A wagon with a storied history is transformed into an antique-filled retreat. Tour the eclectic Los Angeles home in the latest installment of our video series, Tiny House Style.
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For Rachel Negrete Thorson, living in a colorful fantasyland isn't childhood make-believe. She and her husband, Adrian, transformed a vintage wagon into a whimsical, antique-filled tiny house to make her dreams a reality. Situated in the backyard of their Los Angeles residence, the restored wagon serves as an enchanting retreat that hints at its theatrical past.

boxcar tiny home purple stairs
Credit: Courtesy of Adrian Veliz

The wagon itself dates back to the 1800s and is believed to have been used in several TV shows and movies, including The Wizard of Oz. This type of wagon is called a vardo, a term historically used by the Romani people that comes from the word "vurdon," meaning cart. Often intricately carved and colorfully painted, these wagons were used as mobile homes for the Roma, who hailed from northwestern India, as they traveled across Europe during the 19th century.

The one that now stands in Rachel's backyard is appointed with modern conveniences, including a mini-fridge and a full-size mattress, but it maintains a vintage feel thanks to antique furniture sourced from thrift stores and resale sites and a decorating style Rachel describes as "well-traveled."

colorful bed and lighting
Credit: Courtesy of Adrian Veliz

Up the purple exterior stairs and through a green Dutch door, the interior space boasts a kitchenette with an adjacent dining area and a bedroom beyond. Spanning just 84 square feet, the wagon packs in a ton of boho flair thanks to beaded lampshades, fringed window treatments, and an eclectic mix of patterns and colors. In the kitchen area, an antique lacquered cabinet stores dishware and pantry essentials, while a nearby drop-leaf table provides just enough space to enjoy a cup of tea or a meal with a loved one.

colorful tiled shower
Credit: Courtesy of Adrian Veliz

The bathroom is housed in a separate building painted green and purple that Rachel calls "the water closet." It features a compost toilet, a full-size shower, and a vintage cabinet retrofitted with a sink. The shower is adorned with a mosaic of colorful patterned tiles that Rachel sourced from the remnant pile at a local tile manufacturer. "I wanted to re-create [the look of] a quilt that my Nana had made many years ago that we lost over the years," she says. Rachel estimates the brightly colored tiles would have normally cost between $10 and $35 each, but she scored the whole lot for a few hundred dollars.

green fencing around tiny home
Credit: Courtesy of Adrian Veliz

The two structures are connected by a stone pathway and tucked amid lush landscaping, swinging hammocks, and a hot tub. Overall, the effect of the wagon and its surroundings, which Rachel and Adrian lovingly call Vardolandia, transports you to a different time and place.

"I can feel the responsibility of holding onto this important piece of history, and I also feel like I want as many people as I can get to experience this," Rachel says. The space is now listed on Airbnb so she can do just that.

"It's a place where your mind can be free to remember those dreams that you had when you were a child," Rachel says, "to remember what that feels like to let your imagination run free."

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