By Sharon Byrne
Small spaces are very in vogue right now, for a number of reasons. People want to reduce their carbon footprint, shed stuff, downsize, and live simpler lives. TinyHouseBlog.com has a huge following, as does Simple. In crowded coastal cities like ours, where space is at a serious premium, people get quite innovative, even if they don’t have the finances to buy property with stellar views. Savvy entrepreneurs find creative ways to answer their needs, carving out specialty niches for themselves in the process.
Enter Hofmann Architects. They take the old and decrepit, and make it into something you salivate over. They take small spaces and transform them into welcoming interiors you can breathe easy in. They reclaim the cast-off flotsam of an earlier era of family travel, and transform it into high-end custom homes that go where you want to go.
Bet you never thought you’d crave an Airstream.
You will when you see what Hofmann can craft out of them. Like this:
A child of the 70’s, I thought Airstreams were a bit of a hokey way for families to travel on the cheap. But those stainless steel shells with their distinctive mid-century lines have endured far beyond the nuclear age.
How did Hofmann get into business refurbishing Airstreams? Matthew Hofmann realized that living in a vintage trailer would be a great way to reduce overhead and simplify life. “So, naturally, I went to the place everyone finds their dream – CraigsList. “
He bought a 1970s Airstream Trade Wind 25’ and parked it on a piece of property in Santa Barbara overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For the next year, he designed and renovated it with his father, Wally. “Next thing you know, the Airstream was my home,” said Matthew. “That singular experience has changed my life forever.”
Hofmann employs 15 specialized craftsmen and designers in the heart of the building trades sector flourishing here in the Eastside, on Quarantina at Bond. Wally happily took me on a tour.
Hofmann acquires old Airstreams, or a client can bring their own. You sit down with the architect and create plans for what you want. The Airstream is then gutted, though some clients want to keep original fixtures in good condition, juxtaposing old with new. I looked at two taken down to the shell, and one going into demolition and renovation. The original fixtures seem so 70’s, designed to provide the basic necessities for these ships-on-wheels.
Hoffman renovates these vintage trailers to client specs, turning out stunning and unique architectural achievements. Wiring, plumbing, fixtures, flooring, windows, bathroom remodels – totally retrofitted and customized. Hofmann will strip out the old 9 gallon hot water tank, for example, and put in a radiant system to heat the water as it passes through, a Swiss technique. You can get gorgeously tiled bathrooms, modern kitchen appliances, clever built-ins for storage, and more.
The bathroom in the “Elizabeth”. I want it!
Hofmann Airstreams are all given classic female names: Jenny, Susan, etc. They’re lovingly sculpted into something that fuses past with present, old with new, mid-century American dreams of inexpensive family travel with new American dreams of living simple and seeking adventure. Clients arrive with a budget of $35,000 – 350,000, and Hofmann will happily explore options that fit your particular needs and budget.
If you’re in, say, Minnesota, where the climate’s not very friendly, your home and possessions are your focus, as life there is conducted mainly in an indoor, climate-controlled setting. But there are other places, like here, where the view and surroundings matter more than having the big house with a lot of stuff. One of Hofmann’s ingeniously refurbished Airstreams offers a very nice living space, and clients seek them out for this very reason.
For someone like me, always trying to simplify my life and shed possessions, life in one of their specialty Airstreams looks very palatable indeed.