Cesar and Mariana (with daughter Isabella, 10, and our Bernedoodle, Cali, 3)
My husband, Cesar, is our LV captain but all three of us, including our daughter, have learned how to use Elvis ( E-LV-is; we decided to name our LV!). My husband went looking for a modern, off-the-grid trailer option the day after we lost our home and farm to the Kincade wildfire in Healdsburg in 2019. He knew he had to “put a smile” on his daughter’s face and decided to find something different from your typicalRV/trailers to appease my need for aesthetics and luxury. Our family is environmentally conscious and losing our home to a fire only reinforced our mission to address climate change by living as off-the-grid as possible in a smaller, more eco-friendly footprint. Our experience over the past year with the LV has pushed us to consider rebuilding in a completely different way than we expected. We have enjoyed living in better partnership with the environment, in tune to the land and seasons, and in a more minimalist spirit.
How are you using your LV?
We live in the LV part-time on our property, though spent 5+ months full-time once the Pandemic hit.
How have you incorporated your favorite hobbies into LV living?
We love to be outdoors, and really enjoy eating outside as much as possible. The LV has opened up so many more possibilities for us to enjoy harvesting fruits and vegetables from our farm and eating outside on the LV deck. This past summer, we ate all 3 meals a day outside! We love the LV BBQ setup and how easy it is to cook outside or in the kitchen. Our daughter loves cooking and the accessibility of the LV stove and convection microwave mean that our budding chef gets to cook a lot more than she used to - all of this while we are outside planting just a few feet away! One of our favorite hobbies is entertaining, which has been hard during the pandemic. However, we set up a few picnic tables on the lawn outside the LV, complete with outdoor BBQ, so that we could enjoy “socially-distanced” visits by family and friends.
Any tips for families with pets and kids?
We have an adorable and energetic 3 year Bernedoodle, Cali. We have found the outdoor shower is a godsend for hosing her down on a hot summer evening and cleaning her up after a mucky hike. For kids, it’s important to designate spaces for their things- to store clothes, toys, and so on. In fact, that applies to all 3 (or 4 of us including the dog). Each of us has our own compartments inside and outside, which makes finding things a breeze. I bought several Container Store crates and used those in the storage bins and under the bed, so everything is well organized.
What does your daughter love most about living in the LV?
Our daughter Isabella loves her loft bed (the Eurobed). She still gets a kick out of the fact that she can wake up in the morning, hit the switch and not have to deal with making up her bed or cleaning her room! She also loves all the hidden storage spots, especially in the living “room” as excellent spots to store her toys, books, and musical instruments. It’s amazing how much more organized it has made her since she knows she must put things away and has places to put them!
What are your 3 favorite features and why?
The overall aesthetic and design features are super important to Mariana. There is a joy to walking in our “tiny home” and feeling like it is clean, beautiful and luxurious. Just because it’s smaller than a normal home does NOT mean we don’t enjoy lots of style and convenience. The kitchen is awesome- we love the drawer pantry! It stores everything and if I were to design a new kitchen (which we are!), I would incorporate the pantry! We love the bathroom skylight and awesome shower features. It makes us feel like we are in a spa! The beds are beyond comfortable and the skylight in the master bedroom makes watching starry nights a common event. As someone who loves a very clean home, Mariana really appreciates the garbage chute and the built-in vacuum. More ideas to copy for our future home! ALL of us are thankful for both the excellent heating system and AC. We enjoy hot summers and cool winters in NoCal, so it’s key that we have both heat and cooling. We love the compact washer and dryer, the microwave/oven, and even the dishwasher and TV. It’s all “just right” in size and so much easier to keep clean!
What would you say to others considering a change in lifestyle?
The LV makes the transition to “tiny home” living a LOT easier because you don’t have to sacrifice on style or comfort. And everything is plug and play; all you have to do is move in! During a global pandemic when most people feel trapped inside and many have gained the “Covid-19”, we actually more free and active, and both Cesar and Mariana are now more fit than ever! We have been wanting to be more eco-friendly for years, and the LV has given us an opportunity to explore a smaller footprint, to be more thoughtful about waste and water, and learn how awesome it is to harness the sun’s energy with our solar panels.
How were you impacted by COVID? How did LV play into your situation?
We had to weather the back-to-back hits of wildfire and COVID. What a year alright! The LV was the only solution that could keep us on our land to be there first hand as much as possible to restore what the fire destroyed, including our small farm. In the early days of the pandemic, we took comfort in the fact that we had a home-on-wheels if we needed to travel - whether to visit family or to get new scenery.
