shipping container home behind the Harlem Underground in Toronto

It’s what we like


Ana Silva and Carl Cassel are co-everything. The couple are lovers of art, parents of five children and restaurateurs who work and live in the same building. This article gives a snippet of Ana and Carl at home—click here to to read about their restaurant

We were scheduled to meet Ana Silva and Carl Cassel at their home—a two story addition which they built above their restaurant, Harlem Underground. There is nothing unique about living above a restaurant but if you are Ana and Carl, you will find a way to make your apartment standout. A few hours before opening we were instructed to come around the back of the building. Our first vision as we turned the corner was the brightly coloured graffiti that adorns the laneway which sits south of Queen—the walls of the buildings and garage doors have all been painted by local artists. A few more steps and the three stacked shipping containers that make the back part of their home come into view.

Right away one notices this isn’t a conventional home. There is a mix of materials and styles, yet nothing seems out of place. Steel, marble and concrete coexist with natural woods, iron pipes and glass to create a modern, industrial feel. A fun part of the tour was peering out the curved “bubble” window at the Harlem Underground patio below.

The containers, which were fastened to the building, actually make up a small portion of the total living space—the staircase from ground level, part of the living room on the second floor and part of the master bedroom on the third floor. “You can see the container in the back corner”, explained Ana, “the rest of the addition is traditional construction.”

And just how long does it take to build a palace out of shipping containers? “Once we started digging, the project took three years…but there were six years of paperwork and ten years of planning.” Being the first residential unit to build using corrugated metal containers came with it’s challenges, “they had no information about it. The city planners were great and supported us, but we had to start from scratch.”

The art which decorates the walls is also striking and vibrant. “Carl is an artist and I studied art history in university, it’s what we like. Many of the paintings are Carl’s and some were painted by friends”.

The other thing that one notices is the strong bond of family—part of the reason Ana and Carl decided to sell their house and build over the restaurant was to keep the family unit tight. “We have five children ranging from age five to 22 and the older ones work in the restaurant—living at the same location is very convenient” In addition to raising children and helping run a restaurant, Ana is also a yoga instructor—teaching classes from home.

Restaurant, art studio, gallery, yoga studio, office and most importantly home—Ana and Carl have created a space that has purpose.



Ana Silva and Carl Cassel sitting on the stairs of their home
Painting, fireplace and chair in Ana Silva and Carl Cassel's home
children swinging from monkey bars
Carl Cassel silk screen painting and books
Carl Cassel silk screen painting
marble bathroom with tub
Shipping container home - balcony with chairs
Carl Cassel silk screen painting
pink and yellow painting
Painting over bed
bedroom with books

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