Vintage finds and nostalgic DIYs fill this tiny home with midcentury flair.
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An hour's drive from the traffic and noise of Los Angeles, Julia Kastendiek's vintage trailer-turned-tiny home offers a glimpse into simpler times. With its wood-paneled walls and retro furnishings, the 1954 Spartan trailer honors its midcentury roots in careful detail.

person holding flowers standing next to tiny home
Credit: Courtesy of heliphoto.net

Manufactured in 1954 at a converted aircraft factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the trailer typifies the mobile-home boom of the post-war period. Companies such as Spartan and Airstream marketed these trailers as affordable, fully furnished homes that offered a modern version of the American Dream. When Julia purchased hers a few years ago for $13,000, she took care to keep or restore as much of its original character as possible.

tiny home living room
Credit: Courtesy of heliphoto.net

Step inside the 24x8-foot trailer and you'll find original elements, including birch wood paneling alongside a variety of retro-style furnishings Julia either collected or built herself. The main living area, which she calls the observation lounge due to its large windows, includes a daybed she fashioned from a midcentury coffee table and upholstered herself. The small dining table is set with antique dishware Julia scored for $100 and accompanied by vintage chairs she updated with fresh fabric.

Adding color and pattern to the space, the daybed pillows, botanical-print tablecloth, and floral curtains all represent Julia's handiwork. The walls are decorated with vintage art, including a framed advertisement from LIFE magazine that reads, "A Spartan home will take your castle out of the air … and put it behind your car."

tiny home interior
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The kitchen retains its original countertops and cabinets, which were crafted from birch wood, stained, and shellacked. "This color is very enigmatic of the Spartan look," Julia says. A full-size refrigerator, microwave, and double-basin sink add modern convenience.

Around the corner from the kitchen and partitioned off by a curtain lies what Julia calls the "jewel-box bathroom." The small space is outfitted with a toilet, a custom-built vanity, and a shower tiled in brilliant blue and white tiles collected by Julia. She repurposed a hammered aluminum salad bowl to create the oval sink and used matching trays to fashion shelves that frame the original vanity mirror.

Located at the far end of the trailer, the bedroom offers a private retreat separated by a pocket door. To fit the curved contours of the trailer's interior, Julia built the wooden bed frame and customized the full-size mattress with rounded corners. She fashioned the bedspread using French barkcloth sourced from Etsy.

outdoor dining and sitting area
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Outside, a shady gazebo and furnished patio provide relaxing spots to take in views of the valley and mountains beyond. Altogether, the trailer and outdoor living areas form an idyllic hangout Julia has dubbed Tiny Tiki Retro Hideaway. "This is our forever home here," she says. "We think it's really special, and we love to share it with friends and family."

Above all, Julia treasures the ability to show others "what it's like to step back in time," she says. "It's very gratifying."

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