Mobile homes are a neglected part of the tiny house movement. Or at least, the traditional mobile home. For some reason, even to this day, mobile home manufacturers continue to make mobile homes in their inimitable way; that look like the mobile home that we are used to seeing. Why these manufacturers do not see the opportunity to build tiny homes, defies reason. Of course, they know more about their market than I do, but one would think that making tiny homes in some capacity would cross their minds from time to time. And what about something more modern?
So, at this time, I have taken an actual floor plan of a mobile home from a contemporary manufacturer and created a model that would match their product, except for a few changes in regards to windows and doors and some of the finishes. This mobile home includes a bay window which ones sees many times. My model has this type of window since this an exercise in converting a mobile home to a modern tiny structure and this window is common. The simple stairs is also common as well as a simple square deck. The vinyl siding seems almost ubiquitous in manufactured housing, but the fake window shutters always turns my stomach a bit even when applied to more substantial houses.
Mobile Home Front
Mobile Home at Oblique Angle
If this home appears quite familiar, then you have seen them often before. With slight variation, this exterior pattern displays itself over and over all over America. The floor plan fits the manufacturer’s design very well and was chosen because it is very common.
Actually, for a 611 sq. ft. house, the arrangement is efficient. Mostly open, only the bathroom and bedroom garner total privacy with walls. With room for a pantry, linen closet and set up for a washer and dryer, ample space exists to fit quite a few things. The closet off the dining area, plus the closet in the bedroom extends the space for storage considerably. This trailer encompasses 14’ 4” X 48’.
The cost of this home new is $32,000 and comes with many appliances and features such as GFI receptacles, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. However, depending on the level of remodeling, many used mobile homes are available for purchase at a much reduced price. Obviously prices vary widely from place to place in the United States and just this subject would fill a very large article. In the Phoenix area, where we are used to many winter visitors and a great number of mobile home parks, the market has many great values. It is possible to buy a mobile home of the size we are examining for less than $10,000 dollars. Not far from my house, a park advertises homes for $4999.00. The parks will sell such homes because of a vacancy for one reason or another that leaves the property sitting with the park receiving no income. Yet the home is movable and must remain movable to classify as a mobile home for tax and other purposes. If one buys it, one can move it.
One must also consider, if desiring new, asking the manufacturer to supply a home with custom changes to the finishes, appliances, design and even the level of finished interior. Remember, though, the current level of government interference. The local seller probably has good information in this regard. So ask questions.
Looking toward the kitchen from the living room. The sliding doors on the right cover a closet and are much nicer in this model than the white, metal ones that come with the home. Indeed, the other doors are also plain, white hollow things, replaced here in the 3D model.
The living area from the kitchen.
Please excuse the level of detail. I purposely excluded furniture and other extraneous details just to give a general idea of this particular model which is somewhat exact. The side of the island facing the living room is graced with fake red brick and a hood above the stove has this same surface applied. The panels on the walls are not continuous. They have plastic strips that connect the edges to the other panels. To complete the look, the windows have frilly valances at the top. Here, I have not included the mini-Venetian blinds. Altogether, this digital model comes off better than actual pictures of the real thing!
A little hall to the pantry, linen closet, bathroom, and bedroom. One also sees the laundry area on the left, toward the bedroom door.
The pantry is the first door to the left, with the linen closet directly across the hall. The door toward the back is to the bedroom and the door to the bathroom just to the right across from the laundry.
The bathroom. The original model has the same red oak look on the vanity as the kitchen cabinet and, instead of a tub, it has a fiberglass shower cabinet.
The master bedroom looking at the two doors of the large closet. The doors used in the original model are much more mundane than the ones used here.
The two closet doors in the bedroom with the bedroom entry door to the left.
As for changing this mobile home into something more modern, an infinite number of transformations come to mind. For the purposes of this article, I will consider money as a factor, and therefore, keep modifications to less expensive redesigns. The floor plan will essentially remain the same, while changing fixtures, finishes and exterior improvements. Even so, replacing doors and windows help in converting this house into a modern mecca.
