Tales of a
Trailer Trash Convert

Restoring a Mid-Century-Modern Mobile Home

A Chronicle in Pictures and Text

(NB: This is deliberately intended as a basic webpage, without the “bells and whistles” found on many webpages!
“Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts.”  - Sgt Joe Friday, Dragnet)

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     Between 2008 and 2017, I owned a one-bedroom apartment in the historic Desert Skies condominium complex in Palm Springs, California. That complex was built in 1956 to a design by Herbert Burns, one of a group of Palm Springs architects who together pioneered the distinctive Palm Springs Mid Century Modern architectural and interior design aesthetic. The group also included Donald Wexler, William Krisel, E. Stewart Williams, Albert Frey, William F. Cody, and Hugh Kaptur, among others. I fully restored my apartment to a state as close as possible to its original appearance, using only authentic products manufactured during that era and which I carefully refurbished for re-use. Some of the results featured on Pam Kueber’s encyclopedic RetroRenovation website, and the bathroom was illustrated in The New York Times in August of 2011. RetroRenovation was a goldmine of resources during the restoration process. I was thoroughly happy with and proud of the outcome of my efforts.
     Unfortunately, however, the nature of life at Desert Skies changed dramatically during my period of ownership there. What started out as a quiet community of year-round owner- and renter-occupied units transformed over time into a collection of investor-owned units rented out short-term to weekenders from Los Angeles and “snowbirds” from Vancouver, Calgary, Portland, etc. I came to feel as though I were living in a cheap motel in Las Vegas, with all of the noise and alcohol and poor behavior connotated by the “What Happens In Las Vegas” stereotype. So I sold my unit in April of 2017 and began exploring other options.
     Real estate prices in Palm Springs have completely rebounded in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis, and our proximity to Los Angeles and easy accessibility to San Francisco and Silicon Valley have made traditional housing very pricey now. A very significant percentage of Palm Springs housing is owned by upper-income people who use their houses only on weekends and who otherwise live elsewhere. And simply renting seemed financially foolish, especially since rents have been climbing dramatically in recent years. But my experience at Desert Skies had left me with a strong distaste for condominiums. What to do, what to do?
     A real estate agent suggested that I consider a mobile home. My initial response was incredulity. All I could see in my mind’s eye was toothless men wearing grease-stained “wifebeaters” and clutching bottles of cheap beer, overweight women with pink sponge-rollers in their hair and a cigarette permanently affixed to their lower lip herding half-naked screaming kids around among the discarded washing machines and old autos on cinder blocks! Trailer trash! How could I possibly consider such a distasteful option?!?!?
     But then I did my homework on mobile home parks in Palm Springs specifically, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. First, I learned never to call them “trailer parks!” They are “mobile home parks,” and the residents are very quick to set you straight if you err in that regard! Second, some of them are extremely nice, even charming. Blue Skies Village in nearby Rancho Mirage, for example, commands six-figure prices for 1950s-era “coaches” (never “trailers”!) and has been featured on several home and garden television shows. Others are built around picturesque golf courses and have $1000+ per month lot rental fees. Most are 55-and-over only (I am 60) and forbid rental of any kind (YES!). You own your “coach” and pay a monthly lot rental fee ranging from about $300 per month to $1000+ as mentioned above. But many are rent-controlled, so the rents do not rise even if demand increases. And while about half of the coaches in any given park are still owned by snowbirds, they are owner-residents rather than short-term transient renters and are thus generally better behaved. Living in a mobile home park in Palm Springs is, I discovered, vastly different from the traditional trailer parks of the South and the Midwest. And since we do not have tornadoes or even thunderstorms in Palm Springs, no worrying about being blown away in a stiff breeze!
     But the principle attraction for mobile home living is affordability. “Double-wide” coaches of as much as 2000 square feet and more can be had for under $100,000! The average 1000-1500 square-foot double-wide is more often in the $60,000-$75,000 range. And though it is probably insensitive of me to say so, nice coaches can be snapped up out of probate sales for well below $50,000! The Palm Springs demographic is decidedly elderly, and when owners die, their children back east or up north often just want to unload the coach as quickly as possible in order to avoid paying lot rental fees. I am pleased to say that I got my own 800-square-foot single-wide for just $22,000, including closing costs! It is in an older park on a quiet cul-de-sac immediately adjacent to the scenic Taqhuitz Canyon hiking area and is full of eclectically-decorated and generally well-kept homes.
     My coach was manufactured in 1969 and is a “Newport Expando” model, though I have yet to identify the manufacturer. “Expando” references an extension on one side that was part of the original design, much like a “pop-out” on a modern RV. It is a “single-wide twelve-footer,” meaning it was made in one piece and is twelve feet wide without the extension. The interior was extensively remodeled three years ago, but it was unfortunately done on the cheap using low-end “flat pack” products. I knew when I bought it that I would be remodeling again, and with such a low purchase price, I thought I would be free to do a real high-end build-out.
     Then the real fun started.....


