Tag Archives: tiny homes

The Highland Park Trailer Project

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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.

Highland Park Silver Streak Trailer

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.


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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.


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This is what it looked like after the initial gutting. Luckily there was a pre-existing deck (this plays a major part soon).


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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.


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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.


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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).


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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.


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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.


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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!


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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.


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Home is where you park it! : Tiny living in my freshly renovated vintage Silver Streak trailer in Highland Park! (I did it under $1500)

Original post here: Home is where you park it! : Tiny living in my freshly renovated vintage Silver Streak trailer in Highland Park! (I did it under $1500)

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Home is where you park it! : Tiny living in my freshly renovated vintage Silver Streak trailer in Highland Park! (I did it under $1500)

This dream of a project consisted of A LOT of power tools, sorting of scraps, recouping after random El Nino storms, and organizing what seemed like an endless to-do list. But persistence (and mild OCD) got us to where we wanted to be!

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I’ve always been pretty into the idea of living with as few material possessions as possible. Since living like a true Semana isn’t a viable reality for me, I at least try to stick to the essentials (or at very least quality goods that mean something to me).

I had an amazing living situation in Highland Park with two of my best friends that are getting their doctorates from CalTech in physics (intense!) But alas, when I was introduced to my knock-out artist/feminist/rock star of a neighbor, Stormie Art (of Roseark Jewelry), my Sagittarius instinct kicked in (classic) and I convinced her to let me live in and renovate the vintage Silver Streak “Jet” trailer instead of turning it into her mobile boutique (she’d been toying with the idea for a while). 19′ and she’s all mine.

She was down (what, really?!), and I was surprised about it. Luckily, the move wasn’t a long and/or strenuous one (I’m across the street), and it only took one car load to move my belongings. So begins the journey of the budget-minded (and epic) Highland Park Silver Streak renovation!

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She needed some work. I saw the potential and never doubted her! We got started right away clearing out the insides of what used to be a mobile office for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

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And with the help of some tiny laborers, we chiseled away at the project day-by-day. Luckily, I had just acquired amazing lumber from the San Franciscan Bay area from a dear friend (and my favorite artist), Kyle, who owns Bay Area Custom Furniture as well as creates work that can be seen here.

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After scraping away at a few decades of dirt and grime from the walls and coating her with some new stark white matte paint, she was beginning to feel the new life breathed into her. I used some of my lumber to create some accents throughout the trailer included the Douglas fir, boiled linseed oil varnished, entrance wall.

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We got lucky on the floor and found a lad in the area with a limited supply of hardwood cherrywood (a step up from the most cost-efficient option of linoleum wood flooring). Generally, the floor planks are staggered, but I chose the quality of the wood over the standard design because we had to be as efficient with the planks as possible.

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I had purchased the small dresser drawers from a pretty great store in Ventura, California called Rotations. I need to be as space efficient as possible, so I just sawed an inch or so off of each leg and applied little sliders to the bottom of each foot to eliminate scratches on the hardwood floor.

While I do have power to the trailer, it helped saved space and electricity utilizing a couple of fans (for summer) and a small portable space heater (for winter) as well as some pretty great value camping lanterns that I think add to the authentic aesthetic of the trailer.

The large print on the wall is one o the original layout prints for the community garden (Milagro Allegro), so I framed it and it’s just one more element of my tiny home that means a lot to me!

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The most labor intensive part of the project was replacing and reinstalling light/air ventilation units in the top of the trailer. We had to take out the old units, replace them, seal the air holes, and tar the surfaces to protect against water damage. In the end, they allow for pretty impressive air circulation and natural light.

The tire cover box is a multi-functional sitting surface as well as a sort of display area where I used a soft throw and some big throw pillows to add some more texture in the room. If you look closely, you can see my issue of the latest Tom Tom magazine sitting on it!

I purchased two air plants from Echo Garden  on York Blvd. in Highland Park, and the other finer details sort of popped up organically. The two antique table lights are compliments of antique-junkie/entry level hoarder, Stormie. The genuine leather (bad ass) vintage barber chair was purchased from the buyer for a local store, Sunbeam Vintage (okay, okay, it was my splurge).

