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.
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.
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.
When the time comes for focused, detail-oriented tasks, nothing beats my private, quiet and compact space for getting my best work done.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- “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 www.hofarc.com for more information and project photos. They are always looking for new thoughtful and progressive architectural clients.