Renovating an Old Trailer for under $1,200

01/13/2011

Post image for Renovating an Old Trailer for under $1,200

I’m touched by Nicolettes’s story. She found an abandoned structure and with no money and no tools she managed to build herself a tiny house out of trash and scraps and donated supplies. In total it took her a year an a half and about $1,182 to make this space a home.

This structure was given to her for free in exchange for its removal. The wagon (as the Germans like to call it), somehow in its 20 years as a backyard garden shed had its wheels sunk 2 feet into the ground. It had to be excavated and moved 25 miles to its new location in Mainz, Germany, where the renovations would begin.

Before:

“Nikki, you’re not going to be able to fix up the whole wagon without any money.” The words of a non-believer. “You’re going to need materials, tools.”

“I can borrow all of the tools. And maybe in the end I will have to buy a few things, it’s looking like stain and paint right now, but so far I’ve found everything I had on my “to buy” list when I started. It’s turning out to be a damn good thing I didn’t have any money then. The longer I wait, the more I’m finding.”

He shook his head, thinking I was naive. I shook my head, thinking he was mighty skeptical for someone who also regularly dug through the trash.

After:

Of course with makers of all sorts her “trash house” project is never quite finished but I’m happy she shared these photos with me.

On Nicolette’s blog you’ll find well-written stories of dumpster diving adventures, the brutally honest struggle of DIY home renovations, and life in a wagenplatz community in Germany.

Photo credit: Click Clack Gorilla

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

clickclackgorilla 01/13/2011 at 1:44 am

This is so lovely! Thanks for putting together such a nice post about my project! Abosoultely love clicking through all the purdy projects on this site. Keep up the awesome work. Three cheers for tiny dwellings!

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Missy 01/13/2011 at 8:13 am

Love it!

Is there a bathroom?

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deborah 01/13/2011 at 1:20 pm

Colorful, cozy, and delightful! I see a pot on the stove and I see a hanging strainer on a wall but is there really a little kitchen area? Bathroom? Or is this just a hide-away for a backyard?

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Hillary 01/13/2011 at 1:24 pm

Oh yes, maybe I’ll add another picture I found (looking in the other direction) that includes what appears to be a tiny kitchen and a bathroom and/or closet. Maybe Nicolette can clarify. :)

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Gypsy Ward 01/13/2011 at 3:12 pm

Love your story…..I am intending to do a similar thing and it is inspiring to know it can be done even when you are an old nanna.
thanks
Gypsy

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Hillary 01/13/2011 at 3:55 pm

Go for it Gypsy! You rock!

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clickclackgorilla 01/14/2011 at 3:40 am

Missy: In this particular structure there is no bathroom. But let me explain. I live in a community of 17 people who all live in similar structures. We’re an intentional community–not an accidental neighborhood–so we do a lot of things together. What this means is that we have a handful of these wooden trailers that we use for communal stuff. One is bathroom, one is living room (with a television and movies and a ton of board games, couches, and a big table), and we have four separate trailers where smaller groups of people have kitchens together. The kitchen that you see in here is what I like to think of as my “tea and winter kitchen.” I make small things in there all year round, and when it gets obscenely cold everything in the communal kitchen I use ends up frozen, so I prefer to switch to my little kitchen (where I keep the wood stove burning more steadily) during those times so all the damn lettuce doesn’t end up frozen. :)

There are a ton of these communities in Germany where I live, mostly on squatted land. Every place is different, but we’re one of the few that has grid electricity and has a bathroom with running water. In the trailer community I lived in before this one in another city, we had compost toilets, also outside of our trailers of course.

Deborah: I think I answer part of your question in the response above. But be assured, this is not a garden hideaway, this is where I live full time. Going on three years now in this spot. The wooden trailer that I lived in before this was much smaller and so adorable…looked like a shoe.

Gypsy: Awesome. Best of luck! If someone told me five years ago that I would have done a project like this I never would have believed them. Before this renovation project the most complicated thing I’d ever built was a cd shelf. Haha.

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Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural 01/14/2011 at 5:50 am

It came out so pretty. I love it. It reminds me of when I lived in my school bus, which I miss very much.

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jason roberts 01/18/2011 at 3:47 pm

awesome story cool house

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Hillary 01/19/2011 at 9:59 am

Thanks Victoria and Jason. And I’m glad to have that clarifying info, Nicolette. Keep in touch!

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Derek 02/16/2011 at 8:11 pm

Great article and site. Will be back for ideas on our current downsizing plan :)

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Hillary 02/24/2011 at 12:12 pm

Thanks Derek!

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George 03/03/2011 at 12:36 pm

Hey, really great blog post… I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy. I actually work for the CheapOair travel blog. If you’re interested, we would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: gchristodoulou(at)cheapoair(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Steven 04/14/2011 at 6:51 pm

It’s amazing how cheap you can live and your dwelling can be when you’re intentional about it.

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Heather 07/30/2011 at 6:09 pm

I love this post! Your trailer turned out beautifully.
One question, I have been reading about the wagenplatz communities, and I was wondering how you go about living in one of those communities. Can you just show up? If you could give me more information about it I would be super appreciative!

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Mari 04/22/2013 at 3:34 pm

Just Beautiful!
Please share new updates when you can.
Thanks.

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