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Less is more—that’s the top line of a number of contemporary cultural movements, from Swedish death cleaning to the Tiny Home Movement. And small-space living is getting an even more economical twist with the trend toward backyard RV guesthouses. These way-less-than-500-square-feet structures are all the rage for people who want to create a lovely living area that’s not a major financial or structural undertaking. Think of it as an investment in your creativity and sanity: If Virginia Woolf were writing today, she’d say we all need a backyard trailer of one’s own.

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black white wood kitchen bedroom
Arrows and Bow

They're easy on the wallet

Ashley Petrone and her husband spent $8,000 on a 2003 Cougar Keystone camper that was structurally sound but stylistically challenged. As in, dirty carpets, tatty window coverings and grimy wallpaper. But after a three-week renovation that cost $3,000, the duo and their three small children moved in and have been happily coexisting (and saving money) while they build a home on the Ventura property. And they had so much fun, now they’re in the business of rehabbing properties, as they detail on their blog, Arrows and Bow.

white bed wood guesthouse
Homestead Modern Rentals

There's less red tape

After a recent ruling loosened restrictions on having more than one dwelling unit on properties zoned for single-family homes, more people are building granny flats in—or just rolling trailers into—their backyards. (Or setting up in quirky-cool desert complexes like Homestead Modern.) Ask your realtor what your zoning is and if you’d be able to have an additional property on your lot.

blue trailer wood
Spencer Lowell for Commune Design

You Should Get a Medal for How Eco-Conscious You Are

Not only are you not using new materials to build a structure, you’re actually recycling a big hunk of metal that otherwise would be an eyesore on someone’s land (or worse, choking a landfill).

You Get to Indulge Your Inner Decorator

Pale-pink walls? Oversize buffalo check wallpaper? Layered textures in pillows and upholstery? Bold statements are possible in a tiny space, and once you slap a coat of white paint on your interior, it becomes a canvas where you can try big ideas out without a major expenditure.

It's a genius solution for noisier houseguests

Let’s say far-flung relatives of all ages want to come for a summer visit. A weeks-long summer visit. A trailer is a great place to keep them while maintaining your sanity back at the big house. At the very least, it’s a place to hide from them. (Love you, nieces and nephews.)

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Airbnb

It Can Make You Money

Especially if your property is parked on a patch of land with some privacy, you’ll be able to attract guests on Airbnb. Is the location walkable to local restaurants, shopping or universities? Those are added bonuses. This sunny Airstream, for instance, is on a hilltop in Echo Park and rents for $105 per night.

You CAN Take It With You

In Tin Can Homestead, author Natasha Lawyer talks about how she and her husband renovated a vintage Airstream. Lawyer is an illustrator and former display maven at Anthropologie, so that gives you an idea of the project’s hypnotically earthy-chic vibe. Pre-order the book ahead of its May 1 publication.

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