Parkview Mobile Estates on the western edge of Palm Springs.
The mountains of the San Jacinto National Forest behind the park rise to 11,000 feet!

The entrance to the park.


Needs work, doesn't it?


The street view looking west toward the mountain, showing the character of the park. It is not the kind of place you see on the television show Cops or in news footage about tornadoes in Kansas (do I seem defensive? LOL).


The coach is set into the ground rather than up on blocks, removing the need for tacky "skirting." The entire structure is surrounded by a concrete pad. Both sides of the house have metal awnings intended to reduce the amount of direct sunlight falling on the poorly insulated walls. That is a real issue when the summer temperatures routinely reach 115 degrees every day of July and August. The awning on the east side creates a much-needed carport.

The extension on the west side, behind the large front porch.

The iconic Mid Century Modern gold starbursts on the ceiling of the awnings were a key attraction for me.


The kitchen.
That is my rescued American Staffordshire Terrier, Boo.

The grates on the ceiling are for the swamp cooler,
while those in the floor are for the central heating system.

The original "Ikea-esque" kitchen, in its entirety (very small and almost useless).

The extension and a door to the back porch, laundry area, and west patio, with a "cat flap."

The living room, and a very narrow hallway leading to the bedroom.
Note the window-unit-type air conditioners, floor register for central heating, and cheap laminate flooring.


A 10' by 9' "office" off the hallway behind the living room,
requiring a portable air conditioning unit.


The tiny bathroom. The bathtub is only 48 inches long!

The bedroom, with sliding mirrored doors over a recessed closet and sliding glass doors onto the east patio. Note again the wall-mounted window-unit-type air conditioner and its unsightly electrical cord.  

A story:
Many of you have no doubt seen the episodes of Antiques Roadshow, etc, in which people buy houses and discover treasures tucked away in closets and attics or hidden in walls. Well ... Unseen on the left of this picture is a small built-in cabinet and four drawers. In one of the drawers, and under some paperwork for the window unit air conditioner, I found a small box. Inside the box was a large stack of IDs for someone who graduated high school in Pasadena in 1956. The name on the IDs did not match the name of the seller of the coach. Also in the box was a collection of jewelry. The total value of the collection was a little above $5000! I sold much of it for the gold weight. Other pieces were sold on eBay. And some of them I kept, like a man's gold ring with 4 diamonds totaling 1 carat, some 14k gold necklaces and bracelets, and various cufflinks and tuxedo stud sets. So I recouped several thousand on the purchase price of the coach through hidden treasure within! Those TV stories really do happen!


We started demolition on 7 February 2018. Dan Kennedy and his helpers Michael and Josh made quick work of removing the drywall. In this image, the drywall has been removed from the kitchen and living room.

But as is always the case with remodels, that only exposed unanticipated problems, such as poor quality and very old insulation, aluminum wiring (!!), and amazingly flimsy construction. Time to double the budget.


The living room wall, the office, the bathroom, and the bedroom closet have all been removed, leaving only the central heating furnace unit.