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The yellow rolling chair (one of my favorite pieces) was also found at a thrift store in Ventura. On the bottom of it there is actually an etched “property of” tag, tracing it back to a hospital office in the late 70s!  The filing units under the desk were original from the previous office set up. They had been painted and after scrubbing away with some steel wool, I was able to reach the layer of cool sea foam green, then seal it off with some anti-rust spray.

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The avocado table is an original piece created by yours truly! I wrote an article about it in 2014 which can be read here, and I am so excited that it (and it’s counter part, the side table/ stump next to the bed) have found a home where I think they really vibe.

The books on top of the table are a gift from a good friend. They are graphic novels by artist Jaime Hernandez and part of a series called Love and Rockets (and I recommend you get your hands on a copy whenever you get the chance). There’s also some good read on the shelf that I’ve collected through the years and even some recent purchases from one of my favorite places, The Last Bookstore, in Downtown Los Angeles, where I sift through the $1 book section for hours.

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Homey touches are along the walls, where I printed some old pictures of my family and stacked some of my favorite art prints on the empty light canisters (original to the trailer). I also have some original prints hanging (you can see them in the “Drawings” section of The Whirling Girlish) as well as a piece from Highland Park artist, Bleys Lieuallen, and one of my favorite prints by artist Tom Lamb, who does hand drawn maps of different L.A. neighborhoods.

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Not shown above are the 100+ year old tiles that are from the original house on the main property that was built in 1906 and rest on one acre of land (even amidst the burgeoning nature of the neighborhood). I still need to wipe away the excess grout! Eek! The only caveat is that the internet connection in the trailer is a little less than desirable, so I had to improvise.

Sidenote: (Shout out to the bowl of packaged seeds from the Amaranth harvest we had at the Milagro Allegro Community Garden for the seed library!). I manage the garden and we do some pretty cool stuff. Another perk? It’s right up the street from me, located by my daily spot, Kinship Yoga who partners with us at the garden for various projects, and also the Historic Highland Theatre off of Figueroa.

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I attached a simple curtain to the closet area not only to take away from the business of my wardrobe, but also to add a bit of texture to the space. I also did this by adding some different printed wool blankets from Pendleton (via eBay), and adding some large throw pillows to the day bed (also what I like to refer to as, you know, “my bed”). Most of that I just got from some of my favorite Goodwill stores (Glassell Park, Santa Barbara, Redondo Beach).

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(There have since been multiple succulents and other such wonderful living things moved onto the deck using recycled containers and water!)

Another one of the my favorite elements is the bright yellow door….my spirit color! When it’s shut and you are on the interior of the trailer, it adds a pretty awesome pop against the white walls and ties together different yellow access around the space ie: the rolling desk chair. The outdoor deck ain’t too shabby either. I’m using a lot of the old drawer units and remaining filing cabinets as planters for different plants and succulents I have growing about.

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Now there are more pictures on the walls and texture added by the combination of fleece and wool blankets. It would also be a good opportunity to add some sort of sheep skin, or maybe a cow hyde (artificial if you are sensitive about real furs!). Instead of bulky curtains, I opted for a crochet scarf I found at the Bearded Beagle in Highland Park. It allows for sunlight to stream through and still gives me privacy without the inconvenience of bulky drapery or shutter blinds.

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There are some awesome left over pieces of lumber and I was able to make this bike table (created from a vintage movie-prop bike that had been rusting away in my neighbor’s yard for years, and some of the refurbished Douglas fir panels!)

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Next to come? An outdoor brick bread oven. Then the holiday trailer/oven parties will be a go-go! She’s going to be a work in progress for as long I live there, and I am looking forward to every minute of it!

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Proof it can be done! Use your resources (do you know anyone that might have the materials you’re looking for?), try to keep it local (it’ll mean more if you do), and say “yes” when the opportunity comes up! Is it conventional? I mean, not really.

But if nothing else it does make for a good ice breaker at parties.