Tina Larkin and her Purple HarpMobile

by Tiny Larkin

I’m a musician, visual artist, traveler and dog lover. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested on living simply and having a small carbon print upon the Earth. I always wanted some sort of teardrop or small RV in order to have a home on wheels.

trailer exterior

The 2008 economic crash and continued downturn of our economy prompted my decision to stop paying rent. I have bought and sold about a dozen houses, flipping them after living in then for a year or two. The current economy precludes my ability to keep doing this. After several years of research and touring as a musician, I made two important decisions…

  1. As a harpist, fiddler, and composer,my talent is best appreciated on the west coast. So to be musically focused on the area of San Francisco to Vancouver, I need
  2. A portable tiny home,which must be towable by my current car,which is a 4-cylinder Hyundai.

I designed a tiny, almost tear-droppy like trailer to go atop a 4 x 8 ft. Harbor Freight trailer chassis. I chose this model because it weighs only 230 pounds and was inexpensive. I decided that the entire trailer needed to weigh less than 600 pounds. I based this on the tiny trailers built by Abel Zimmerman and the Whittled Down folks, and others, all of whom designed their trailers to be used with 4 cylinder cars. I chose 1?4 inch plywood and 2×2’s for my building materials. I decided to use exterior grade silicone for all joints and edges, and a rubber spray coating for the roof, which might also get another cover as the summer progresses. The lavender color is wood stain, not paint.


Before I even got my trailer hitch installed on my car, the naysayers pounced. Most, but not all, were men.

“You can’t tow anything in that car! The owners manual says so!”
“You’ll destroy your transmission!”

“You better use 2×4’s and 3?4 inch plywood! Otherwise that thing is gonna explode going down the highway!!!”
“It’s not safe! You’re just a woman, and travelling alone! You’re nuts!”

It is a good thing that I never listen to the naysayers. I did my homework, so knew what I did know and did not know, and I knew where to find the info I still required. I was able to recognize when others spoke out of their own fear or envy. My online and in-person homework showed me that this venture was, and is possible.


A Seattle friend, Brad Maas, helped greatly in the building of this PurpleHarpMobile, as I have named her. He lent his yard space, tools and knowledge in this venture. Many thanks to him.

The PurpleHarpmobile has more windows now, (that I made after theses photos were taken) and is fragrant with natural wood inside and my favorite essential oils. I live in it full time and can cook inside or out. There is neither real heat, nor electricity, but I have a Mexican terra cotta planter. Four tea light candles inside and a metal bowl over it create a small and charming heat source. I will purchase a solar panel this summer. I am going to custom decorate the exterior this month.

Tina and trailer

So far, I have performed in Seattle, and have done a bit of camp hosting in Oregon. I am about to begin exploring the music scene and tiny house community in Portland. My plan is to use this HarpMobile for Music Festivals, and maybe sell it down the road, and then build a tiny house! Tiny House Blog, and other online info, has been a huge help in making my dreams a reality. Thanks for reading!

email: tinalarkinmusic@live.com
Website: tinalarkin.com

harpmobile at Lake Trillium

69 thoughts on “Tina Larkin and her Purple HarpMobile”

  1. Inspiring story! I am approaching retirement and love small spaces. I have just started my research on tiny homes. I admire teardrop trailer homes and am hopeful my 2008 VW can tow one. I would love to travel, write, photograph and blog my adventures.

  2. Nice work. My husband builds strong, waterproof kyacks with 1/4″ plywood, using a stitch and glue method to fasten the plywood together, and covering them with fiberglass and marine epoxy. I have long thought that this would be easily transferable into a 1/4″ plywood teardrop. And the thin plywood means that it’s bendable into wonderful shapes also. See stitch and glue boats, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stitch_and_glue

    • Tina,
      What you do is awesome. It is even more so when you can inspire others to walk through their fears and create something good for themselves.
      I bought five acres in the mountains and hear endless naysayers that say I can’t do it without a man. I have had men offer to take over my property to help me out! Even adding a few chickens seemed to scandalize coworkers. Still…. I keep moving forward.
      I hope you young women never fall into the trap of not being free and independent. Love and partnership does not look like prison 😉

      • Good for you,

        Follow your dreams. Whatever they may be. Where ever they take you. Do not let anyone tell you any different.

        I want to have a place too, to call my own.


  3. How wonderful in every way! You are not only a talented musician/artisan, you are now a teacher too! Best wishes in your indeavor!

  4. From one harper to another – Good for you!!!! Love that purple harp (-sicle?) and your courage to live your dream. God bless you!

  5. Yay Tina!
    Good for you, living the dream!
    Something cool to be said for building your own shelter, as well as dancing to your own (harp) music! Cheers 🙂

  6. This is such a lovely story. I love your purple teardrop caravan and your purple harp and your lovely adventures. SAY NO TO NAYSAYERS! 🙂 Go Tina, GO! Katie. X

  7. It’s good to have self-confidence. We can’t overcome difficulties without it. Also, it’s good to remember that on the last launch of the Challenger space shuttle, they didn’t listen to the naysayers.

  8. wow what an inspiring story… I am at that stage where I am coming into an inheritance and am going to do just this.. I love it! Thanks so much for sharing your story and I hope sometime I run into the Purple Harpmobile!

  9. My husband’s advice to you would be to always keep the axles well greased. In his opinion if you do that your trailer frame will last a long time. Do keep an eye on the tongue area where the ball attaches. After many, many years ours starting separating there (another of the Harbor Freight trailers) so he added some new bolts and metal plates and the trailer is still good. Ours wasn’t used for a house but for moving all our furniture over and over and loading hay and goats at times so it went through a lot and after 20 years is still going. So good luck but keep an eye out for those two points on your trailer base.

