A 1954 short film finds new life as an old-fashioned little house

An hour’s drive from the traffic and noise of Los Angeles, Julia Kastendiek offers a glimpse into the simpler times on an old trailer-turned-small home. With its wood-paneled walls and vintage furnishings, this 1954 Spartan trailer pays homage to its mid-century roots in subtle detail.


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Manufactured in 1954 in a converted aircraft factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the trailer represented the post-war mobile home boom. Companies like Spartan and Airstream have marketed these trailers as affordable, fully furnished homes that offer a modern version of the American Dream. When Julia bought hers a few years ago for $13,000, she made sure to retain or restore as much of her original character as possible.


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Step into the 24-by-8-foot trailer and you’ll find original items, including birch planks along with an assortment of vintage-style furnishings that Julia collected or made herself. The main living area, which she calls the Observation Lounge because of its large windows, includes a daybed she made from a mid-century coffee table and upholstered herself. The small dining table was outfitted with vintage dishes that Julia scored for $100 and paired with antique chairs that she updated with new fabric.




Adding color and pattern to the space, the daybed pillows, botanical-print tablecloths, and floral curtains are all representative of Julia’s handiwork. The walls are decorated with vintage art, including a framed advertisement from life Magazine says, “Home Spartan will take your castle out of the air…and put it behind your car.”


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The kitchen retains its original worktops and cabinets, which are made of birch, stained and laminated. “This color is too opaque for a spartan look,” Julia says. A full-size refrigerator, microwave, and double sink add modern convenience.


Close to the kitchen and divided by a curtain is what Julia calls a “jewel box bathroom.” The small space is outfitted with a toilet, a custom vanity, and a shower tiled with glossy blue and white tiles that Julia put together. She reused a forged aluminum salad bowl to create an oval sink and used matching trays for fashion shelves framing the original vanity mirror.


Located at the far end of the trailer, the bedroom provides a private sanctuary separated by a pocket door. To match the curving curves of the interior, Julia built the wood bed frame and customized the full-size mattress with rounded corners. I made the bedspread using a French flannel fabric sourced from Etsy.


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Outside, a shaded gazebo and furnished patio provide places to relax to enjoy the views of the valley and the mountains beyond. Altogether, the trailer and outdoor living areas make for the perfect hangout spot, which Julia calls the Tiny Tiki Retro Hideaway. “This is our permanent home here,” she says. “We think it’s really special, and we love sharing it with friends and family.”


Above all, Julia values ​​being able to show others “what it’s like to go back in time,” she says. “It’s so much fun.”

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