Trailer park chic is nothing new. From restaurants in New York City (serving Philly steak sandwiches and Sloppy Joe’s) to renovated trailers gone upscale in spectacular spots, this architectural type has been culturally decriminalized.

But even if hipster trailers, like the Sustain miniHome—a portable condo of recycled corrugated steel, fume-free paints, solar panels, rainwater collection systems, an optional wind turbine, and, should you jones for some fossil fuel, a propane system—are on the market, it’s fair to say the trailer park itself still looks pretty much like, well, a trailer park. We’re still waiting for the fab pre-fab park to be unveiled (an idea I’ve been pushing for years, if only I happened to have a team of investors and an old trailer park in a great location for sale…).

In the meantime, though, the “park model” is on the rise, at least for the Boomer generation. Okay, yes, park models are officially trailers—classified as such because they’re small, usually less than 400 square feet, and on wheels. But the homes, which are quite popular in England, are more cottage-like than trailer-like in look, and the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association has reported that 80,000 park models have been sold to seniors in the last decade. They can cost as little as $40,000, and include floor-to-ceiling windows or fireplaces. They might resemble woodland cabins or adobe homes, and are apparently an affordable alternative to the golf community condo that once was the reigning option for retirees.

The best thing about trailers is that they can be as small as you want; most municipalities have minimum house size standards or zoning laws that require homes as large as 1,000 square feet. If you want to get small, perhaps the park model is the path for you. 

Story by Lisa Selin Davis. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008