A Modern Beachside Trailer Home in Malibu
By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
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That magic included adding new furnishings (most from Commune artisans), a kitchen redo that introduced Heath Ceramics tile and new appliances, built-in daybeds in the living room that double as overnight beds for when Howard’s two children visit, and custom, ocean-blue paint on the ceiling ("with the recessed lighting and white paint, it looked too much like an apartment," says Johanknecht). "We wanted it to still look like a trailer—we didn’t want to pretend it was a house or a McMansion," says Howard. "It reminds me of northern California meets southern California," adds Johanknecht. "It’s like the anti-Hamptons."

Howard spends so much summer and weekend time at the trailer, she's looking to sell and upgrade to a larger model in the park to better accommodate her family and friends. But as she revels in the space, constantly trading out one of her photographers' shots for another on the walls, one gets the idea it’s also the process she finds rewarding. "It would be fun to do again," she says.

Once a classic trailer-park scheme of mint green and white, the exterior of Commune Images owner Sofie Howard’s 500-square-foot Malibu trailer was distinctively repainted. The gate is a patchwork of scrap wood pieces. Partly inspired by 1970s Vans slip-ons, Howard’s boyfriend, artist Grant Shumate, painted accent lines on the side of the trailer. The porch houses a seating area with handmade MORERA Boxes from Commune, and a new outdoor shower. The entrance is beneath the wood-framed canopy.

Howard and Shumate in the living room, where Commune designer Steven Johanknecht introduced custom built-in daybeds with storage beneath. The carpet-fragment pillows are from Commune, as is the table, designed by Joshua Tree–based sculptor Alma Allen. The poster is by Mike Mills.

The main room serves as a living/dining/kitchen area, where there is just enough room for a Saarinen table surrounded by Nakashima chairs. Johanknecht added the cork floor, and the custom stained-glass design on the Dutch door is by artist Steve Halderman.

The kitchen cabinetry echoes the new blue ceiling. The brick tile is from Heath Ceramics, as is the dinnerware. Behind the Viking stove is powder-coated corrugated metal (“Very trailer,” says the designer). The refrigerator is from Big Chill. On the table is a bowl by Victoria Morris.

The blue ceiling continues into the bedroom, filled with art by Howard’s friends. The yellow-and-white poster is by Mike Mills, and the signed Rolling Stones drumhead was a gift. “It feels like a New York apartment at the beach,” says Shumate.

The bedroom allows for a tiny niche for a built-in wood desk. The target painting is by Alia Penner.

More fragment pillows adorn the bed, which is covered in a reversible bedspread by artist Jane Kifer. To the left of the window is a painting by Shumate.

Erika Heet


Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.

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