How have you customized your LV to make it your own?
We decided to create a larger stairway off of the deck to allow us to have a larger entrance through the patio doors and use the deck as a “mud room” to take off shoes or swim gear and so on. We added storage for all of our gear under the deck so we can easily access our bikes, sports gear, and so on. It’s funny how having the deck and under storage with stairs makes it that much easier to decide to go for a hike, a bike ride or whatever. The stairs and re-orienting the entrance also made it feel more like a permanent home. We decided to move the counter/cabinet from the kitchen onto the deck, so our kitchen prep space is outside next to the grill. Finally, we invested in a variety of outdoor solar lights around the LV so we can easily walk around at night.
What at is one item you cannot live without?
Each of us might have a different answer! For Mariana, the quality and size of the beds is key while Cesar will say the deck and Isabella will likely say the shower with all its jets and skylight!
Favorite Memory in the LV?
Setting up our telescope to watch a spectacular comet light show this summer from our deck. Dancing to the high quality stereo while making healthy meals from our farm. Creating an outdoor treasure hunt on our property for our daughter and a few friends. Enjoying movie nights in the LV living area by converting the sofas into beds and popping popcorn in the microwave. There are SO many memories! Probably the most important memory was the day we “moved in” and could be back on our land again.
What was the defining moment that made you decide to make the transition to LV? What was the experience of downsizing like? What life changes did you have to make?
Initially it was a shock! We went from having six closets to one, and learned we did not need as many clothes and shoes as we had before! The LV has a lot of storage so we got smart about what items we needed more frequently vs less so, and what items were more seasonal. We basically went through a “Home Edit” process without having to hire anyone!
How have you grown through this experience? Do you feel like you’ve pushed outside of your comfort zone and gained something new?
Absolutely. It has been a steep learning curve to downsize and yet it’s been such an important journey to feel like we don’t need nearly as much space as we thought! As I mentioned before, we feel so much more connected to our land and nature. It is truly remarkable to have found the connection to our property so quickly after the fire. It’s never easy to get over that kind of trauma, but the LV played a key role in our healing process. We are much more prepared for whatever curve balls throw our way. It’s unusual to go from one disaster (wildfire) to the next (pandemic), and still feel like we can handle it. Our confidence level is so much higher. Most of all, it teaches resilience, something we really want to impart on our daughter.
How did you socially distancing with LV?
We created a “beer garden” outside the LV by putting up a few picnic tables and grills so that friends could come and picnic with us safely. The outdoor stereo system only adds to the fun as we grill on our deck while our guests do the same at their designated spots, all while singing and dancing! We have been able to have friends camp with us too, making the breaks in-between shutdowns so much more bearable.
How has LV changed your outlook on life?
Silver linings are always there if you are open to finding them. We have experienced something so beautiful amidst so much sadness. Living in the LV meant our small family bonded in ways we could never imagine, and especially over the pandemic, we learned how important that bond has been to keep us healthy and happy. We also feel free because we know we can always pick up and move locations with the LV and yet still enjoy the happiness the LV has given us :)
Words to live by:
Life is what you make it, so make the best of it!
Life is better with nature. Being in the country while still living comfortably is the best experience we have had as a family. We feel so much more connected to the earth.
The most precious thing is love. Being able to be together safely through these disasters reinforces how much love is paramount
Happiness is waking up in the morning to the sun rising over the neighboring vineyards, and watching the sunset from the LV deck in the evening, and watching the stars from the skylight at night.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The LV is an incredible option for anyone looking to live on their land while building (or in our case, rebuilding). It was a godsend for us because it not only allowed us to continue to enjoy our “happy place” after the loss of the wildfire but also to learn more about how we would want to build in the future. We have moved the LV to different spots on the property and this opened our eyes to different spots for building. In fact, we decided to completely change our design and build our new house in a new location - because the LV gave us an opportunity to test it out. We learned where the sun rose and set, where the winds came from, and many other details that informed our decision of where and how to rebuild.
I need to mention the amazing help, guidance and overall tremendous service that Wally (Hofmann) provided. We’ve never owned an RV before ... actually, not even traveled or slept in one before the LV. I had SOOOOO many questions and felt so overwhelmed with it all. Wally honestly was an amazing friend and truly treated me like family.
There are not enough words or even high enough praise I can think of for what he did and how he helped our family. Our LV experience would have been much different without him during the initial learning period.