Managing Miniaturization

Guest Post by Matthew Hofmann

10 advantages of living and working in tiny spaces (with wheels)

Hofmann kicked off his quest for inner peace at the most logical place – CraigsList. He found an Airstream in “fair condition.” A 4-digit deal was struck and one dark and rainy night he rescued the abandoned abode from behind a chain link fence guarded by a Pit Bull in Mira Loma.

Crap! I’d just written a sizeable check for what looked like a glorified dog house. The trailer’s swaying back and forth along rain-soaked 101, like the pendulum of doubt pounding in my brain.”

The body was solid, but inside the trailer was a mess. “I’m fairly certain the last resident was the junkyard dog.”

  • Step #1: Demo – Take everything out (which got the wet dog smell out).
  • Step #2: Design – The creative process, Hofmann believes, isn’t accomplished by adding more, but by taking away what’s distracting. “The design questions were How much does one remove? How much does one keep?

“For me the solution was creating open space using honest materials. I wanted to bring a sense of outdoors in, so it needed to be bright and airy by nature, yet warm and multi-functional.”

While dramatic life-changes, such as firestorms and the Great Recession has driven millions of Americans into meager lives, living with less didn’t mean enjoying life less. Hofmann dived headfirst into the “full timer” lifestyle; he now lives and works in the 160 sq.ft, completely renovated space. He prefers it, and it’s not hard to see why.

Here’s 10 advantages of living and working in tiny spaces (with wheels) – by Matthew Hofmann, founder of HofArc

  1. Mobilization
    I rent space on a view lot on a burned home site in a 25-foot Airstream trailer. When I want a change of view I pack up my home/work place in less than 20 minutes. There are dozens of inexpensive places to park for short or extended stays. And why not? Wherever I go I’m home and at the office.
  2. Creation
    Creativity comes from inspiration, and nothing inspires me more than the great outdoors. I don’t know how some firms expect to get imaginative work from their designers working in fluorescent-lit cubicles on the 34th floor.
  3. Concentration
    When the time comes for focused, detail-oriented tasks, nothing beats my private, quiet and compact space for getting my best work done.
  4. Inspiration
    I worked for years in a place that had no view and it was creatively painful. Now, ideas soar out like the boundless view of the Pacific Ocean out my windows. I took a vacation last week, and took my home with me. “Sometimes all it takes for a change of perspective is to move your house. – M Hofmann”
  5. Interruption
    Clearly, working in a small space isn’t for every job. It’s wouldn’t be ideal for a seamstress to set up his sewing machine with yards of cloth, and then need to put it away for an interruption, like lunch. It’d be too cumbersome. For me, an architect, doing most of my work remotely and digitally – it works fine.
  6. Commotion
    Some types of work cause commotion that wouldn’t be ideal for high-density areas. Living in a relocateable home/office offers unlimited remote options. I know a sculptor who carves black bears from tree stumps with a chainsaw. He lives in a trailer in an industrial park – hold on – in the High Sierra 😉 and he snowboards five days a week, too.
  7. Individualization
    My father says, “You’ll never beat the herd by following the herd.” Small spaces are good for my mindset of being who I am – me. Small spaces allow me to maintain a good center of emotional balance. Cavernous office complexes with row after row of desks, chairs and monitors can’t be good for thoughtful expression.
  8. Minimalism
    Living and working in a tiny space is unabashedly taking the minimalist route. It says, “This is enough for me. I don’t need more, so I won’t take more.” It’s respectful of resources.
  9. Duplication
    The mindset of miniaturizing your living and workspace encourages and supports others who are attempting to do the same. I find office products, local food, and services online from other home-based businesses. Delicious brewers and wineries are springing up in small towns across the country. Our support of their hand-crafted goods perpetuates the cycle of responsible living.
  10. “Muss mir sparen”
    Another one of my German Grampa’s fond sayings translates into English as, “I or the collective we… must, obligated, it’s imperative… economize, save, reserve, save for later, keep back for future use, set aside for a specific purpose, lay aside, conserve.” For right or wrong, Germans have modeled what it takes to recover from adversity. Prioritize. Use what you need, not necessarily what you want. It’s about quality and function, not how much you can grab.

“How much money is enough?” was the iconic question posed to John D. Rockefeller at the height of creating incredible wealth from oil. He responded curtly, “Just a little bit more.”

