Small-space living: Design to go

Small-space living ideas from a landscape architect's Airstream home

Airstream trailer home
Photo: Photo by Mark Compton

Andreas Stavropoulos is a man on the go. Each day he wakes up inside the 1959 Airstream trailer that he bought from a collector, retrofitted, and now calls home. He breakfasts in the Airstream’s small “kitchen,” then heads to work. But the Berkeley-based landscape architect doesn’t drive to an office; he heads to the actual site in his Honda CR-V, towing behind it ​ a wheeled “think tank”—a 2003 cherry-red Wells Cargo trailer that he found on Craigslist.

Photos: See inside his home and office trailers

Once there, he throws open the trailer’s back door and drafts his plans in full view of the garden he’s redesigning. This isn’t exactly the norm in the modern, virtual reality–driven world of landscape architecture. But Stavropoulos​—who earned his MLA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007—is a back-to-the-land kind of guy. He wants to ground his garden plans in the realities of the site, and he retrofitted the 6- by 10-foot cargo trailer to help him do that.

Both the trailer and the Airstream—which he painstakingly remodeled using a friend’s sculpture studio at Stanford University and another friend’s woodworking shop in Oakland—are suited for the life he leads now. “I have always loved small, manageable, mobile spaces,” he says. “They allow me breathing time as I set off on my chosen path.”

Info: Andreas Stavropoulos, XS Land Architects (415/710-0431)

Mobile living 101: Tips from a nomad designer 

At Home

  • Don’t be a collector: The Airstream has no closets, but Stavropoulos doesn’t mind; his few shirts and jackets hang neatly from a wooden rail opposite the cooktop.
  • Avoid freestanding furnishings: In the Airstream’s small space (15 ft. long, 7 ft. wide), a chair for computer use—which doubles for dining—is all that Stavropoulos needs.
  • Build in the rest: Drawers ​of all sizes hold foldable clothing, kitchen utensils, and more. Built of birch plywood, they have no drawer pulls, just holes. The desk is also made of birch, its edge gently curved to echo the ceiling’s lines. The built-in bed is topped with a thick piece of cut-to-fit Memory Foam.

At Work

  • Don’t hide your work away: Perforated steel siding from a metal-supply shop lines the wall behind the desk; Stavropoulos clips his plans to it when he’s working. Sold by the sheet, it can be cut to any size.
  • Think outside the (big) box: Rather than buying a desk at an office-supply store, Stavropoulos found a long countertop, made of Plyboo Neopolitan Strand bamboo plywood at Smith & Fong Co. in San Francisco; it makes a good drafting table. Shelves above and below the counter hold his books.

More: See inside his Airstream home and office trailer

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