The first thing you notice about this gypsy wagon is the surrounding smell of cedar forest and the sound of crashing waves from the lake, which is just a stone’s throw over the hill. In the winter, woodsmoke spirals up from the chimney that juts out of the curved wagon roof. There’s a little lane leading up to the green glade, but it’s nicest to arrive at the caravan on foot.
The 8’ wide x 20’ long caravan, or vardo, has been parked in this particular beautiful forest for a few years, but it’s utterly moveable by a truck or tractor because it has wheels. It’s built on a salvaged 5 ton truck chassis that cost $100, purchased from the local wrecking yard. The floor joists for the house are nailed to fir beams that are bolted to the metal frame. There are regular 2 x 4 framed walls sitting on top of the floor joists and the whole structure is crowned with curve cut roof rafters. The 8’ x 20’ size was determined by the width legally allowed on public roads without the need for a “WIDE LOAD” escort car.
The construction methods used to create this wagon are a combination of tradition and ingenuity, and the building materials are both new and recycled. The floor is local B.C. hemlock T & G and most of the windows can be opened to let in fresh mountain air in. Even the windows are secondhand, scoured from the local classifieds. The unique round window at one end is a repurposed 1970’s picnic table top. The 1 1/2” nautical rope surrounding the window is the perfect flexible weather stripping, inside and out.
To accommodate the curve in the roof and the eyebrow entrance, the roofing material is flexible metal sheeting. There’s a raised ridge vent and two 3’ x 4’ raised Lexan curved skylights. The exterior shingles cost nothing but elbow grease and an artist’s eye — the shingles are sourced from spruce guitar top ‘seconds’, halved and split with a hatchet. The curves on the inside of the dwelling are covered with stretched canvas, firmly stapled in place and painted with white wash. The wagon is fully wired and has an RV plug outside for connecting it to a power source. The small 3 burner propane stove/oven was recycled from a camper van. Aficionados of the growing-in-popularity microhome movement, like The Tiny House Blog, are well versed in sourcing these small home components.
So, what about when nature calls? There is a nearby composting toilet in an A-frame outhouse. A cast iron clawfoot bathtub over a firepit provides a hot soak for the hardy and an outdoor tap is connected to fresh spring water.
The heart of the home is the dwarf sized “Intrepid” cast iron wood heater, capable of creating a cozy space in under 20 minutes, even in the coldest of winters. Firewood storage is under the wagon, a chopping block sits near the steps, and there’s a sweet-smelling cedar kindling basket just inside the door.
Storage in small spaces is a hot topic whether for a micro city dwelling, a cabin in the woods, or a gypsy wagon on wheels. This caravan cleverly provides almost as much built in storage space as it provides living space for the inhabitants; dry storage is located under the lounge/bed area as three 6’ long drawers on heavy duty slides, there’s a built-in closet and an array of standard sized kitchen cupboards/drawers.
A labor of love, this project took a couple of years to build, and it cost about $8,000 and countless hours of hunting down components and reworking materials. It’s a sweet place to call home — open the windows and hear the lake loons call, and know that with a truck and a days’ work, this magical home-on-wheels can be on the road to anywhere you desire.