The etymology of paragon dates back to ancient Greece, from the word parakonan, which meant "to sharpen." The prefix para was "alongside of," and akone was "whetstone."

Later, in "old" Italy, the word paragone meant "touchstone," a black stone that was used to judge the purity of gold and silver. The precious metals were rubbed on the stone, and the color of the streak indicated the metal's quality.

In Minnesota, Paragon Designs is living up to its name, serving as the "touchstone" of shipping container homes and other innovative designs. We are proudly presenting the first shipping container home in the state, located in North Minneapolis. The home features four 40 x 10 crates and one 20 x 10 crate. Learn more about the home by clicking here.

Shipping containers have played a key role in global trade in the second half of the 20th century, dramatically lowering the cost of moving goods long distances. But resourceful builders have realized another benefit: They make great homes, too!

Shipping containers are strong, eco-friendly and provide you a customizable and distinctive home

Click below to learn more!

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The Paragon Design Process

We pride ourselves in our designing, planning and executing. To that end, our process is of the utmost importance. An introductory phone consultation with each client is free. Here are the steps thereafter:

Meet the Paragon Team

Dave Schiller


Dave Schiller is proud to be different.

His childhood was filled with exploring the North Shore, where he developed an appreciation and passion for nature and a fascination with seeing opportunities in what others viewed as "problems."

"People often say, 'You can't do that,' " Dave says. "And I say, 'How can we do that?' "

Dave reaffirmed his knack for solving complex problems at Hamline University, where he thrived in Organic chemistry, long considered a "weed-out" collegiate course.

"We all have strengths and weaknesses," Dave says. But I found Organic chemistry very easy. It's a gift, to be able to see things in my head, in three dimensions. It's a joy I have in my life."

Biology, for instance, can be mastered through continuous reading, review and memorization. Physics and general chemistry is about grasping a concept, learning how to utilize a formula and adjusting the formula so the numbers fall in place to produce an answer. Organic chemistry, by contrast, is often said to be like one super-sized puzzle. One can't focus on memorization or having a command of "steps." Organic chemistry examines how molecules containing carbon interact and how electrons flow around and between molecules. But there is, of course, a twist — rules with lots of exceptions! One molecule may react differently based on any number of variables.

Dave, who graduated magna cum laude from Hamline with a bachelors degree in bio chemistry, has discovered how useful his gift is in design and construction.

"I see problems as things needing a solution," he says. "That comes from who I am, what was fostered in me getting an education in hard sciences. Problem. Hypothesis. Testing. Solution."

In 2017, Dave was stunned to discover there was no shipping container home built in the Twin Cities. So working with mentors, Dave implemented his process, eventually getting the contracting licenses to build the first one.

"It's exciting to build the first one," Dave says, "but I can't wait to find more people who are just as excited to create something different too."

Our Crew

Erling Holdahl

Erling shined on the soccer field in his youth, competing at a high level with his Olympic Development Program from Minnesota and continuing on to play in college. His drive and determination served him well on the field and into his sales career.

And he's sold a lot of different products and services: Cable, internet, vacuum cleaners, packaging systems, gym memberships and personal training sessions.

But what he's loved about working with Paragon brings back what he loved about soccer: Teamwork. Away from work, the Paragon teammates all have a shared passion for handball. But on sites, they value working together and solving problems.

"I handle sales, but I get engrossed in helping," says Erling, whose degrees in mechanical engineering and mechanical drafting are helpful to Paragon. "Once some heavy-duty equipment was going to arrive late. Most people would say, 'Let's just wait.' But we were hands-on, digging a ditch, and got it done on time to stay on schedule."

Erling has sold for companies you may have heard of, such as L.A. Fitness and Kirby vacuums. But he embraces his current challenge."

"Construction sales probably been the toughest," he says. "There's a lot of competition. But it's incredible from the very beginning and watching a goal just go through the phases and how much hard work is put into it. It starts with nothing, and you watch something transform into something that's super, super cool."

Ray Miller

Ray had lots of interests growing up in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. But when he was 8 years old, he was intrigued when his mother hired a carpenter named Reynold to refinish the family's basement.

"I would sit on the stairs and watch him," Ray says, "and I was completely enamored by what he was doing."

Reynold and Ray's mother eventually started dating, and Ray, in essence, became an apprentice to Reynold on various projects, including cabinetry. Reynold was masterful with his hands, and he did tasks with precision and confidence.

At 10, desiring some space of his own, Ray decided to transform an unused third-floor room in their house in his own bedroom.

"There were open walls and rafters, no insulation, but I wanted to get away since there were five of us in the house," Ray says.

Ray did it all, wiring and insulating the room, constructing the walls and installing a door (with a lock) and panelling he found at a steep discount.

But more than ability, Ray learned something else from Reynold, who grew up on a farm in South Dakota.

"We used to go up to his farm," Ray says, "and that's where I think I really learned how to work. You're up at dawn, and you work and pick rocks out of the field until it's dark."

Over decades, Ray has worked for and started his own construction and contractor-related companies. He prides himself on building strong teams and identifying smart, hard-working people.

So Dave stood out, when Ray hired him to build a wall out of boulders. Ray started to mentor Dave over several years. Then Dave came to him with an idea: Homes built out of shipping containers.

But first, Ray insisted Dave should get his contractor license and grow in other areas of construction.

"A friend of mine told me it wasn't possible to do in Minnesota," Ray says. "But I rememberer telling him, 'If anybody's going to do it, Dave's going to do it because he has the tenacity, the focus and the drive and to get through anything."

Sebastijan Mileusnich

Sebastijan was born on a fruit and cattle farm in Yugoslavia, but his family immigrated to the United States in 1994, when he was four years old, because of civil unrest there.

He learned to be resourceful and handy growing up on a farm. If something broke, your first instinct is to fix it yourself.

"You have to learn how to be a creative and how to use the things you have around you," Sebastijan says. "If you have to build a bigger cow or pig pen, you've got to make it yourself. You got to cut down some logs, trim them down and put them into the ground."

But some of his favorite early projects were building ramps to jump his bike off of. Sebastijan learned how to bend the boards to make the jumps go as high as possible. Then, he decided to build a "Man Cave," where he could play video games.

Sebastijan said his family is grateful to be in the United States, where many of his siblings are working in health care.

"Some people aren't as blessed to make it out of their circumstances, but we've been blessed," he says. "We came to America, and our lives have been so amazing. I feel like this is the land of opportunity. If you really strive for success, and if you push yourself forward, you can really accomplish anything you want to do."

Sebastijan started his career in construction in Las Vegas, flipping houses. He learned to do everything, although framing was one of his first areas of expertise.

As he developed his reputation, Sebastijan saw many people cutting corners or being dishonest, but he's tried his best to honor one of the enduring lessons from his parents.

"Have integrity," he says. "You have a choice to do right, or do wrong. And life's a lot easier if you do things the right way and then do it with humility."

Sebastijan and his family (four sisters and a twin brother) are still mourning the passing of his father in 2020. But Sebastijan is married, and the couple are expecting their first child soon.

"Our family is very supportive, very close," he says. "So we all hold each other up and keep each other in mind."