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Alexandria modern furniture designer asking city for after-the-fact approval of shipping containers converted into showroom

Imagine opening the French doors of your portable home at whatever backdrop you desire. The possibilities of portable architecture are the latest obsession of Alexandria furniture designer Daniel Donnelly.

Donnelly’s asking for an after-the-fact special use permit approval for three large taupe-colored Marine shipping containers at the entrance to his workshop at 80 S. Early Street. The modern furniture design business is located an industrial area of the city near police headquarters, and the open-sided containers were installed during the pandemic as a showroom for prospective customers.

Donnelly hasn’t sold any yet, but says the shipping containers — one 40-by-8-feet-long and two 20-by-8-foot containers — are now integral to his business. They cost him upward of $30,000 apiece, completely empty, and he says they are convenient for creating “portable architecture.” The containers are also water-tight when locked up, and are currently full of modern furniture.

“All you have to do is haul it on a tractor trailer and take it wherever you want,” Donnelly said of the shipping containers. “We’re adding beautiful treatments to them, like heating and flooring. They’re fully insulated with an eco-sustainably harvested plywood.”

Donnelly has been in business in the city since 1986, and with a small staff has created the furniture for a number of Hollywood hits, like in Richard Gere’s office in “Runaway Bride” and Steve Martin’s desk in “The Spanish Prisoner.” He also credits his firm for creating the furniture in Saturday Night Live‘s green room, as well as the furniture in Seth Meyers’ personal office.

“I did the furniture in his office,” Donnelly said. “When he opens up his desk drawer he can see my name.”

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