So how does one make a home on wheels or an anchored mobile home feel like a traditional home?

Recently, I had a bird’s-eye view of a sparrow couple creating a new nest. Their new home is conveniently tucked into one of the roof columns right outside the office window of my new home, Highland House. For five days I watched as the pair built their home. It was fascinating! For one thing, instead of simply swooping right below them to gather long strands of grass and twigs they would fly across the street—at times, completely out of sight—in search of construction materials. Unlike the architectural creations of robins, sparrow structures are actually quite a fright. This one is a mass of sticks, leafy twigs and, yes, even some Easter grass. But for my new buddies, it is home. And this brings me to my point today: I believe it to be very true that home is truly where your love, heart and family reside. Regardless of where you chose to feather your nest, whether you prefer the grandest and most prestigious home on the block or you like the easy life of residing in a factory manufactured home, it is home and that is all that matters.
In fact, I have often wished for the opportunity to do some design work within the confines of a mobile home. I think the tightly controlled space would make for a wonderful project—a project where everything must have a proper place and the design is finely tuned. The challenge is in creating ways to visually increase the actual square footage with some marvelous inventive means. Plus, knowing that where you actually live is not permanent, that you have the ability to take your home to the desert, the beach or merely a new community a few miles away, is very appealing to me. (Although I have to say, in regards to safety, do locate in an area that provides storm shelter protection. With our crazy weather lately this is a must!) So let’s talk a bit today about living in a home that has the ability to go wherever your dreams decide to take you!
I recently discovered a blog called The Shabby Creek Cottage! Gina, the blog author, lives very graciously in a 1993 Clayton Homes doublewide mobile home. It would really be worth your time to take a peek at her blog page and view the amazing and very talented redesign of her childhood home. From wood flooring to bead board on the walls to the yummiest colors imaginable to be wrapped in. A former newspaper journalist, Gina decided to transform the elongated atmosphere that mobile or manufactured homes tend to offer and what she did with her 1,600 square feet is astonishing. Her design philosophies are traditional with just enough spunk and, yes, I would say whimsy to put a smile on your face and say out loud, “Oh my gosh, how charming!” A sparkling, new, galvanized trash can is on duty to hold bolts of fabric for her next project! Gina didn’t allow the layout of her home to hinder anything she wanted to do. As she said, “If we don’t know a skill, we learn it. If we can’t find what we like, we build it.”
So how does one make a home on wheels or an anchored mobile home feel like a traditional home? I believe you approach it just like any other home. Just see it as Gina did: The limited space does not need to create a limited design. During my research for this column, I learned that weight is a consideration when it comes to structural changes in mobile homes. So, in that case, I think staying with décor is probably the safest avenue for this designer! Let’s start with some very simple ideas that quite frankly work with any smaller home.
Make a Space Plan
First, do the math. This lets you know how much space you actually have to work with inside the home. Include the entryway doors and know your clearances. As I’ve mentioned, Ethan Allen has a terrific space planning tool that will help with this part of the process (the scale of their furniture is great, too, so peruse the site while there). With a space plan in hand, you can play with the furniture arrangement until you achieve exactly what you want from the space you have available.
Lighten Up
If repainting is an option, I suggest a light, bright and fresh color palette on both the walls and the millwork. Perhaps a soft buttery yellow for the wall hue and a wonderful clean white for the millwork. The buttery yellow will give you the warmth you might desire, while still allowing you to stay light. Contrary to what some designers think, I believe warm yellow in the lighter value can be a wonderful neutral backdrop for just about any design style—and besides, it brings instant sunshine.
On the subject of lighting, I strongly suggest using floor and lamp lighting for the major source of illumination for your home. Unless you are looking for a dropped thumbtack, avoid overhead lighting for a couple of reasons: (1) We all look better in lamp light and (2) in small areas, overhead lighting acts like stage lighting and highlights the width of this type of home. In areas that require more direct task lighting, use recessed lighting. And do consider a chandelier in the dining room—with a dimmer, of course!
Window treatments are wonderful for several reasons, including noise reduction, the added layer of warmth and cooling lined window treatments provide and, of course, privacy. Keep in mind that lined window treatments protrude as much as 8” into the room, and if they go to the floor, they take up floor space. Just keep that in mind when space planning. Light breezy sheers would also be a good choice.
Accessorize and Organize
Adding space-extending accessories, such as a well-placed mirror that provides the illusion of depth and enhances a view, is a great tool. Mirrors positioned properly can capture what designers refer to as “borrowed light,” meaning the light from an opposing window bounces back into the room.
When space is limited, organization and storage skills become a must. At the start of the redesign declutter as necessary. Stuff stashed here and there makes any space feel tight! Follow the tried-and-true closet clearing rule: If you haven’t used in a year, it’s time for it to find a new home. To help store necessities, try some multitasking furniture. For example, Ballard Designs has wonderful side table and tablecloth combinations that give storage space. Find bins that fit under the table and stash books, DVDs, photo albums and the like. Dress out the top of a table with a properly scaled lamp, tissue box and a small oval or rectangular tray for remotes. There you have it—the process of everything having a place begins.
I hope this helps those of you who love the life that is not set in stone. The mobility your home offers makes you footloose and fancy free, but you can make the interior shine, too. As I said, I would love the opportunity to take on a home like this. I leave you this week with a movie choice you will find hilarious: check out 1953’s The Long Long Trailer starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—a wonderful summer movie!
I will be here next week to visit and have coffee!