The plywood subfloor was in bad shape, so we elected to take it up as well. That exposed yet another problem. Note the floor joists running the 60' length of the coach instead of across it and the total absence of cross-bracing. Yikes! No wonder the floor was as wavy as the North Atlantic in winter! The joists were rolling over onto their sides, and some were spaced as much as 24 inches apart rather than the customary 16 inches! (The metal duct is for the central heating.)


So out came the floor joists, leaving only the original steel chassis on which the coach had originally been built in the factory (left), and the ground beneath. To prove that it really is a trailer, the original wheels and axles were still in place!

The debris from demolition rapidly piled up to a depth of six feet on both the east and the west patios. My neighbors have been saints for being so patient with the noise and the mess.


The first task in rebuilding was to install new floor joists at proper 16-inch centers and with proper cross-bracing. Each of us fell through at least twice while trying to walk across the joists! In my case, I came away with a HUGE bruise all the way down my right hip. We eventually started a betting pool on who would be next to take the plunge!


We replaced the old galvanized and cast iron plumbing with new CPVC and ABS plumbing under the floor. The original aluminum wiring was replaced with modern copper Romex, and a new breaker panel was installed. The central furnace and wall-unit air conditioners were removed, and condenser lines were installed beneath the floor for an energy-efficient mini-split HVAC system.



After placing a waterproof membrane on the underside of the floor joists, we installed new subfloor R-13 insulation. We were all still taking turns falling through to the ground below. 

Next, a 3/4-inch OSB subfloor was installed throughout. The 500-pound antique cast iron bathtub was also wrestled into the space for the future bathroom (more about that later).

Upon removing the drywall from the ceiling, we discovered that the ceiling rafters were woefully inadequate 1x2s. And yes, those supports extending up from the rafters and intended to hold the roof up are nothing more than scraps of 1/8-inch-thick wall paneling! The rusted triangle of metal hanging down is the metal roof, which had rotted away due to a leaking swamp cooler on the roof, creating another unexpected expense. The swamp cooler had to be removed and a new roof put over the rear 14 feet of the coach.


New roof in place (the slightly corrugated section halfway along the roof). Swamp coolers can be seen on the roofs of coaches across the street. They work well in low-humidity environments like Palm Springs, but they too often leak.

New ceiling rafters have now been installed, giving much greater support to the ceiling and the roof.

Having decided to go as energy efficient as is possible with a mobile home, we installed modern R-13 insulation in the wall and ceiling spaces.


New drywall had to be installed. Seen here is the kitchen and living room ceilings completed and the walls half finished.

The drywall installation for the front of the coach is now mostly in place and awaiting taping and floating. Some of the kitchen cabinets (more about those later) have been moved in to facilitate plumbing rough in, and the "new" kitchen sink is in the floor. The double-basin steel sink, circa 1955, was purchased on eBay from a seller in Oneata, NY and shipped to Independence Porcelain and Enamel in Independence, Missouri for re-enameling before being shipped on to me. They did an outstanding job! The deck-mounted sink faucet is the Madeira model from Strom Plumbing and was purchased from VintageTub.com (detail photos will be posted later). A new pre-hung steel entry door is leaning against the wall, to replace the original and cheap hollow-core door.

Now to begin drywalling the back half of the coach and framing in the bathroom and walk-in closet. I am leaving the original side-entry door in place on the left.

Framing of the walk-in closet (toward viewer) with its pocket door and the bathroom (further away) and its pocket door. I wanted both spaces to be over-sized.

The framing for the bathroom showing the new full-width hallway.



The lease on my temporary quarters expired on 20 April 2018 and could not be extended, so I was compelled to move in to the mobile home even though it was no where near ready! The kitchen cabinets are piled in the kitchen floor, and boxes and the few pieces of furniture that I kept from the condo are piled in the alcove of the extension. Boo is bewildered. One of the air handlers for the new energy-efficient mini-split HVAC system can be seen high on the wall on the right.




