For the past several months, TV producer-turned-tiny house documentarian Kirsten Dirksen has unleashed a steady stream of provocative, Pacific Northwest-based goodness over at simple living website faircompanies: Tours of a pre-owned powerboat in Portland, vintage RVs and converted school buses in Northern California, a handcrafted cabin on the Oregon Coast, a cleverly designed micro-apartment hidden away in the basement of a Seattle apartment building, the appropriately petite residences of tiny house luminaries Jay Shafer and Dee Williams.

As always, Dirksen takes on the role of curious and respectful (and respected) outsider in lieu of proselytizer in her popular tiny home video profiles — videos that are at turns compelling, catalytic, and occasionally claustrophobic. Dirksen's subjects — her “tiny house people" — are never, ever short on big ideas.

In the past, I’ve wondered as to where Dirksen — when not traveling, she lives in Barcelona with her husband/faircompanies co-founder, Nicolás Boullosa, and their three young children including an infant — hunkers down for the night when on the road and filming in her native United States as she seems to cover a whole lot of territory. On the couches and in the guest rooms of friends and family? At a never-ending series of Holiday Inn Express franchises? In the already cramped quarters of her subjects? Tiny house hotels?

As it turns out, for their latest round of West Coast filming Dirksen and Boullosa lived on the road in an early '80s-era Westfalia camper van with a pop-up sleeping loft (read: not a RV) purchased on Craigslist. Their adorable children, of course, came along for the extended ride.

In total, the family's secondhand summer-home-on-wheels rang in at 50 square feet which, in terms of living space, is smaller than most of the pint-sized homes featured regularly on faircompanies. And much like with the colorful cast of characters that Dirksen documented along her journey, she was determined to make living with such a confined space work. 

During several weeks of travel and filming across Oregon, Washington, and Northern California, Dirksen and Boullosa parked their trusty "Westy" in a different location each night — side streets, small roads, Walmart parking lots — and learned to survive with only the basics: a single pot for cooking, extra cloths, sunscreen, castile soap, utensils, a Swiss Army knife, a smartphone, and filming gear. Day in and day out, Dirksen turned the camera to her family in an effort to document what it was like living life deliberately and comfortably with minimal necessities.  

And as for those days ... let's just say they were filled with revelations, crying, backseat sing-alongs, lots of fretting about where to (legally) pull over and sleep, and plenty of spectacular scenery including Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, the Columbia River, and the Redwoods National Forest. There are also more than a few "are we there yets?"

Hundreds of pit stops, propane refills, and potty breaks later, Dirksen has beautifully pieced together the footage of her family’s nomadic wanderings through the Pacific Northwest and released "Summer of (Family) Love," a nearly 2-hour  documentary described as “a road trip film that brings together some of the bigger names in the tiny house world with one family’s attempt to live deliberately with just the essentials, if only for one season.”

Narrates Dirksen in the beginning of the film: “I’ve never traveled with my home in tow, but last summer I had stories to film along the West Coast and I wanted to experiment with just how much shelter was necessary for a family of five. So we bought a used camper van in moved in.” And then, the journey begins.

"It's difficult not to examine your life when living on the road. This is also one of my favorite things about small spaces — without the distraction of stuff, you're forced to confront your existence and, if you choose, to live more deliberately. It's tempting to keep moving. I like living in the slow-time of travel. I won't miss finding a place to park every night but I now know that I can make my home just about anywhere and be happy."

Sit back, buckle up, and please do watch. Afterward, let me know what you think about Dirken's 'experiment' in the comments section. And in addition to her own experiences living simply with her family in a camper van, do you have a favorite stop that she made during her travels throughout the Northwest?

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Living the deliberate life in a secondhand camper van [Video]
If you're going to spend several weeks talking to people who live in tiny spaces, you should probably try living in a tiny space yourself, right?