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Living Large in a Tiny Place

08 Feb Living Large in a Tiny Place

The reality of living in 160 sq.ft.   Why would anyone choose this?

As seen on the online magazine Tiny House Blog.

The nostalgic Airstream still gets grins from the gold era of travelers who trekked in Bonnieville station wagons towing their “drag-alongs.” Today, this 1978 Airstream is the home, office and access to the great outdoors for an industrious 27-year old Santa Barbara-based architect.

Chances are good that your grandfather owned one of these ubiquitous travel trailers. Except for the iMac mounted on the wall and the hi-def printer in the drawer, they haven’t changed much in the past 75 years.

Airstream’s been around since 1936 when the smooth-skinned aluminum bodies rolled aerodynamically off the Chicago production line. They temporarily stopped production in 1938 when the new lightweight material was needed for World War II. Many are still on the road today.

“Ever since I was a kid building 7-story tree houses I’ve liked reusing old stuff and making it usable again,” says its owner Matthew Hofmann, owner and founder of Hofmann Architecture, who spent the past eight months restoring the 25-footer. “It’s not only beautiful, it’s also useful.” “I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to live with less” says Hofmann, who parked the Airstream on a Montecito home site that burned down in the Tea Fire.

Two years ago I moved from a large house.  Moving has a way of making you consider the value of possessions.  I wondered, while looking at the massive truckload of things, how would I feel if this truck ran off a cliff and all was lost?   My stuff was beginning to feel like a burden, like luggage.  Things that I needed to take around with me wherever I went; a truckload sized ball and chain.

Here are a dozen real life reasons why living in 158 sq. ft. can be a very grand experience.

  1. Lower utility bills – serious sustainability
  2. Quicker to clean – 30 minutes tops
  3. Less maintenance – Say “goodbye” to the chimney sweeper, garage door repairman, and gardener
  4. A lot less clutter – I’ve reduced my paper use by 90%
  5. Better connected to my girlfriend – the small space encourages us to interact and work out our problems – we no longer have our “caves” or sides of the house to escape to.
  6. I’m taking more trips to the farmers market I’m purchasing more fresh fruits and vegetables.  No excessive frig/freezer or pantry spaces stuffed with outdated food
  7. Discourages procrastination – harder to ignore need-to-do’s when they’re staring right at you)
  8. Less stuff gets lost – less places to hide, and when they do, they tend to surface a week later in a shirt pocket
  9. Impulse buys – The question when purchasing an item “can I afford it.” Has changed into “can I store it?”
  10. Fewer house guests – Thanksgiving is a great time to spend time with your family, and so much better enjoyed when they stay at hotels.
  11. Simplified entertainment technology – I sold and no longer own: A dvd player, audio receiver, 7 speaker surround sound, plasma tv, desktop PC, laptop computer, countless remote controls, wireless home speaker system, and portable radio.  I then purchased: an IMac.
  12. I ended my dysfunctional relationship with Costco. – I realize now that I don’t really need a 5lb bag of peanuts or the treadmill that discourages me from ever leaving the confines of home.  Though, I still enjoy accompanying a friend to the mega box store to try the free samples.

“I enjoy working with clients who are willing to step boldly into the future with gutsy audacity,” he says. “Events such as the Tea Fire remind us that life’s too short not to overstep the boundaries of the ordinary and dream big.”  Matthew Hofmann is available to speak with to answer your questions and currently looking for new thoughtful and progressive architectural clients.  Check out their website and blog at for more information.

Contact information:
Matthew Hofmann
Architect, LEED Accredited Professional
Hofmann Architecture
[email protected]


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This topic contains 69 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Peggy 1 year ago.

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    The reality of living in 160 sq.ft.   Why would anyone choose this? As seen on the online magazine Tiny House Blog. The nostalgic Airstream still gets
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    You’ve taken my goal to a whole new level. Wow!



    I dream of owning an Airstream (well maybe two – one quiet for me and the other one for my small children). Your interior is absolutely gorgeous.
    It is quite expensive to ship one to New Zealand though. But I am researching it….
    You have definately done the right thing in downsizing and decluttering your life.
    V x


    Julia Gregory

    I love this idea and what you’ve done with it. I have always appreciated Airstreams. That’s not to say that this couldn’t be done with another brand shell, but Airstreams are made so well that many ancient ones are still around today, which makes them a great choice for a full-time residence/office. I just wish I could figure out where to put the family. sigh.



    It’s just lovely. I am curious about your water use. Do you have tanks that you always use or does your semi-permanent spot have plumbing?

    Profile photo of Matthew Hofmann
    Matthew Hofmann

    Both! I’m hooked up to a garden hose for daily water (ro filter for drinking.) Also hooked in to a septic tank. When I take it on trips, just fill up the freshwater tank.



    Very inspiring.



    Would living in an Airstream be feasable for two people?

    Profile photo of Matthew Hofmann
    Matthew Hofmann

    Absolutely. I highly suggest you give it a go.


    P Colando


    I’m envious! Your Airstream is beautiful.

    I’ve contemplated doing a similar project but have a few concerns. First, I have NO experience dealing with travel trailers other than looking them up every night on ebay. What was your greatest challenge on your project? My second concern is taking on a project that could potentially turn into a money pit. All said and done how much did it cost you? Finally, my skill set would be limited to demolition and odds and ends. Did you hire outsiders or do it all on your own?



    I love it. But I have one burning question. Where do you sleep? Opposite the kitchen worktop? Does the seat pull out into a bed?

    Profile photo of Matthew Hofmann
    Matthew Hofmann

    P Colando,

    Thanks for checking us out, and for the positive feedback.

    Your desire to take on a similar project can very well be a great experience, you will learn a LOT. My greatest challenge was taking the time to learn an alternative way to typical installation, and doing the research to learn how to do something that I didn’t before know how to do. That and getting the wet dog smell out of the coach.

    It may very well become a money pit, and depending on your budget, be very true to yourself regarding your goals and the time you have to invest in something like this. I was able to complete all the design and work on my own, without any outside help. I wanted the first Airstream restoration project to be solo so I could learn the entire process, and wrap my head around what it really takes. If you would like to talk more about working together on a restoration, please contact me. I’d be happy to speak with you.

    Profile photo of Matthew Hofmann
    Matthew Hofmann

    Yvette – You guessed correctly. I realize now that I don’t have any photos of the couch/ bed in it’s sleeping state. The unit has three stages of conversion: 1- The couch you see in the photos. 2- A twin bed for sleeping solo (easier to walk around the bed). 3- A full size pull out bed for two people.



    congratulations. although the fires raging through my hometown over these past few years have been horrible. your trailer is absolutely beautiful — a stunning remodel. great for you.



    The 30 minutes to clean might be one of my favorite parts! My boyfriend and I are in the process of buying a Spartan trailer to move into as well, and we are trying to decide…do we get a storage space for those things that we just can’t bare to get rid of, but don’t need in the trailer? Do you have extra storage somewhere?

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