Tiny House in a Landscape

airstream in a landscape

This weeks Tiny House in a Landscape features a Airstream trailer with the mountains in the background. I have been a big fan of Airstreams for many years and I lived in one for a year while in college. I think tiny house designers can take lessons from RV designs and apply them to their own.

I was recently on a tiny house panel at Sunset Magazine with Ella, Vina, and Catherine. While there I toured two tiny houses brought to the show by Tumbleweed and I also toured a 28 foot Airstream International Signature RV.

airstream in a landscape

To be honest with you I felt most at home in the Airstream. It was very modern and luxurious but the thing that stood out for me the most was the use of the living space. I have shown you the floor plan below. My wife and I both liked the fact that we could walk around the bed. There was lots of storage and the rest of the “house” just flowed and seemed wide open. I would really enjoy seeing this type of design in a tiny house.

tiny house panel

28 foot floor plan

 

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Yojimbo - June 7, 2014 Reply

So blatantly commercial. The photo looks like it’s lifted from the Airstream catalogue! Disappointing. Everybody’s got to pay the bills — but even in the “In a Landscape” feature? I hope Kent doesn’t continue this slide from the personal and idiosyncratic toward the corporate and the mercantile.

    Suzanne - June 7, 2014 Reply

    There’s no reason to bash Airstreams. Using an existing Airstream might be a better use of resources than building something new.

    Billby - June 7, 2014 Reply

    Relative to commercialism, my airstream (a 1969-186square ft one) cost me about $ 6,000 and for a couple more $k I have a nice home that’s form definitely follows it’s function. It has mobility and a small manufacturing carbon footprint (spread over 40 years). As to ownership being a cult there is an element of exclusion from any group that has something that they consider special, including tiny homes. I love tiny homes but from what I have seen I can not afford one. So here I am stuck with an airstream, which beats me having to live in a bigger house all the time, but still does not relieve me of the burden of dependence upon the good will of others. I hope this is not taken as harsh criticism but as friendly sharing of another perspective. Cheers billby

    Earl - June 7, 2014 Reply

    So, where would Tumbleweed homes, for instance, fall on the personal-mercantile spectrum?

    As for the Airstream, it’s tiny, it’s a home, it’s in a landscape. What’s not to like?

    dewhit - June 7, 2014 Reply

    The reasoning for tiny /small housing should be for finding dependable shelter at a more reasonable price point that can be moved for many that require it and easily maintained on moderate incomes.

    But….somewhere along the line, the direction towards this ‘little house on the prairie” look and anything that didn’t have the outward appearance of a cabin is met with cries of unqualified. Why ?

    Many that express desire for housing are missing many financially sound platforms already available thru RV’s , Trailers and Fifth Wheel units. They are everywhere and they are very affordable.

    Do you need a “cabin badge” or someplace to lay your head ?

      Ken Caye - June 8, 2014 Reply

      Absolutely correct. Back in the mid 50’s when I was a very junior married sailor, we bought a 35X8. It was spacious. We had it until we had 3 children. Then we moved into a 50X10. I was now a senior enlisted sailor. It traveled – not with us pulling it, but home was the same for several different ports. Left it with 2 years to go before retirement. Our kids still tell stories of the fun we had – the last 5 years we had our own lot with about 30 others – mostly military & it was great!

    John - June 9, 2014 Reply

    Ouch. Ken has and continues to give us so much. Perhaps your time is better spent elsewhere.

    Joe - June 10, 2014 Reply

    YOJIMBO,
    Lest we all forget, from Jay Shafer’s 2009, The Small House Book, he begins on p.8, “I have been living in houses of fewer than 100 square feet for nearly twelve years. The first of my little abodes was a fourteen-foot Airstream.”
    His move to the Tumbleweed was not a political choice shedding “corporate and mercantile” influences. It was about personal taste and design. His used Airstream cost him $3000. His finished Tumbleweed cost $30,000. Some of us cannot afford the luxury of even a $30,000 home regardless of size. If an Airstream is more affordable and serves ones needs for a simpler life, if it also leaves a smaller carbon footprint then I think it is true to the movement.
    Uppity value judgments motivated by some sort of “purist” mindset that requires stick built owner construction is a viewpoint that does not serve the movement. It was uppity zoning laws to maintain real estate values that have hampered us all. We don’t don’t need to impose our own exclusive attitudes on others. Jay lives in a larger home now that he has a family. Size is driven by need and taste and should be decided by each of us.
    Kent simply shows us alternatives. Don’t shoot the messenger and don’t begin to think anyone of us speaks for all, including yourself.