The state of the bathroom on move-in day. The tub is in place but not plumbed. The shower pan is leaning against the wall awaiting installation. I had to go elsewhere between 20 April and 1 May in order to bathe.

The toilet worked, but obviously the bathroom sink did not. So the kitchen sink had to be rigged for temporary use.

The bedroom on move-in day. The second air handler for the mini-split system is again high on the wall.


The first priority after moving in was the bathroom. But oh, the troubles that awaited us there! Here, the shower area is being prepped to install the pre-fabricated shower pan from Tile-Redi. The water supply lines to the shower are in place and the shower valve installed. The long pipe extending out at the bottom is for a special spigot for giving the dog a bath. This photo was taken on 28 April, more than a week after I had moved in! We had delays of every kind, especially illness among the contractor and his help and an inability to obtain proper supplies. When you want to install antique fixtures, be prepared for a lengthy process of sourcing the little bits and pieces that you would not ordinarily think about. Connecting the antique plumbing of the bathtub to modern pipes posed a particular problem that took over three weeks to solve. The bathtub was made by American Standard in January 1940, according to the date on the underside, so the plumbing was from the same era. More on that below, once it has been installed and photographed.


The shower pan was finally installed on 1 May and is seen here weighted until the mortar sets fully.

The bathroom sink, also American Standard but dated 1947, came largely complete from a Craigslist seller in nearby Pasadena, while the legs were snapped up from eBay for an astonishingly low price. All of the metal parts were sent out for re-chroming, with the exception of the cross-handle stop valves beneath the sink. Those were NOS American Standard from eBay.

A note of caution: ALWAYS photograph the disassembly process for use as a guide in re-assembly, then photograph each disassembeld part before turning it over to someone else for work. Keep a written inventory as well. I learned that lesson the hard way. Critical and non-replaceable parts for the sink drain got lost for a time, though I was very fortunate that the chromer eventually found them. But perhaps part of the problem lay in the sheer bulk of material that I turned over to him: over 300 individual pieces from the sink, toilet, bathtub, kitchen and bath cabinets, range vent hood, etc. Re-chroming is very pricey, especially in California, so shop around for the best price. And check online reviews! Chromers seem to be either very good, or very bad; there is no middle ground. I used a reasonably-priced and good chromer 75 miles away rather than an overpriced and bad one 2 miles away. He took twice as long as he said he would, but he was 60% cheaper than the company closer to me, and the quality of his work was good.

The bathroom sink valves posed a particular problem that took three weeks to solve. To begin with, the barrels of the old valves were corroded into place and extremely difficult to remove. I was saved by a YouTube video: American Standard Barrel Removal Trick by Bathroom Machineries, a.k.a. deabath.com. But finding replacement valve stems was the biggest hurdle. All of my local commercial plumbing supply companies had a good laugh when I told them what I needed and what I was trying to accomplish. Then I found Deabath.com in an internet search. They were able to supply me with replacement valves for the sink, though it did take three tries before I got the right ones (my fault, not theirs). They also have a lot of the trim parts (handles, escutcheons,etc), though they are reproductions rather than NOS. Fortunately, all of my original trim was present and able to be re-chromed. At this writing on 10 May, Deabath is also supplying me with replacement valve stems for the bathtub facuet system, which has a really unusual setup (yes, another teaser for more later). Dave at Bathroom Machineries/Deabath has been a real champion, and very patient with my "process"!


The lower kitchen cabinets have been set in place so that we can measure for flooring finish materials. There will also be a peninsula where the trash bag and boxes are now. The stove and refrigerator are temporary and left over from the last owner of the mobile home. My "new" stove and refrigerator are scheduled to be delivered on or about 1 May ... and they are amazing!

The raggedy paper drop-cloth used as a temporary curtain ... is that a keeper, or what?


Starting the re-painting process. The colors are white and “Purple Fury” (Lowe's). I used semi-gloss to pick up on the metallic nature of the siding and to give the surface some shine in the desert sun.

