Ever dreamed of turning all your boring but valuable work experience into an art project that satisfies your creative urges and also puts food on the table?
Meet Jeff Deming. He just pulled that off. After about 20 years working in hospitality, he’s now the proprietor of Gypsy Wagons, a company that designs, constructs and rents travel trailers with bright, storybook exteriors and crafty interiors.
“I was running a guest ranch up in Lassen Volcanic Park last year,” said Deming. “I finished up in, like, November. I got back down here to Reno. I’m like, ’What do I want to do?’”
He didn’t just want a new job and creative satisfaction. He’d found the solitude in the national park alluring, so he also wanted access to some kind of quiet getaway.
Deming ascended a small ramp to one of his wagons, one with a lime green façade and a pointed roof that looks like a fairytale church. He stepped inside through a set of narrow, pink French doors with blue trim and explained that the inspiration had come in his neighbor’s driveway.
“My neighbor’s just a super artistic, crafty woman,” he said. The neighbor is Sheila LeDrew, who teaches art classes to kids. She’d had an arty trailer built for herself. As soon as Deming laid eyes on it, late in 2015, he decided that his future would be in making and leasing travel trailers. He called builder and designer Mike Mechanic, who signed on to build, weld and sculpt. The two have made four wagons so far and had a few rental customers.
On the outside, each wagon has an insulated, canvas roof, quirky-shaped entryways, and tiny front porches with exuberant paint jobs.
“My daughter is my chief painter, my 13 year old,” said Deming. Affixed to the back of each trailer is an 18-gallon water tank with a pump, a shower spigot, a sink made of a thrift-store cooking pot, and a small mural space that customers are encouraged to paint on. (Paint is included in the rental. You don’t need to BYO.)
Inside, the wagons are miniature versions of a Dwell magazine spread. Each has one or two beds with colorful, comfy bedding; raw, exposed ceiling beams that are still aromatic with the smell of fresh wood; and a list of list of amenities that could only have been made by someone who wanted to translate the experience of having hosted thousands of travelers into an art project. On one hand, Deming pores over fine details. On the other hand, there are a lot of things he decided you really don’t need with you on a vacation.
“When you’re running a guest house, you think, ’I need shelf space. I need counter space. I need a cutting board,’” he said. “When I put the mattress in, I needed a couple extra inches so I can make the bed without destroying my knuckles. Stuff like that.”
Remember, one of his original goals was to indulge in “getting away from it all,” so Gypsy Wagons’ standard amenities were designed with that in mind, and with Deming’s own preferred mix of extravagance and asceticism. TV? Satellite dish? Microwave? Nowhere to be seen. French-press coffee maker? Solar-powered-cooler stashed inside a hand-hewn bench made from a thick slab of maple or cherry wood? Yes. Hand-crafted, stained-glass window in every unit? Of course.