John Mauldin - June 7, 2014 Reply

Owning an Airstream is like owning a Harley. It is almost a “cult” following. Due to the aluminum exteriors and rivets, they are very strong and enduring. Polish one up that is forty years old and it looks like new! I have always liked Airstream because they are aerodynamically designed and lighter in weight than traditional trailers and, therefore, much easier to tow. Something very attractive to anyone who must drive the vehicle that does the towing. And, as you state, they provide great function so there is no doubt we can borrow on some of the characteristics of the Airstream to integrate into tiny houses. For me, they are a bit “sterile” in design. But, of course, that is a matter of personal taste. I prefer the loft, higher ceilings and the resemblance to a regular size home over the airstream or any travel trailer. It is more like my idea of “home”.

Dorothy - June 7, 2014 Reply

“I would really enjoy seeing this type of design in a tiny house.”

I understood what you said—-and so would I Kent! This Airstream would not be my choice because it is ultramodern but that doesn’t change the fact that the layout of the Airstream is very good and could be easily done in a tiny home—-if only they would.

    PJ Slade - June 7, 2014 Reply

    Anne, the design looking “ultramodern” almost made me choke on my tea, since the one shown is a 1954 model. Airstream has used that signature appearance throughout the history of their company, so externally, a polished & clean ’54 model may not at a glance at least, look very different from a 2004 one. That is the appeal of Airstream for their owners – the timeless aerodynamic styling & structural longevity, not to mention superior build quality. It’s my guess while there are RV clubs or travel groups in Canada & the USA here in North America, and elsewhere in the world, the only brand-dedicated one I’ve4 ever heard of is for those who have Airstreams, from the smallest single-axle model to the largest tri-axle one that are the size of a park trailer. I’m inclined to agree with Kent that were I forced to live in a trailer that was ready to roll at short notice & live in over far-flung parts of the continent, I’d choose an Airstream, if money were no barrier & if the slippery silver exterior got on my nerves, seek out a facility that applies the paint finishes to air liners & have it personalised to suit my preference.

Anne - June 7, 2014 Reply

Why bash Kent for his love of airstreams? We have all looked at caravans from EU and other things as well. We could all benefit from looking at everything people live in as portable shelter; and as to the cult following for airstream, there are those who would be pointing to us as a cult for our passion for hand built tiny homes. Just saying there’s room for all points of view.

David Burns - June 7, 2014 Reply

I love the passion that the Tiny House movement brings up. I think we should love all tiny “homes” for the ideas they instill in all of us. Check out this Airstream masterpiece!

https://plus.google.com/photos/115419787440652490174/albums/5261454048912005505?banner=pwa

    alice h - June 7, 2014 Reply

    Wow! My kind of Airstream interior! One of the things I don’t like about trailer layouts is the narrow hallway between lines of built-ins so the open space in front of the couch on this one is great. Love the more rustic design too. Taking the trailer as a basic shell a person can totally redo the interior to be anything they like as long as the weight and balance are kept in mind.

    david - June 7, 2014 Reply

    David, the interior of the Airstream you posted.. A real bloke’s space..not one frilly cushion in sight. Perfect.

stephen - June 7, 2014 Reply

I love Airstreams. I think they are well built and designed. We can learn a lot from them.

Br. Curt Beardsley - June 7, 2014 Reply

Airstreams are classic. They used to be the finest built trailer built. I don’t know if that’s true any more. They are built to last, so the expense is worth it as long as you live in it for a very, very long time. Buy a used one and you’ve got a bargain. Sadly, I owned a 27 footer many years ago and didn’t have the sense to keep it. It would be a wonderful home now.

Christine - June 7, 2014 Reply

Is this airstream for sale?

David Ludwig - June 7, 2014 Reply

I’ve been living for 8 years in a solar powered Airstream with this floor plan. I love it.

Suzanne - June 7, 2014 Reply

There’s no reason to bash Airstreams. Using an existing Airstream might be a better use of resources than building something new.

Teresa - June 7, 2014 Reply

I’m retired and can’t climb stairs or a ladder to get to a loft bedroom so I appreciate the one floor design. I have only seen one tiny house design with that feature. Not too crazy about the modern design of airstream but I could live with that if I had to.

david - June 7, 2014 Reply

David, that Airstream on the site you posted..now that’s a beauty, very warm. A little bit like a Texas Tiny home.The best I’ve ever seen.Thanks.

david - June 7, 2014 Reply

David, I wish I’d never seen the Airstream interior you just posted,it’s warm and alive..I’d lock myself up in there and never want to come out. Such a warm, and yes, healing space.Like it’s alive. You’re right..a masterpiece.

bill kruse - June 7, 2014 Reply

Love the idea that Airstream is too MODERN! That makes a 1946 Ford too modern. Makes me at 73 modern!

