Tiny House, Just Add Wheels (Annalise Irby)

Innovative. Compact. Creative. The Tiny House movement has inspired countless DIY builders, enterprising radicals, and urban artists to design and build incredible tiny homes that are comfortable and eco-friendly. (You might even say… eco-trendy!) It’s also inspired me to get creative with our own Project Ventura. Because when you mix resourceful, elegant design with modern-men-and-women-on-the-move, you get the eco-caravan: the ultimate symbol of the Tiny House philosophy!

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My research for Project Ventura has led me into a deep exploration of the Tiny House movement, specifically mobile homes. I read plenty of articles about the logistics and spatial challenges of building eco-friendly caravans. But I got the most benefit from inspiration in creative and innovative trailer designs. Though some were fanciful or expensive concepts, they sparked my mind on spacial issues, modular structures and furniture, and lighting designs for Project Ventura. I also became a total geek about trailer culture. (Go on, ask me anything! …Don’t, though.)

Some of the highlights (above, left to right) included: a completely modernized and refurbished teardrop trailer (finally, a green ’40s, well, anything!), the concept design for a luxury “Mini-Clubman” airstream trailer, and my favorite: the De Markies caravan, for more claustrophic trailer-folk who for some reason like to fish off retractable balconies when parked near lakes.

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http://www.mehrzeller.com/

This Mehrzeller caravan really inspired me to think about space and the way a trailer feels when you’re in it. (That’s where you’ll be living, so it doesn’t matter how pretty it looks on the outside…) These designers did a great job (fancy angles aside) of making you feel relaxed and as if you have lots of space, even when you can see your whole “apartment” from any spot inside it. On that note, it was a good reminder to keep the interior decorating simple and consistent. Soothing white on comfortable surfaces will keep the owner of this (still a concept) trailer from going out of her mind!

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http://www.sealander.de/index_eng.html

The Sealander is one of the coolest designs I’ve ever seen. Its main attraction is probably obvious. But it got me thinking a lot – not about house-boats or a crazy flying trailer or anything, but about construction and technical aspects of Project Ventura’s exterior. The German company that designed it spent two years testing and retesting it on the road/lake and even developed a glass-fiber-reinforced plastic for its outer panels. Even though our project is proportionally a lot smaller, our team should still put the same amount of deliberation and thought into how the eco-caravan will hold up under harsh weather, on the road… or if dropped in a lake.

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http://www.sylvansport.com/go/product-details/

The GO camping trailer is not quite as artsy as the Mehrzeller, or as mind-blowing as the Sealander, but it’s still an elegant and useful design for eco-campers. The ways in which designers managed weight and, again, weather-tightness in this tent/trailer hybrid made me think about Project Ventura in a whole new way.

Another factor came up in my research on the Tiny House movement: the legal battles fought over Tiny Houses, all over the USA. Even in Austin, tiny houses smaller than a certain square footage are illegal to build and own! Big companies who wanted to sell and create a demand for more, bigger houses pushed these laws, probably back when our vintage Playmor was new and shiny. Tiny House People have two solutions nowadays: build anyway, or build their tiny house as a mobile home. To me, the idea that eco-caravans became popular because of a seemingly unfair legal conflict was fascinating and a little sad. Aside from practical background knowledge I gained (for example, composting toilets are illegal within Austin city limits… good to know), this information motivated me to work harder on making Project Ventura a success. Just think… with a whole fleet of vintage eco-caravans, the Ann Richards School could be a symbol of the Austin Tiny House movement! (Or maybe not.)

But that’s really what the Tiny House movement is all about. Conscious of your environment – using someone else’s “trash” – keeping it compact, elegant, and even mobile – and anyone, even high school girls, can build a creative expression and mobile home with their own two hands. (And a pair of wheels!)

Annalise Irby, TrendyTrailers Inc. “Eco-friendly and eco-trendy!”

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