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Mariah Hoffman

After I got the trailer back to my build site, I looked at it for weeks, not knowing where to even start. Now that I have this trailer, how the heck am I gonna make this thing a livable house? How do I frame this thing? Wood? Aluminum? Steel? Although I had absolutely no experience with metal, the more I evaluated, I felt like the structure needed to keep the same steel frame material.

The used trailer I purchased was a custom ATV trailer built in the 90's. It was designed to haul motorcycles and bikes out to the desert, hence the double deck. It was framed using 2x2" 11 gauge square tubing. The original intent was to enclose the existing frame. But after I got the trailer back to my build site, I determined that the existing frame was too small for my needs. The interior roof sat just above 6' and the interior width, just over 7'. I realized if I were to enclose it as so, I would definitely feel cramped. So, I re-framed my thinking and decided to re-frame the trailer, again out of steel.

Directing on Day 1 of build

Directing on Day 1 of build

On the first day of the build we cut off the existing frame, leaving the flatbed naked. This first day humbled me to my core - I realized, "oh, s***, what did I just get myself into? Proceeding this first day came months of building back a new frame that would suit my needs. We started by adding 1' to the width, and 3' to the interior ceiling height.

Starting anew - my oh s*** moment after we chopped off my original frame.

Starting anew - my oh s*** moment after we chopped off my original frame.

What I thought would take a couple months ended up taking over a year. Why so long? Primarily because I chose to go with a steel frame. I hired a structural welding friend to get me going.  For the first couple of months, I got schooled in metalworking basics - sourcing, cutting, grinding, and prepping the metal for my welder. Within about six months of building, I became more confident in working with metal. I took a "Mig" welding class at my local DIY fabrication shop. Then another welder friend moved out the country and gifted me his flux core welding machine. I started slowly and began welding myself. This tiring but thrilling new skill propelled my confidence to keep going with this huge undertaking.

Finally welding on my own!

Finally welding on my own!


Mariah Hoffman

          It took me 8 months of research, planning and saving before I finally bought my trailer. I scoured Craiglist until one day, I found a used ATV trailer in LA. I rallied a friend to drive up to LA and check it out with me. Everything checked out - good tires, solid metal frame, double axles. It had the perfect bones for my project. I had already invested almost a year of my life getting to this point, but up until then, it still wasn't tangible. As I was finishing up the transaction, I could feel the excitement and pride swell up inside me. Then, I got a text from my mom. She was on her way to the Philippines to see my ill grandmother. But, she did not make it in time to say goodbye. My grandmother passed away moments before I embarked on my greatest life journey. Stunned,  I took a long breath, and cried. The two extremes of utter joy and a longing sadness shook me into a humble reality. Grounded, I felt, more than ever to pursue my dreams and my creative truth from the path that my ancestors paved for me. I bought the trailer, and named her "Lola", which means grandmother in Tagalog. I dedicated my build to the both of my grandmothers, (both immigrants). Without their resilience, grit, and fire I would not be who I am or where I am today. Right then, I could tell this build was going to be so much more that just a house. 

"Lola" in her new parking spot.


Mariah Hoffman


          Two years out of college, I found myself feeling utterly stuck. Not only in the financial trap of a low paying job, rent, bills, etc. but also trapped by the feeling that I wasn’t creating for myself. I was broke and terribly unfulfilled with my creative life.

          After quite a bit of anxiety/ angst with work life stresses, I made the commitment to deep self reflection. I found the workbook, “The Artist’s Way” and began reflecting, writing, and doing creative exercises on a daily basis in search of my truest creative self, and what I saw as my highest form of spirituality. Soon, energies in my life started shifting in ways I could not describe. Certain doors were closing as others rapidly opened, because I was open to them.

          As someone who has lived many years of my life in financial “survival mode” my spirit was blinded by ideas of “scarcity” and “lack”. Understandable, in the capitalist system in which we live, thinking, believing, and trusting in “abundance” above “scarcity” feels to be a conscious privilege.

          Through my reflections, I soon realized I had 3 insecurities that were blocking me from pursuing my highest creative potential:

  1. Financial Insecurities - These I soon learned were not a boundary, but rather an opportunity to take risks because I literally had nothing to lose.
  2. Emotional Insecurities - I was coping with an complicated relationship with my father. This played a critical role in my upbringing and made me hyper-sensitive to the idea/ feeling/ reality of a stable home.
  3. Creative Insecurities - I came from a family of artists, but never considered myself one. As a kid, I was incredibly drawn to architecture, but never pursued it for some reason - I was shying away from my own calling.

  All this to say that the idea of “HOME” emerged into focus. What does HOME mean? What does HOME look like? What does HOME feel like? How can I build HOME with my hands? Why is HOME important to me? How is HOME culturally, economically, and socially relevant to our current housing system and spatial politics?

  Then it happened. My consciousness began cracking open and there was no going back. On a trip with cousins in Northern California, I went on a run to clear my head. In the small wooded town, I stopped in my tracks when I spotted what looked like a “Tiny House”. I had seen pictures online, but never saw one in the flesh. Naturally curious, I creeped around until the owner walked out. “Is this a tiny house?” I asked. “Yes it is!” She replied, then added, “Wanna take a look inside?” Stepping inside the tiny house, I realized the tangibility of a project this scale.

  It posed the perfect opportunity for me to address my 3 insecurities:

1) To start the process of building my own financial livelihood

2) To tangibly navigate MY idea of home

3) To creatively learn architecture/sustainable design hands-on to shift the paradigm towards a more conscious design and accessible housing.

 “If I can do this, you can too” were her words that shook me into action. At that point, I made my decision and there was no going back.