A 1951 Vagabond Trailer in Joshua Tree — House Tour
Name: Alison and Jay Carroll
Location: Joshua Tree, California
Size: Roughly 275 square feet
Years Lived in: 1 year, owned
It started out as a hunt for a weekend spot. But when Alison and Jay Carroll saw property in Wonder Valley, California — a small community of artists and musicians in the Mohave Desert — they decided to leave behind their house in L.A. and take to the desert full time. The couple is the design duo behind Wonder Valley, an olive oil brand, shop and studio. And this 1951 Vagabond Trailer, nick-named “Big Blue,” is where they lived while they renovated their new house in the desert. The trailer is a total labor of love: They replaced the plumbing, installed the floors and built the bed, couch and cabinets themselves.
“We bought the Vagabond trailer from a family outside of Navajo Nations…It took about two months of work to get in the trailer, then about another 12 months before we finally got in the house. Now, the trailer is permanently parked and hooked up as our guest house.”
“Our work (both Wonder Valley the shop and our studio division) allows us to work in a rural place like this. It took a while to find the right spot — boulders, good neighbors, elevation and plant life all considered. We were excited to take on most of the renovation ourselves and to design a space around our habits and lifestyle.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Japanese meets New England meets High Desert
Inspiration: Jay Nelson’s homemade campers, Liz Lambert’s El Cosmico
Biggest Challenge: Getting the trailer here! We had to haul this 34-foot trailer from Arizona back to our land in Joshua Tree.
What Friends Say: Thank god you two aren’t tall.
Biggest Embarrassment: A dent in the roof caused the rainwater to pool and the only place it would drip is directly onto Jay’s head on his side of the bed.
Proudest DIY: We replaced the plumbing, installed the floors and built the bed, couch and cabinets…but the biggest job was replacing all the water-damaged and rotten wood paneling for the walls; about 50% had to go. The Vagabond was originally paneled with Baltic birch wood and a high gloss finish – but 60 years and sunlight aged the naturally white wood to a warm golden hue. We had to recreate that aged affect on the new panels by mixing a custom blend of wood stain, actually made for guitars.
Biggest Indulgence: The small details go a long way for a space like this. Having great bedding and towels makes a huge difference…and indulging in a morning and evening routine like daily face oil and really good Japanese green tea.
Best Advice: Vintage Airstream.com. This is a great resource for restoring old trailers. We weren’t going for a replica of the original 1951 look, but it still was invaluable for ideas and floor plans.
Dream Sources: Nickey Kehoe, Carl Aubock, Shiprock Santa Fe, Terramoto Landscape