  10. Tina, I am so glad the nay-sayers didn’t get you down. It looks comfortable and it suits you. It looks like you are enjoying what you do to the fullest! I love reading these stories. I have lived in small homes for years (not tiny, but small). I used to be embarrassed about little homes because my friends all had the big places; you know, that whole keeping up with the Joneses thing. My parents were less than supportive. But, I didn’t want to pay their huge mortgage or get forced out of my home when times got tough, so I have embraced my decision to stay small.

  11. Looks very cosy. Are you going to paint the outside a la gypsy wagon? I live in Mendocino County, so I’ll keep an eye out for the Purpleharpmobile, and if I see it I’ll flag you down and buy you a cup of coffee!

  12. Hi Tina,

    Your story is inspiring. You are teaching the world about simplicity and making it a better place. Congratulations!

  13. This was a wonderful post! Please do send an update after you’ve done your exterior updating, I’d love to see what you’ve done! Please send more photos and tell us more about your adventure too 🙂 You are an inspiration to all of us that want to have our own eccentric lifestyles!! Thank you!!

    • will do! the inside already looks different because of the extra windows, and I will be decorating the outside. ‘Eccentric lifestyle…hmm, did you see the facebook photo of the kitten upside down in the window, with the words underneath “I tried to be normal. It was the worst 2 minutes of my entire life” !!!

  14. Yes Tina, this is how i will live soon. I live in Australia. I plan on buying a caravan called a Little Robin Mini Mini. It’s the smallest one. It’s 8 ft long. A little pop top. Ive had large caravans before but never again.
    I prefer the tiny ones, for the easy towing and cosy feel. I will be on the road full time, travelling through the outback and signwriting in the small towns. I did it once before for 5 years in my twenties.
    Perhaps you could install some kind of roll out awning on your little home. Thank you for sharing your story. It made me feel im not the only one about to once again head off on the road in a tiny home. Just yesterday i had the realization that it’s not the things that i want, but the things that i don’t want. My best mates, who also love to travel, are my two cattle dogs.
    Look up The Kimberleys Australia images on the net.

  15. Absolutely wonderful little home! I especially like the way you took advantage of the 2×4 holders on the side to add bracing to your tiny house. It is a lovely color and great design. Enjoy! Prosper! And make music!

  16. Tina, you could make a simple Safari roof on your little van. Some Land Rovers have them. It’s another roof panel about an inch or so above existing roof which allows the air to travel between and keeps the hot air from radiating down into your home.Very easy to make and install.
    Make sure you paint it white.

      • Marsha, yes, of course, it makes such a difference. It would be great, but on a bus it would be a pretty big job.Those busses are well insulated anyway. I remember this house i had up in nth queensland with a dull silver galvanised roof, it was hot as hell , so i painted the roof white …what a difference inside..

  17. Love your story, Tina! Let me know if you are ever near Seattle. Our cohousing community would love to meet you 🙂 There are even several harp players here!

  18. Where do you stop to sleep on the road? Do you always use campgrounds or are there other “alternatives”? I am back in the midwest and there are a lot of noisy police officers that think alternatives encourage vagrancy.
    Also curious about your heat source. Winters are terribly harsh this way so I am doubtful your solution would work for year-round living here.
    Keep it up. Just remember, those with no imagination will tell you it cannot be done. It takes individuals like yourself to really prove/disprove it for others like me. Thanks for pushing the envelope.
    Will probably never meet you but will admire your courage from afar. 8)

    • Hi Joe- the midwest is too boring and conventional for tiny living, in my opinion. Too cold in winter, too hot in summer. I’ve been there, I’m from there! I never go to campgrounds. National forests have free places to camp, as do BLM (Bureau of Land Mgt) land which is in every state. I also stop on roadsides, trail heads, truck stops, residential streets, etc.
      best of luck to you

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful journey. Highly intelligent, courgeous, fun innovative folks should definitely be celebrated. What is they say…well-behaved woman rarely make history, right?

  20. Good for you. I love it. This is not a criticism just friendly advice. If the plywood isnt sealed with paint of some sort then the wood gives off formaldehyde which is used in the manufacturing process of making the wood. It would probably be a good idea to seal it some time soon.
    Thats it with the boring stuff from me though. Live your dream, be happy and when people say it cant be done, just show them it can

  21. Love your independence…..I would like views of every inch of your travel home…..always curious…..do you have a post office box for mail? Tried tinalarkin.com but nothing comes up…..

  22. You are inspiring!
    I could not get your website to open up…
    I want to see!
    pls let me know if the right website address!

  23. Very inspiring. I have my own “naysayers” right now and listening to them has caused some anxiety recently. Reading your story this morning has lightened my heart! I have bookmarked this page. Once I am situated I’ll look you up again. If you ever get to my area, Smokey Mountains, you are most welcome to visit! You and your dogs. 🙂

  24. Thank you for putting yourself out there. A lot of times people do not understand what it takes to put the target on your back and just do something you have always wanted. Thank you for the inspiration that less is more. I have been online for about 10 months now looking at homemade camping trailers and I got all tied up in the elaborate but after seeing yours and the simplicity I know exactly what I want now. Thank you.


  25. Nice job – and more power to you Tina. As far as traveling alone, I have traveled coast to coast alone, about 4 times now (Boston to Seattle, and back) – never had a problem. Use your smarts, and all is fine – and typically, a wonderful journey.

  26. Great story, and quite an accomplishment. It was not visible from my phone, I would love to see more details about the construction and general layout.


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