Pro Portfolio: Architect Matthew Hofmann remodels Airstream into live-work space


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Every Monday, we post a new home whose design is presented in the designer’s or the builder’s own words. This week:

Design: Matthew Hofmann, Hofmann Architecture


Location: Roaming, currently Santa Barbara

Project goal: To live in a small space. I like the idea of reducing my costs, but I also wanted a quiet, comfortable place to work -- a space that was mobile and easily converted from residence to workspace.

Designer’s description: Often, the creative process succeeds not by adding more, but by taking away what is distracting. The design questions were: ‘How much does one remove? How much does one keep?’

To me, sustainable practices are a mere starting point for design. This included the use of regional materials and reusable products, such as bamboo for flooring, counter tops, dining room/worktable, along with a recycling management plan throughout construction. Weight was also a huge issue. Less was more. Lighter was better. And like luggage packed on an airplane, the load needed to be properly balanced.

I wanted to create open space in a small space, using honest materials. In Southern California, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior space can be a very successful strategy. The design needed to be bright and airy by nature, yet warm and multifunctional.

Many of my clients are in Santa Barbara, so after looking at some tiny yet still expensive condos and lofts, I purchased and remodeled a 1978, 25-foot Airstream trailer on a whim on Craigslist.

I needed a place to park it -- and not in a trailer park -- so I went back to the most logical place: Craigslist. I arranged to park it on an ocean-view Montecito lot where a home had burned down recently. The city of Santa Barbara had issued temporary trailer permits for homeowners whose homes were destroyed.


Some friends and family don’t understand why I’ve chosen this lifestyle, while others say I’m living their dream. Before the remodel, most expressed some form of ‘good luck …’ with doubt-filled grins. It’s pleasant to bring the same folks inside to see the finished product. I enjoy working with clients with gutsy audacity -- like me. Life-changing events, such as a fire, remind people that they can do with much less and be content.

For a look inside, keep reading ...

Material scraps from the Airstream, pictured above before the remodel, were sent to a recycling yard. That included hardware, braces, tracks, rods and plastic paneling. All of the old appliances and fixtures -- refrigerator, oven, sink, toilet -- were sold on Craigslist or donated. That extended the life of old materials and prevented them from heading to the landfill. For the new dining area,I replaced the existing tabletop with Cali Bamboo natural strand bamboo while reusing the table posts. The old tabletop was reconditioned and used as shelving in the cabinetry. The dinette doubles as a guest bed. By removing the table posts and lowering the top to seat level, it also converts to what I call a media lounge where I can play movies on my 27-inch iMac.

Another view of the workspace and lounge. The office printer is tucked into a custom-built pullout drawer under the bench.I sold my plasma TV, DVD player, audio receiver, seven-speaker surround sound, desktop PC, laptop computer, wireless home speaker system and portable radio.

The kitchen has a Moen stainless-steel sink with a Euro-modern 23-inch pull-out spray chrome faucet.New appliances include an Atwood Wedgewood three-burner propane stainless gas cooktop, Target countertop stainless-steel toaster oven and Norcold refrigerator.

The cabinets are Hafele, with halogen puck lights overhead to provide more than ample meal-prep illumination. The original overhead cabinetry was removed, redesigned and reinstalled to simplify and clean up the lines. The seating, a custom piece that converts to a full size bed, has Sunbrella indoor-outdoor fabric cushions.

One of my favorite purchases was a Hafele Kessebohmer integrated pullout pantry system. Hafele also makes a very cool Moovit drawer box system and cutlery tray inserts. Those German designers know their driving machines and storage devices.


I’m 6-foot-4, so I designed a generous convertible bed using locally supplied, lightweight materials. I hired a seamstress to hand-sew Sunbrella indoor-outdoor fabric cushions from CushionsXpress. Underneath the bed is the original roll-up cabinets from Airstream. ArchiTech in-wall speakers sound like a high-fidelity surround-sound system.

The bathroom was easily my greatest indulgence. Attractive, durable and sustainable custom-cut counter tops are by Custom Cali Natural Strand Bamboo. The shower was handcrafted with practical and pleasing curves using tiny glass tiles and a custom-built redwood shower pan. Water temperature and power are controlled through a Grohe Euphoria chrome fixture.

A14-inch glass vessel sink sits under a single-handle faucet. The room’s custom LED light has two-stage brightness, from ultra-low to high voltage. The towel bars, TP holder and other accessories were from the Grohe Essentials line.

-- Compiled by Lisa Boone

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