Conversion Number 1:
All revisions in this remodel must include different door knobs and fixtures. As with so many mobile homes, the original model contains those ghastly shiny brass knobs and light fixtures. The fake shutters are gone forever and the exterior siding demands improvement.
To get an idea of what is possible in terms of a serious remodel, check out this article in Dwell magazine on the subject.
This shows a mobile home that was in very bad shape transformed into a beautiful modern house. This photo originally appeared in Upwardly Mobile Homes. Trailer Wrap is the name of the project. Make sure you also get a look at the beautiful interior.
Trailer Wrap. Our variation will be a bit more modest.
Conversion 1 requires no walls torn down or extensive changes in the bathroom and bedroom. The major interior difference from the old mobile home is the removal of the kitchen and the removal as well as addition of doors and windows.
The front of the new house.
As one can see, a deck of darkly stained wood has been added to the house. Orange railing provides a lot of color and is always dramatic against a grey or brown background. The exchange of the siding with dark, engineered wood brings a contemporary feel to an otherwise boring rectangular box. The original front door is gone, replaced by two sliding glass doors at the corner of the living room, while the other windows on this side give way to round porthole windows. If one can not find round windows, small square windows will work in the same pattern. Not altogether necessary, the gable end of the mobile home becomes glass, much like in a mid-century modern home.
A more direct view of the front.
In creating the 3D model of this mobile home renovation, I purposely neglected landscaping because of the speculative nature of this article. The likelihood that someone would purchase the exact model of trailer, remodel it exactly as I have done, and then set it in a similar landscape scheme, would considerably stretch the imagination. The whole point of this article is to point out that a mobile home does not have to look like one and to start creative juices flowing.
The two vertically aligned round windows are where the laundry resides.
Coming around to the bedroom side of the trailer, one begins to see the second deck.
The other deck shares access to a side door into the dining area and a sliding glass door into the bedroom. This extends the bedroom to the outside.
Extending living areas outside is a mid-century modern idea and continues as such through modern architecture today. Besides tall ceilings, nothing gives the feeling of greater space than to utilize outdoor areas.
A better look at the backyard deck. The bathroom window was not changed except for the color of the frame. A door was added where there was a window before leading to the dining area.
In case one wonders, for design purposes, two separate areas do not necessarily have to look the same if they are not in the same viewable aspect. Both decks are separate entities and can have their own character. Obviously, considering an entire structure as a cohesive design becomes important, but not so rigidly that every surface or feature must look the same.
Coming back around to the front.
Direct view of the front (and side) deck. Through the sliding glass door is the living room.
Viewing the kitchen from the living room.
The kitchen remodel uses models of actual furniture found at IKEA called Varde, the chairs at the table are Vitra and I designed the dining table. The dark wood floors are replaced with a light flooring. Dark wood is not a problem in itself, but light colors promote a feeling of more space in less expansive rooms. This is a common design error in manufactured homes.
Another look at the dining area.
This shows the living area with its Eames chair, both sets of sliding glass doors and designer carpet.
The bathroom painted white, with a new shower curtain, IKEA vanity and metal shelf.
The bedroom with its new sliding glass door to the deck.
Looking from the bed toward the entry door with one closet door on the right.
In the case of this house, I have replaced the exterior siding, applied two decks, removed and replaced some windows, while adding sliding glass doors and an external entry door, added new fixtures, exchanged the vanity in the bathroom, painted the walls gloss white and did a few small sundry things. As one can see, one of the most important aspects of this remodel is simply furnishings. The right interior decoration makes a significant difference; a few rugs, a few pictures…
Not all remodeling requires new. I doubt one would find decent doors to work with in a mobile home, but replacing knobs, painting or covering doors, can save some money. The exterior siding, rather than replaced, could be treated to look more like this design and stock doors and windows and not custom would be much less expensive.
At any rate, the floor plan remained the same and no walls were knocked down. Plus the roof line was untouched. The advantages of taking a mobile home and remodeling it to something worthy of living in are obvious. Everyone has seen a bus or shed converted into a tiny home. Why not a mobile home? Hopefully, this article gets one thinking about what can be done in small spaces toward a clean modern design.
This article covers one conversion. More conversions will come in later articles.