I moved to the one-of-a-kind neighborhood of Highland Park in North East Los Angeles (NELA) early 2014. Paradise. I was steps away from Figueroa Street, a melting pot of history, culture, and the kind of diverse community one only dreams of. Day and night I heard the buzzing of cars traveling north to Pasadena or southward toward Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), just a couple of miles away via the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway.
Everyday I passed vintage autos lining my street, a stunning collection belonging to a life long HP native. I’d stroll by the Highland Theater ,with its giant, glimmering marquee lights, and quickly became a deeply involved member of the Milagro Allegro Community Garden after winning my own plot in the biannual garden lottery. Shortly after, I joined the Arroyo Seco Arts Collective, the longest standing active arts collective in East LA. From the top of Deb’s Park, I had a 360 degree view reminding me of all the reasons I now find myself residing on the West Coast. It should be noted, however, a piece of my heart will forever reside in the south, where I grew up in Florida.
When I first arrived to HP, I lived with two brilliant physicists (my soon to be best friends) pursuing and ultimately receiving doctorates in particle and theoretical physics at CalTech University. I found them on Craigslist. Together we explored HP and its various and equally interesting surrounding neighborhoods. We still are passionate about experiencing and absorbing the uniqueness of every corner. I adopted my dog, a xoloitzcuintli named Tesla, from my next door neighbors whom tended the Tierra de La Culebra Art Park, a long-time beacon of communal arts in the area.
It came time to relocate, and I most randomly, bumped into a true spur-of-the moment deal of a lifetime for myself and my new landlord. I’d move my belongings that very evening (consisting of just two trips across the way in my Honda Fit) onto an acre of sacred land in the heart of the place I called home. Sharing the large piece of land with me, would be my landlord and close friend, a world-renowned artist (look her up here–), tediously working away in her studio and pouring her heart and soul into her land. It would not be a conventional living arrangement (I’d have to run across the yard to go to the restroom, take a shower, and use the kitchen and washing machine), yet it turned into my most prized art project and life experience to date.
The 19′ long 1969 Vintage Silverstreak “Jet” that I’d passed by wondering about everyday for well over a year had suddenly become the space and canvas for a most great art piece andadventure. The caveat was that I’d have to re-build everything from the ground up, as the livability of the trailer was next to zero—a challenge I did not hesitate to accept. There was undeniably work to be done. When the project began, my heart was in it, and there was no turning back. Soon after the groundbreaking, passing travelers, and neighbors in their cars cheered me on as I worked tirelessly with some friends through the heat day after day, every day, for over a month. I was thankful to be in a place where I could afford to make the renovation my full time job for at least a little while. The odds and ends came organically.
Initially, this trailer was used as a mobile office for the LA Department of Water and Power . Therefore its original interior had been modified to accommodate a more functional work space. Task #1—it had to be gutted. Whatever critters might have been calling it home would have to relocate elsewhere.
In the heat of summer, the next priority was ventilation. Initially, it seemed there was none. It was stagnant and suffocating, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. After some YouTube research, with the help of a friend, we installed three air vents atop the roof. Until these were installed, I improvised by sleeping in the breezy outdoor porch of the main house, or slept in my car with the trunk open (it was cooler in those spots than inside the 100+ year old, 100% American Craftsman home). We caulked, tarred and sealed any existing cracks to prevent water damage inside, and re-screened the multiple surrounding windows. Privacy and curtains would have to come later.
Some of the most enlightening things I learned about myself during this journey were a) I don’t need a lot of material things, b) I like getting my hands dirty, and most interestingly of all, c) I don’t require much privacy (like, at all). At some point, there isn’t anything left to hide.
This is what it looked like after the initial gutting. Luckily there was a pre-existing deck (this plays a major part soon).
After acquiring some beautiful lumber from my friend/owner (and one of the most up-and-coming contemporary artists to watch of this time, Kyle Austin Dunn) of BayAreaCustomFurniture located in Oakland, I was able to do some fine-tune wood working with the beautiful extra donated slats used to add accents and personal touches of my own. Primarily these pieces were used for wall panels and my custom work desk. I came across solid red wood floor panels and gained my hands on experience laying down a genuine hardwood floor, replacing sheets of old, damp, plywood. The result gave a true breath of life to the space. Stark white walls were established after three layers of primer, three layers of paint, and two days of scrubbing and cleaning away years of grime and dust.
Living a minimalist lifestyle has always been my chosen path. Each item in the trailer was of personal value. My goal was to create product of form and function working in concert—Pictures, curated salon wall, artwork of friends, antique furniture and accent pieces, the works. The vintage barber chair show is a stellar find from a local man of the neighborhood with an unparalleled skill collecting metal odds and ends selling them to local antique and vintage stores. We’d done business before, and he came to me first, knowing I’d be ecstatic. Um, yes please.
Hanging on the wall to the left in the photo below is the original hand drawn design plan for the the community garden. These sort of pieces are priceless. My bed shown above is small and an irregular shape. A special foam pad needed to be cut to accommodate the curved front of the trailer, but it fit me perfectly. Space underneath functioned as extra storage, optimizing any and all extra areas I had to play with.
Those nights ended up being some of the best rests I’ve ever had. In the summer, when it was scorching, I’d sleep with the door wide open, facing palm trees, while Chopper, our sweetest property dog, staked out on the deck keeping me safe. In the winter, it was a different story. I had a small yet effective space heater. Yet my mother sensed the probability of changing weather conditions and mailed an electric blanket well in advance during the early fall…(thanks, Mom).
Power ran straight from the main house under a shallow ditch using a couple long, orange extension cords. Something tells me this isn’t to code. I’ll apologize later. Moving on! It was thrifty clearly a project in which we had to be resourceful—not to mention, it worked perfectly. The hanging lanterns shown here proved my primary light sources. When it came to using the internet or talking on the phone I took that business out to the deck any hint of a signal.
The stump pictured below is actually made of real California avocado wood, originating from a mature tree I knew during my time surfing for six months in Ventura, California before making my post-graduation move to LA to pursue my burgeoning future as a writer and producer in Hollywood. The beautiful tree was tragically cut down, despite much protest from locals. Alas I collected the remnants I could. I created this stump and a live edge coffee table which I added hairpin legs to and use on a daily basis.
This is the even more fun part.
Months later after the bulk of the work was in good standing, a close friend of mine, a Senior Producer at The Ellen Show, approached me about an upcoming segment of the Ellen Show show called Grand Design. A professional crew would come in, and renovate various spaces across the country in just two days per project for under $1,000. Obviously, I was down for it all. Within a month the job was done and exceeded any and all expectations. See for yourself.
The revived shiny coat was achieved by using a finish that is used by airliners to maintain their appearance and upkeep. A turquoise stripe added just the right personal touch, matching the style of not only myself but also my eccentric property owner/artist whom generously allowed me to share her land. Potted succulents on the deck lived organically among the surrounding natural plant landscape.
The best parts are the simple horizontal slat privacy walls and sunshade, making it easy to entertain, as it was more difficult in such small quarters. The transformation was not only aesthetically transforming but also initiated a re-birth and revitalization in the mindsets and hearts of all that gave energy to this project.
Others seemed to agree!
Look at all the attention it received on social media! My project got its fifteen minutes of fame and also a lifetime of appreciation and love from me.
Check out the articles here.
Want to see the episode? Click HERE!
There were many of these lazy days and and existing lifetime of gratitude, memories and pride in my work and the team of others that helped me with achieve my vision.