Frankie Update : Building My Vintage Trailer Tiny Home

I am very excited to be going over the transition from “Frankie the Camper” to “Frankie my Tiny Home / Art Studio”. This lil single occupant home is becoming much more than just a roof over my head. It is a dimensional space which in turn makes it a place. From the deconstruction to the rebuilding I am understanding the materials that provide me a space in the universe and how this is giving me a sense of place in existence. Please enjoy how this process is developing below.

Frankie is a vintage travel trailer, but I do not know the model. From the title we know that it is registered as a 1968. When I began to look around the internet for the model the closest I could find was a Franklin. Hence the name, Frankie. However, over at Comet Camper (.com) I noticed that our trailers bare an uncanny resemblance, but that camper is an Avalon. So as of now my camper has no model name.

What Frankie does have is lots of potential. Let’s look into the details where I am taking this lil home.

The overall picture is to turn this into a year round traveling tiny home/art studio that may be able to triple as a classroom/shop. This means that it needs to have practical space for eating/sleeping/shitting as well as a place that provides inspiration/craft endeavors/storage.

The first layer is pretty basic. Create a bedroom, a dining room, kitchen and bathroom. As you know campers often come with all of the above. Often these spaces are bigger or smaller than what you really need. For example, when Bob was pitching his camper to me he emphasized it sleeping 6 people. Woah. That is great but this home is not for 6 people. It is just for me and (Max). Others are more than welcome to travel with me, but they should probably bring their own tent/sleeping arrangements.

The result of getting rid of 5 sleeping spaces means I store up to “5” bodies worth of stuff (which sounds creepier than intended) or divide that into storage vs actual living space. Anyone reading this probably knows where those sleeping spaces are. My upper bunk will become storage. The dining area/convertible bed will become practical usable space. The back sleeping area is completely remodeled to double as bed and storage (but we will get to that).

As you can see from the before pictures the camper is very “camper-y”. It had old signs and camping things in it. But I am not camping! I am living in this thing hopefully for the next 5 years. It just happens to be all over America. So how do we get rid of the temporary feeling that comes from camping and secure a sense of permanence.

The dining area that sat 4 people now becomes a place for me and maybe 1-2 others to eat. If there are more people, which I hope there will be at times, they will be hosted outside. This gives me a lot of space. You may be thinking I am losing storage under the seats but I am not. That storage has already been made up for in the upper bunk. The area where the table and unnecessary extra seating were now hold a folding table which when open can seat 3 for meals, 1 for crafts or fold up to create floor space for yoga/meditating. The one seat that I have left doubles as desk chair/dining seat and triples as me composting storage… kitchen and body compost.

This leads me to a bold choice of moving the toilet out of a tiny closet and under my couch. Why would I put my toilet in the dining room/office? I remind you that as a single occupant I don’t need very much privacy. Besides closing the door and curtains no one staring at me all the time. I also don’t want to shit in the tiny bathroom.  Moving the toilet out creates a lot of usable space. One wild idea is to try and turn the bathroom closet into the worlds tiniest traveling dark room. (For a cooler, more specific reference look up The Tin Gypsy, a traveling wet plate darkroom out of Portland, Oregon.)

So the door that has the mirror was the bathroom. For now it stays empty until I figure out what it needs to be. Next to this was the most horrid dated fridge I have seen. So I precariously pulled it out and put in a pantry area. I would like to try and live without a fridge for a little while. I figured with my mostly vegetarian diet, my cook as much as you need motivation and my desire to be as off grid as possible it is worth a try. I will post more about this experiment as it happens so check in later.

Underneath this is the gas furnace. It works great! When Bob delivered it I had him show me how to “set up”. It got really warm very quickly as we went over everything. It runs off two propane tanks in the front. However, my goal is to supplement this expense and get a tiny wood burn stove somewhere in the camper. Probably in the dining room/office next to the front door. Check in to see where that thought ends up.

The closest is in fine shape. As far as that goes I have been becoming minimal since I sold all my belongings down to fit in one van last year. The process is wonderful. But I still have more than you may want when going this small. Plus as much as I traveled last year I got really good at living out of a 20 liter back pack. (Let me suggest a front load!) So I know from experience that I can dress for all occasions with very little options.


I am so excited and proud of myself for what happened back here. It’s only half way done… maybe two-thirds the way done, but it is wonderful. I have had a lot of questions towards the choices I made over the canvas wall. Why? is usually the question.

First reason is because it isn’t permanent. I wanted to put something in that I wouldn’t feel horrible about taking down if I change my mind about what I want for walls. This home is about the process of building a home more than it is about having a finished home. I have never built a home before so I am giving myself the flexibility to find out what my needs are. It would suck if I took the time and money to custom fit and install wood walls to find out that it isn’t exactly what I wanted.

This brings up my second point. Money. This canvas cost $20 plus another five for staples and upholstery pins. (So far I have spent about $300 dollars on the total remodel.) I don’t have any more money than that right now. Some day I will and I can consider options that were out of my abilities/price range currently. I want to be able to purchase whatever my heart desires. As for aesthetics I tend to have expensive taste.

Another reason is that it is allowing my denim insulation to breathe a bit. The only thickness of insulation I could find was 3.5″. The thickness of the walls is about 2″. The canvas is keeping the insulation at its intended thickness providing me with its highest R rating performance. Another thing is I only reinsulated two of the three walls in the bedroom and the front wall in the dining/office area.
One reason was the cost… The stuff is not the most expensive but it also is not the cheapest. It is in fact the easiest and most earth friendly/recycled stuff to use though.
Another reason was my experience level. It is just me working on this gem. I may have worked in a hardware store for 4 years and rebuilt car engines… but my skills are unpracticed and often sloppy. I am taking my time with this home rebuild so I can learn what I am capable of and to learn new techniques along the way on my own or from friends that have some time to teach.

Under the bed I will be building a storage area about the length and width of a twin mattress but 2-3′ deep. For now it is just set on a frame.

I think that is a good start to updating you on Frankie. I could go on forever about all the choices I have made. So if you have any questions at all, have any advice or just want to geek out about this journey hit me up. I love meeting folks on a similar path and intend to keep building a community of us!

Definitely look for more posts going into detail and continuing to cover #rebuild #simpleliving #tinyhome #vintagetrailer #homeiswhereyouparkit #travellife #offgrid and all my other beloved tags to find others and share my journey.


Comments 4

  1. kylbeebee January 7, 2016

    Beautiful caravan. I love renovating them. I’d love to do another one as when we did ours they were on the cheap. Now we have a little bit more money i think we could do a bit more with them!

  2. kylbeebee January 7, 2016

    ….agree with the toilet (gross) but I would never do without a fridge…. and we are vego too. I think the power of a cold bevvy is just too much to refuse…


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