We had to move the cabinets back out in order to complete the taping and floating of the drywall in the kitchen.

21 May - The drywall in the kitchen is now finished and ready for priming and painting. The lower cabinets have been permanently installed, leveled, and affixed to the walls. A peninsula of cabinets has been started, with the 2x3 framing visible.

The sink is not a perfect fit to the Youngstown Diana sink base, so it will be turned into a "drop-in" sink. The mirror above the sink is temporary until the bathroom is completed. The refrigerator will be replaced at the end of May by an antique one.

The plywood for the countertops is now laid in place.

22 May - Applying a coat of drywall primer to the walls and ceiling ....

Followed by the pink paint for the walls of the kitchen. I am rubbish at choosing colors, and this is a perfect example. I thought this shade of pink would be a nice complement to the darker pink of the cabinet bases. Not so. Instead, it is shockingly bubble-gum pink! I will have to re-do it in a shade or two lighter.

June 1 - I have begun reinstalling the original laminate flooring. This is purely a temporary measure.  With the cost overruns, proper full-thickness oak plank flooring will have to wait.

The living room wall is now Valaspar "Alpine Top" green, and I have hung the decoratuve metal wall plaques that I bought on eBay and restored. I love them! The black rectangles are in-wall speakers without their covers.

The long wall, running the full length of the house, is Valspar "Pirate's Treasure" gold. Not seen is the interior wall of the hallway, painted in "Enchanted Navy" blue.

The colors are saturated, dark, and bold ... not to everyone's taste, but there is a method to my madness. Gold is the unifying color outside of the kitchen, with the living room in green and gold, the hallway in blue and gold, and the bedroom will be red and gold.

The stove, ready for delivery from Carolina's Antique Appliances in East Los Angeles. It is a 1957 O'Keefe & Merritt "DeVille" model, as in Cadillac DeVille. To my knowledge, this is one of the first examples of cross-branding tie-ins. There is even a Cadillac emblem at the top! Four gas burners plus a center griddle with its own thermostat, a working rotisserie oven on the left over a storage compartment, a regular oven over a broiler on the right. The top at the back has a glass shelf that folds up and down, plus two electrical outlets. The clock was refurbished, but it did not last long. Antique stove clocks are very difficult to restore, mostly because the windings on the motors wear out.

And the perfect refrigerator to go with the stove! This is a Leonard Foodarama from about 1953-54. Leonard became part of Kelvinator in 1926, but Kelvinator continued to market the Leonard brand, especially in Canada and England. The Foodarama was one of the first, if not the first, side-by-side refrigerators ever made. As you will see in later photos, the interior of this refrigerator is AMAZING! And it is exactly like the better known Kelvinator Foodarama. It measures just 60 inches tall, but is a generous 47 inches wide. YouTube has a television commercial from the 1950s for the Kelvinator version of the Foodarama : Kelvinator Foodarama.

When you live in a construction site, the mess really piles up!

June 20 - My contractor went MIA three weeks ago, so things have been largely at a standstill while I sorted that out. But now it is time to press on.

To save money (cost overruns), and in the continuing absence of a contractor, I am installing the kitchen flooring material myself. The concrete backerboard is now in place. Word to the wise: Do this BEFORE installing the cabinets! I scratched one of the cabinet doors by not watching where all of the corners of a 5-foot sheet of concrete board were going!

June 21 - Starting to lay the porcelain tile floor. I really vacillated about the flooring for the kitchen. For reasons of period authenticity, cost, and affordability, I was initially inclined toward traditional vinyl tile. But it is very difficult to maintain a high gloss on vinyl tile, and I really wanted a floor as shiny as Fred Astaire's dance floors. So after some considerable searching, I finally found a maker of procelain tiles that were a solid, deep color and available in 12" x 12" (that is surprisingly rare!). And while I was initially inclined to go with solid black, I was persuaded to opt for checkerboard instead, laid on a diagonal rather than square to the room. Love the diagonal, still unsure about the white in the checkerboard.