Later in life, a wiser Rockefeller also said, “I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money’s sake.”
Eventually he got it right. He discovered there’s nothing wrong with accumulating lots and lots of money, just respect it – yourself, others and the earth.

Contentment with small spaces for living and working is a journey that I’m eager to explore. Living in a 25’ Airstream Trailer has completely altered my view on space. The way we view space reveals our priorities. What are yours?
– Matthew Hofmann

Matthew is available to speak with to answer your questions. Check out their website and blog at for more information and project photos. They are always looking for new thoughtful and progressive architectural clients.

26 thoughts on “Managing Miniaturization”

  1. Excellent! Elegant! I especially like the bathroom design with the tile. We also live in a vintage 25′ Airstream Tradewind that was rescued from rain and rot. We gutted and rebuilt it with no kitchen or bath. (those facilities are outside) Our Airstream is a bedroom and workspace for two recording musicians and their digital workstation. The Aluminum Loaf is a beautiful place to be, and soon to be roadworthy. Congrats on yours, it looks like it serves you perfectly!

  2. This gives me dreams of things to do with my twenty foot ’53 Airstream. Which, oddly, I use as sewing shop at a Renaissance Fair – I find the small size forces me to be smart about what I actually need to have on hand.

  3. wow, the printer under the seat is a brilliant idea. I’m going to have to put something like that in the tiny house I’m planning. The shower is gorgeous too.

  4. Great reinvention of an Airstream.

    I, too, have an Airstream dream. If I could only find a place to park one – permanently – within a reasonable distance of where I work, I’d be living there right now. Zoning is one of those issues that continues to plague small home lovers.

    Presently, I own a 1000 SF condo – which is sort of small. But sometimes I want a little space from my neighbors. The Airstream would be perfect.

    • Alex,

      The IMac arm is a little known secret. Apple makes a VESA adapter that replaces the usual aluminum stand, hooked it up to the heavy rated Humanscale G8. A very nice combination.

      Thanks for checking out the site.


  5. Maybe you just caught me on one of those days (forecast calls for partly-scattered Mondays throughout the week).

    I love it. I am trying to get two young teenagers raised and on to college. Don’t know if I can wait that long to do just what you’re doing.

    What am I SAYING!?!? Sooner or later the wife is going to figure out what happened to me and drag me back to my urban responsibilities.

  6. Just gorgeous, and it seems to come from a good mental perspective too! You mention:

    “There are dozens of inexpensive places to park for short or extended stays. And why not? Wherever I go I’m home and at the office.”

    This is a real issue for many people. Perhaps you might be willing to share some of your secrets?

  7. Besides renting a vacant lot or space in an RV park, what other places have you found for extended stays?

    I’m also curious if you happen to know the dry weight after you finished renovating it.

    • Sure, dry weight is just over 4000lbs after remodel.

      As far as a place to park, I can highly recommend craigslist as a starting point, many people are willing to work with you, especially in these times. Also, look into long-stay campgrounds, for example: campland by the bay in San Diego, CA. (on the ocean for less than the cost of a Studio.)

      The tiny + mobile house movement isn’t just an ephemeral fling. I’m optimistic that the way we live (with regards to government and planning regulation) is nearing a significant change – people are beginning to question, and take notice.

  8. Is that pull-out shelving for kitchen supplies commercially available? (Or did you custom build it?) I could use that in my tiny kitchen!

  9. Matt- Amazing work!!! I visited the same make of trailor for only 5,000 in VT and had dreams of doing the same, but gave up thinking it wouldnt work and would be stuck taking up my driveway for too long. It is so nice to see your dreams come true.


  10. I have lived on sailboats of 25 and 32 feet and in a 28 foot mobile home. I liked all of it. Being compact and mobile is a great way to live. It’s also efficient, inexpensive, and fun.

    The older I get, the more I realize that they fewer possessions I have, the happier I am.

  11. Wow, fabulous! My grandparents took an Airstream to Alaska pre-statehood, over the AlCan road. You did a beautiful job!

    Please consider ditching the reference to us fat folks and why we’re big. You don’t actually know that, and while your words are quite civil, you inadvertently reiterated a rather harmful myth about us.
    Thanks! Enjoy your beautiful home!


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