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“Almost Like a Stagecoach”
Inspired by The Wild Wild West, David Carlyle transforms horse trailers into small homes
Monday, February 18, 2019
An ill-fated business venture led a semi-retired landscape architect in Naples, Florida to a pastime converting old horse trailers into Victorian-style homes on wheels. David Carlyle calls it a hobby, but he’s sold the trailers for about $30,000 each, to customers as far away as California and France. They include a violinist in L.A. who uses one of Carlyle’s trailers for jam sessions. Others employ the trailers for Airbnb housing.
It began with a vacation in the Bahamas, when Carlyle and his wife — an alligator taxidermist — got the idea to launch a business offering horseback rides to tourists. They purchased a six-horse trailer before realizing that the island had no equine vets and they’d have to import the food.
So they were stuck with the trailer. Inspired by the luxurious railroad passenger car in The Wild Wild West TV show, Carlyle decided to transform it into a Victorian-style living quarters. Now he’s on his 14th.
At first, he worked from his own design drawings, as he did as an architect. Now he just looks at the trailer and visualizes the project. “I strip them down and take off all the rust,” he says. Then he rebuilds them, adding wiring, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, kitchen appliances, and other amenities. They’re furnished largely with items purchased from thrift stores and yard sales. Each includes a bathroom along with RV-style connections for water, electricity and sewage. The process generally takes about three months.
Because they’re designed to carry the weight of multiple horses, the trailers are ideally suited for the conversions, he says. Before selling one, he usually tests it by taking it on vacation.
He does not build trailers to order. Instead, “I do it the way I want to do it and then I sell it,” he says, usually on the Tiny House Listings website. “I can be more creative that way.”
Carlyle describes himself as a fan of steampunk, and he sees his trailers as the embodiment of the genre. “Traveling seems like a big part of it,” he says. “To me, it’s all about the movement. It’s almost like a stagecoach.”
You can see more of his work in the photo gallery below.
Photos used by permission of David Carlyle.