In a pandemic, mobile homes have some advantages over apartments in multi-unit buildings: it's easier to stay safe from disease transmission when you don't need to share entrances and common spaces with people outside of your household, and in many cases you can find more peace and quiet for working from home when you don't share walls with others. There are also disadvantages to mobile homes: more expensive and unreliable heating and cooling as well as challenges with maintaining and replacing trailer-specific appliances and fixtures. In both mobile home parks and apartment buildings, there is a rising risk of exploitation by unscrupulous landlords, ironically causing ostensibly cheap housing to cost renters more in the long run and push dreams of home ownership even farther out of reach. Cheaply rented living spaces are not ideal long-term housing situations for most people, but hey! 2020 is not the year when we can expect everything to be ideal. Transitional housing can, at least, be stylish on a budget, as my friend Miss Moppet demonstrated back in the Great Recession. Your current circumstances don't define you, but you can express yourself and make yourself a little more comfortable within them, using creativity to stretch your budget. Please enjoy this tour of one couple's mobile home makeover in the aughts:
Miss Moppet and Her Upwardly Mobile Home
There was a time when I harbored stereotypes about trailer parks and their inhabitants. Then a few years ago, I picked up an issue of the very stylish and modern Dwell magazine at an airport and was amazed by the pictures and articles on ultra-modern, hip, eco-friendly mobile homes--some being used as additions on existing houses and some situated in parks with others of their kind. Dwell is not a publication targeted at low-income people, by any means. In fact, it tends toward the snotty and elitist. Those articles really baked my noodle.
A couple of years later, my recessionista colleague Miss Moppet, who used to live in my old apartment complex, opted to purchase a mobile home with her Blue Collar Romeo. It was a lower-risk and lower-cost home ownership choice than buying a house in our shaky economy, yet it offered more freedom and privacy than staying in an apartment or condo. Besides, the park they chose is an attractive neighborhood with big trees and curvy roads. Miss Moppet and Romeo bought their trailer for practical reasons, not because they're uber-trendy Dwell readers, but they have made their single-wide into a lovely home.
Here is a photo of the living room when they bought the place:
It looks like someone made an attempt to liven things up with quirky stripes, but somehow it ended up looking like a clown costume on a sad baby. Not cute. First order of business was to warm and brighten the walls (and paint over the dated wood paneling to give it the look of beaded board) with a golden color.
Oh, and throw in a badass TV. Next came the biggest splurge, a beautiful and cozy new sofa and armchair set, and multi-layered, light-softening window drapes. Function and fashion coexist in the Roman shades, which help insulate the windows. The sheer and solid layers give the option of blocking outside light entirely or screening the inside of the home while letting in some honey-tinged sunshine. Better yet? They're cheap and easy to install! Find them at Lowe's, Target, Meijer, and many other stores.
Note how Miss Moppet used a favorite piece of art, the Madame Butterfly print above the living room shelves, as a guide for coordinating the whole room's color scheme. Hints of the simple palette are repeated on objects throughout the room, such as the Japanese-style tea set and other items on the shelves, holding everything together without looking too "designed."
To give the home personality and showcase the inhabitants' interests without looking cluttered, Miss Moppet and Romeo display their favorite objects in neat, orderly compositions. They group like things together, like these theater posters in matching frames.
They used the same paint from the living room in the kitchen and dining area, helping the two rooms flow together and making the space seem larger.
Here is a "before" shot of the dining area:
It's truly amazing what window treatments, paint, and little decorative touches can do to cozy up and beautify a little space. Now Miss M can spend cheerful mornings in her kitchen, making her famous pancakes. You wouldn't believe how good they are, and I'm convinced that eating in a pretty room makes food taste even better! Actually, warm colors like golds and reds increase the appetite and enhance the experience of flavor, while cool colors like blue and green reduce appetite. So scientifically speaking, the gold paint over the old celery green scheme probably DID make Miss M's pancakes taste even better than ever.
A nice feature that came with the home is the cabinetry floating above the counter that creates plenty of cupboard space without using counter space or completely cutting off the kitchen from the living room. Glass doors allow light to pass through and show off the hand-painted dishes inside while keeping them tidy.
Romeo added a shelf in the middle and stacked books along the top. Books are some of my favorite decorating items. They really make a place seem homey. Plants also lend curved, organic lines and serenity to the square corners of a house. I often mix plants and books on my own shelves. Even in the bathroom!
Isn't Miss M's monkey bathroom adorable? The mirrored doors to the laundry area reflect light and make the room seem larger. The "backdrop" positioning of the monkey shower curtain was a brilliant creative idea that Miss M had to cheer up the stark white walls without dealing with wallpaper or paint in a humid bath corner, and without cutting the bathroom into smaller bits of space with a closed-off bath.
Miss M pulled the cheery, tropical theme into the bedroom, too. Here is a "before" shot of the previously dark, dated bedroom:
Miss M completely made over the bedroom with a new glass overhead light fixture, pretty lamps and candles for mood lighting, crisp linen window treatments, and bold color.
Like in the living room, Miss M used a couple of her favorite prints in warm colors, complemented by a pop of bright blue, as a palette for the room.
There's no reason to be afraid of vibrant color in a small room, especially if the decor is simple and coordinated. This room has basic white drapes and metal hardware that echoes the curves in the candle stand by the bed.
Miss M and Romeo also repainted the outside of their trailer when they moved in, giving it a sky blue color with clean, white trim. Others in their park have gotten creative with their landscaping. One man even has an ornate garden complete with a hedge wall and archways. Perhaps he will be featured on a future post!
As you can see, trailer park life can be a comfortable and stylish housing option. And if you buy a house later, you can take your trailer with you and make it into an addition, three seasons room, she-shed, or guest cottage! A mobile home can be transformed into a hip, modern dwelling, a quaint aluminum cabin, or a pretty flat that resembles a spread in a home and garden magazine. Well done, recession-savvy friends!
Happy mobile homeownership!