After traveling to Mexico in the spring of 2003, my soon to be wife, Kit and I decided to teach a cob workshop in the Baja [www.cobworks.com]. With a family on the way, [twin boys] I decided we needed something more than tent camping. I had always been against motor homes and big trailers but figured if I was to build a trailer; hey it would be cool.
Armed with a budget of $1500, I did some research, and fell in love with style, grace and philosophy of teardrop trailers. Never much one for plans, I began by cutting out a design on cardboard until a shape emerged that was oh so sweet. The first step was assembling a small trailer frame that came in a box and them bolting on a floor. The sides were plywood with tongue and groove spruce to form the curve of the top. This was then covered in aluminum and a recycled skylight installed.
The new “Baja Bullet” featured a door on each side, queen size bed, small shelf/bunk for the boys and an exterior fold up counter/kitchen. The sides were finished to match my 1970’s “woody” station wagon that was to pull it. It weighed 850 pounds and towed like a dream. There is nothing like camping when you have your own mattress, bedding and are not sleeping on the ground. On our road trips south, we would pull into a rest stop, climb in the Bullet and be comfortable,cozy and safe.
Everyone would give us a thumb’s up on the road and crowds would gather for a peek if we were parked. Cruising on the I-5 through L.A. with 10 lanes of traffic, I realized I needed to be over 5 lanes…….now! Kit glanced up at me and began chanting, “cute trailer coming through, cute trailer coming through” as I began my drift through traffic. Not once, in all our road trips, has anybody ever honked at us in anger. After 4 trips to Baja, we decided a bigger Bullet was in order.
Enter, Baja Bullet II; the next generation. Lightning struck my shop in 2007 and armed with a little insurance money, I had a new budget for my next project. Using the same cardboard/eyeball design method as before and guided by the philosophy: if it looks right, it is right, I began. Starting with a 16′ tandem axle electric brake trailer, I built the floor, with the same plywood sides and T&G roof. This was covered with stainless steel and cedar board and batten siding.
This model has a queen size bed, bunk beds, fir flooring, leaded glass windows, skylight and a small table fashioned from driftwood. There is a full walk in galley, accessible from the exterior which includes a stove, sink, cooler and a breakfast-in-bed window for Kit. I milled all the lumber on a portable bandsaw mill using logs harvested on my own property. The trailer weighs 4500 pounds and we tow it with a diesel truck. It has traveled to Baja twice and has had numerous road trips around western Canada. Where am I going with all this oh yeah.
What do you do with the Bullet when you get home? Clean it up, fix it up and park it in the yard. Then what? Kit had an up and coming art show and no studio. Store the mattress, fold up the bed and install a 4’X7′ work table. Instant studio. There is plenty of cabinets and shelves for art supplies and the bunk beds are still available for guests. After the art show Kit [graphic designer] needed an office for a job so I ran out a power cord and an internet access cable and she now has a warm cozy office.
It will be hard for her to give it up when we take to the road again. It got me to thinking about how many people could use this kind of space. It is only 100 sq.ft. but we use it every single day. I have been a builder of small homes for many years using cob, bales, timber frame, drift wood, recycled lumber and slabs. I have always tried to incorporate as much local materials as possible in my homes. The concept of a small simple portable space just seems to make so much sense.
Imagine owning your own home with no mortgage [from the Greek word which literally means death grip], creating a tiny footprint with minuscule utility bills and lastly being able to change the view to suit your job or mood. Building codes allow structures under 108 sq.ft. not to require a permit. You can build even bigger if it is on a trailer and not classified as a permanent structure. The uses of these small spaces are endless; guest cabin that sleeps 2-4 adults, art studio, office [completely tax deductable], playroom for kids or grandkids, library, mother-in-law suite, teen learning to play electric guitar, or hobby workshop. Maybe you just need a place where you can smoke cigars, drink fine Scotch and play poker.
The downside of living in a small space is getting rid of all that junk. Maybe this is not such a bad thing. When I moved from 2000 sq.ft to an 800 sq.ft cob house, I stored all my boxes in a shed. It’s been 3 years and I can’t even remember what’s in those boxes. Guess I really didn’t need them. I think kids and tiny houses could be a challenge, but for a single person or a couple, very much in love perfect. Also beware of kids moving back home into your newly created sanctuary.
I am currently milling the lumber for a 107 sq.ft. Caravan that will be trailerable or can be set down on your property without the expense of the trailer. It can still be moved at a later date. The construction will be with 2″ solid cedar walls and ceiling on curved exposed rafters. Interior finishings will include a sofa that folds out to a bed, wardrobe/closet, polished cedar countertop with sink, leaded glass windows, wood flooring and table/chairs made from driftwood. Electrical will all be to code and includes lights, plugs and electric heater. The roof is colored metal with a skylight. This unit will be available Spring 2011 for around $10,000 Canadian.
Need something a little bigger? I will custom build on a 20′ trailer, a 170 sq.ft. small home. We can work together to design a home that is exactly what you envision. Most of these homes require a 120/240 RV hook up. With the plumbing option you will also need to be connected to a sewer system or septic tank. The unit can be moved to a new location with a 3/4 ton pickup. The trailers have electric brakes and are all road certified with running and signal lights. The many options can include:
-Full kitchen and bathroom
-Sleeping loft with skylights
-Custom cabinets and shelving
-Multiple siding options
-Off the grid solar/composting toilet option
-Natural wood floors and interior finishing
-All plumbing and electrical to code
I am located on Mayne Island, midway between Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia Canada. Delivery can be arranged for Vancouver Island and the lower Mainland. Not sure about U.S.but with free trade and all, I imagine something can be worked out. I will be posting photos this winter of the Caravan with the whole building process. Cobworks is also thinking about hosting a 2011 workshop, where you can spend 2 weeks and gain all the necessary skills to build your own Caravan. Please contact Patrick at www.cobworks.com for a free consultation or more information.