Photo by Collins Laatsch
Photo by Collins Laatsch
Photo by Collins Laatsch
Photo by Collins Laatsch

DIY: Contain Yourself

One college kid is thinking inside the box for the next generation of homeowners.

Imagine waking up every day in a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom—a bizarro minimalist combo package inside a 20-foot by 8-foot box most often used for non-human cargo. For Tobias Katz, this oddity will soon become a reality as he puts the finishing touches on his senior project of designing a completely customizable tiny home.

The trend of tiny homes across the country has been gaining more and more traction with millennials as they can offer a cheaper alternative to home-buying. While most tiny homes resemble the traditional house structure we see in most neighborhoods, Katz’s senior thesis puts an entirely new spin on structural and interior design with his fully livable steel shipping container.

Katz said he originally came up with the idea for creating a tiny home kit after his cousin had bought one four years ago. As the story goes, the kit that Katz’s cousin had purchased didn’t have all of the required components to live in the tiny home. With that in mind, Katz decided he was not only going to change how kits were designed for tiny homes, but also change the structural look entirely.

“Tiny houses are all set space,” Katz explained. “You build this timber frame with an arched roof, or pointed roof structure, and you can’t do anything to add to its size. And then people get stuck in them and end up having to buy a second one or move into a bigger one or a longer one. I decided to create the system and the processings for creating this adaptable tiny house.”

When Katz set out in hopes of completing his goal of designing a fully customizable tiny house that allows for additions and personal customization by the homeowner. Five weeks and 300 hours of labor later—for all of you mathematicians, that’s roughly eight and a half hours a day—Katz completed a Katz Box.

When Katz, a graduating senior in industrial design and interior design at Columbus College of Art & Design, originally pitched his senior thesis project of building a tiny home as a sophomore, he was told to try something else. He took this advice and checked out other options, but couldn’t get the idea of building a tiny home out of his head.

His junior year, he was met with the same questions of how viable this project was, but this time it didn’t stop Katz. As a senior, Katz decided to design what is now known as a “Katz Box,” a steel shipping container fully furnished with electricity, air conditioning, heat, and plumbing.

“People really challenged him throughout the process as it was happening,” said Gail Shamon, his longtime girlfriend and creative director of the project. “I think they were really apprehensive about his moxie and his positive attitude towards it. I think that is what they were ultimately trying to do—make sure he stayed on the ground and didn’t get too lost in the clouds. But in a lot of other ways, it really motivated him to believe and take that extra step and see this through to the very end.”

Katz unveiled his first-ever Katz Box in a parking lot next to CCAD’s Canzani Center in May 2017, as his peers and media outlets gathered for interviews and pictures. In that moment, it seemed the hard work and determination had paid off.

As for the catchy name, Katz said he had to give credit to Shamon.

“It was a really drawn out and boring name,” said Katz. “My girlfriend actually said, ‘Why don’t you name it Katz Box since your last name is Katz, and cats love boxes and you’re building a box house?’ And it instantly stuck.”

Though Katz and Shamon both say a Katz Box was designed for anyone and everyone of all demographics, the two kept millennials and college students in mind when creating a price for the tiny home.

“I don’t know a lot of millennials willing to spend the amount for a house on something that is exact; I mean the average house in Columbus costs $200,000 to $300,000 which is way more than most millennials can afford,” Katz explained. “By having an option that is right around $60,000, and can change, it lets you have this new idea that maybe your house is a little small, but you could alter it as much as you wanted to.”

The estimated $60,000 price tag would provide the new homeowner with a fully furnished and ready-to-go Katz Box that would only require them to simply plug it in and begin living in it. Shave off about $20,000 and you can get a DIY Katz Box Kit so you can design your new home however you so choose.

In addition to being more economically friendly to millennials and college students struggling with debt, Katz recognized the potential for saving space in densely populated cities like Columbus, which is edging towards the likes of New York and Los Angeles.

Now that the project is over, Katz said he has some plans in the works for finding a place to store the tiny home, but it isn’t a done deal yet.

“If you know anyone that has a cool lot, let me know,” Katz laughed.

For more information about Katz Box, visit