Jane - June 7, 2014 Reply

Being a senior, I, too, wanted a design that allowed me to sleep on the first floor, and to have a full-sized bathtub. I designed it myself, and am having a builder draw up the plans and build it for me. Only what I want, and nothing I don’t. A good sized kitchen, a large living room, and a hand-built bed that will flip into a sofa easily. The small loft is only there for display and storage. Steps holding books and coats lead to the loft.
Pre-made plans I’ve seen tend to cater to the younger side of the general public, who don’t have as many of the individual challenges that older folk do.
Get out some graph paper and start designing a layout that YOU love.

Shell - June 8, 2014 Reply

I don’t understand bashing any of the ideas, really. After all, they are just someone’s idea or how they are living. Doesn’t mean you have to live that way. Having different tastes is what makes the word go around, right? What an extremely boring place it would be if we all thought the same and everything was the same. Very happy it’s not that way!

I love seeing all the ideas, no matter what they are. I know I want my own simple little place someday, so I love the opportunity to see different ideas. It helps me narrow down ideas for me future place. I do have to agree that personally, I would like something that looked more like a cabin/house feel. My Grandpa built houses. He had this amazing little fishing cabin he built that became the whole family’s piece of paradise. After he died, I loved going down there. I could feel his presence as soon as I walked in. I’d love to touch the walls and feel that he was right there. I guess that’s why I personally prefer that cabin feel with the wood.

I love the idea of the wood inside the airstream. The outside still wouldn’t work for me personally. However, I do find them very nice looking and happy that others are making good use out of them. So nice not to let great things go to waste. : )

Namaste

    david - June 9, 2014 Reply

    Shell, yes, Jung too speaks of emotions being held in objects. I feel it strongly myself in old abandoned buildings or looking into the ribs of a wrecked ship. Or objects from when i was a kid, can still bring back the memory or flavour.

alice h - June 8, 2014 Reply

The reasoning for tiny/small housing is as varied as those doing the reasoning. There isn’t a lot of difference between saying something should follow a particular financial model and something should follow a particular aesthetic. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice and a person is free to decide which one works best for their circumstances and what compromises, if any, they need to make.

Sometimes what people say when they’re expressing a preference comes out as more disapproving of other choices than was perhaps intended. Other people then get ruffled feathers and respond a bit hastily and suddenly accusations and recriminations are flying. Relax people. It’s OK, we can all just be friends here, united in our enthusiasm for smaller living spaces regardless of where we fall on the interest spectrum.

Lana - June 8, 2014 Reply

I am obsessed with seeing these things. Whenever I see one on the road I try to imagine the inside being renovated into this perfect tiny house! Love it!

    Hollymaren - June 10, 2014 Reply

    I bought my ’72 27ft Airstream off of EBAY. We are in the process of figuring out how to fix it up and renovate it. Lots of work ahead, but there is the excitement too mixed in.

Shazbot - June 8, 2014 Reply

I agree with those here who favor the Airstream’s interior layout. The trouble with many tiny homes in my opinion is that they are designed to be very spare inside. The space isn’t used very well, and they lack charm. I too hope that tiny home builders will start taking their cue from RVs. There’s a reason they’re so successful.

phil - June 9, 2014 Reply

Kent, how are these Airstreams insulated? I think most travel trailers are framed with something like 2×2 material or less. You get into the same problems with house boats. They are made for temporary living, not 365 living. I could see an Airstream being a primary residence if you could strip the inside and really insulate it well all the way around, maybe foam with 4×8 paneling on the inside. I really like the looks, but you have to be comfortable too.

david - June 10, 2014 Reply

Phil, those Airstreams would be fully insulated with the best materials.

Hollymaren - June 10, 2014 Reply

I can hardly wait to get my ’72 Airstream all polished up! We are gutting it and rearranging the inside. I have a passion for my trailer, just as other tiny home owners have for theirs. Shame on the snooty people who commented above.

    Hollymaren - June 10, 2014 Reply

    Another fact- Airstreams only make up 1% of the trailers on the road. This makes them sort of a conversation starter, unique, and not like every other trailer, tiny house, on the road. I feel like I own a part of history.

David Remus - June 10, 2014 Reply

A travel trailer IS a tiny home on wheels. I don’t see any reason to define it otherwise.

Jack - June 11, 2014 Reply

Wonder what BOB VILA would think of this Tiny Home concept, and how he could add to it?

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