the paperwork side of Small Scale Engineering. It is nice to be able to keep business paperwork out of your living space. The coronavirus pandemic moved up our plans a little. Originally, the office was going to wait until further down the line in the project.

Modifying an old set of shelves so we can at least fit in some lever arch files

It has worked out quite well. I (Ashley), don’t have too much to do with the running of Small Scale Engineering (except for the Facebook page and this blog). But I do have a full time job. Because it is an admin job, I have been able to continue working from home as we moved into stage 4 of lockdown. As my day job is busier now that there are more things we can continue with under stage 4, it is great to have a proper space to attend to my duties.

There is also space for Gwen to work on the accounts for Small Scale Engineering. Kevin also has space to work on engineering drawings and quotes.

The Lockdown Challenge

As the home office was completed during the strictest stage of our lockdown, everything had to be done with materials we had on hand. Some out-the-box thinking happened, but the end results have left us with a very comfortable space to sit in front of a computer.

Ready for finishes

The west shipping container we divided into four sections; a guest bathroom, a small laundry (this is also where the main distribution board is located), the main entrance, and lastly, the home office.

This is how we turned the end of a shipping container into a comfortable home office, using materials on hand.


The biggest challenge was the floor. This shipping container has beautiful hard wood beams for the floor. Some sections are still in good condition. Some sections in the office area are quite bad due to water damage caused by rusty holes in the roof. In a perfect world, we would have pulled all this wood out and replaced it, but we couldn’t do so under lockdown.

The next best thing we could do was to seal it as well as we could with a good quality primer, and hope for the best. I think the floor looked beautiful with the light grey primer, and would have been happy to keep it like this for the office. However there were a couple of problems:

  • The old wooden beams are a little uneven, which wouldn’t be great for an office wheelie chair
  • This end of the shipping container also has a huge steel plate in the floor and the steel will make this room extremely cold in winter (although having a giant heat sink in the floor might be a nice idea for summer).
Old planks before and after

So, the decision was made to sacrifice some plywood boards we had earmarked for something else. We used the plywood boards over the old boards to finish the floor. The plywood will insulate the floor and gives us something level for office chairs. A couple of coats of varnish and it looks neat – perfectly good enough for a work area.


The walls were not such a challenge. We clad them as we did the other sections of our house.

In the south container’s bedroom, we used CDS Plastic’s AcoustiX panels on the wall. As we used the light grey and charcoal in the bedroom, we still had the beige and remainder of the charcoal to use up. We thought this would be the perfect product to finish the walls in the office as it is good at absorbing sounds. Just what you need if you are working at a computer and someone else is using noisy power tools!

We went with a totally different idea with the design in the office. We have vertical stripes of various widths running down the walls, and I find it quite fun and welcoming.

Ready for some desks

Work Space

Window blind in shipping container home office
We had the perfect second hand blind to keep out the late afternoon sun

We had a few old counter and desk tops stashed away. Some had been used in workshop environments. They cleaned up much better than I expected, with a bit of thinners and elbow grease. These, along with legs from an old dining room table and several L brackets, and we were sorted!

All that was left, was to move in!

Home office complete!

4 thoughts on “Emergency Lockdown Home Office Reveal

  1. What a transformation! It looks like a very professional working environment. My brother’s product-design teacher used to say “A restrictive environment is a creative environment” and you have certainly demonstrated that!

    1. Thank you! Love the design teacher’s quote. Necessity is the mother of invention 😉

  2. Love your blog and reading/seeing the latest on your container home ✔️

    1. Thank you! I am sure it means a bit more now that you were able to actually see it earlier this year. 😁

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