(NB: For those wanting a super glossy, black and white, 12" x 12" checkerboard floor, the "go-to" brand is Nano Porcelain, using Super Black and Super White. They are made by Foshan Colorgres Building Materials of Guangdong, China. The US is not one of their major markets, so you may have to search among your local flooring materials suppliers for one that has access to this product.)
Delays, delays, delays ...

31 July 2018 - The project continues to be delayed by a contractor that rarely shows up. Work is actually done only about 2 days per week, and then only for about 5 hours per day. I have tried everything I know to correct this, but nothing works. And I cannot afford to hire a different contractor to do work for which I have already paid a deposit and the customary second payment. So I am doing whatever work I can by myself.

Glossy black Formica has now been added to the countertops. I am awaiting a special router bit so that I can cut the groove required to install the metal edging. That should happen this weekend. In the meantime, I am now loving the black and white checkerboard floor, despite my initial misgivings. Though it does not show in this photo, the floor is super glossy, which I love. So are the countertops!

Starting the process of tiling the bathroom wall. I am doing that myself. It is very easy to do, and I am saving a huge amount of money by doing it myself (tile work was never part of the original contractor agreement).

The tile work is continuing, slowly but surely. And the hardware for the bathtub has been partially installed. The contractor failed to vent the plumbing properly, so I am forcing him to go back and install vents. In response, he has informed me that he will not be back until Monday, 6 August! MORE delays!

I will just keep plugging along by myself. Thank goodness for YouTube! It is amazing how many high-quality "How To" videos can now be found there for just about any project you may be considering. Those videos are proving to be my salvation!
Drywall has now been installed, taped, and floated in the dining room. That process took “only” three weeks (!!!), owing to the contractor's poor work ethic. The drywall in the bedroom has also been taped and floated, but only partially. I will have to finish that myself, apparently.

I need to say a few words about the mini-split air conditioner system that I had installed. I HATE IT. The installer talked me into buying Midea products, even though I wanted Mitsubishi. The Midea was on sale at the time, and now I know why. It is absolute crap, in my opinion. No owner's manual of any kind, a remote control more complicated than the dashpanel of NASA’s space shuttle, and it just simply does not work. I set it for a particular temperature and two hours later it changes ... entirely on its own! ... to a different setting. It was 115 degrees here a couple of days ago, but the unit absolutely insisted on remaining in “Heat” mode! As if that were not bad enough, calls to Midea’s customer service center in Florida were utterly useless. Most of the personnel are Haitian and speak exceedingly poor English, IF you can get past the 30-60 minute hold times before being connected. I want the entire system removed from my house, but Midea is resisting. My advice: NEVER BUY ANYTHING MADE BY MIDEA!
22 August 2018 - Well, my contractor finally walked away completely on the first of the month. His helper disappeared around that time after reportedly not having been paid for the previous month (!!!) by the contractor. It is believed that the helper returned home to Pennsylvania. Left without any laborers, the contractor simply stopped showing up. The good news is that he left a lot of his tools and equipment here. So it looks like I will be acting as owner-builder from here on out, using the left-behind tools. I did talk to a couple of different contractors in hopes of replacing the original, but none want to take on the mess he left. SO much was done incorrectly, from total failure to ventilate the bathroom plumbing to how the drywall was installed. It is a mess. And cost overruns have shattered my budget, so future progress will be very, very slow.
And more delays ...
8 December 2018 - Remodel projects always entail setbacks, delays, and drama, and mine is certainly no different. I got to spend most of September on jury duty. I was actually assigned to a trial (attempted murder involving a “gangbanger”) and could not do any work on the house for the duration of that trial since I had to be in court all day every day. That took until the end of the first week of October (hung jury and a mistrial, in the end). Then the combination of a family health emergency, financial shortages, and a personal lack of motivation delayed the resumption of work until mid November. But I did resolve in early November to attack the remaining work in a logical manner, progressing one room at a time and prioritizing those rooms that were most needed. Thus I focused first on the bedroom, so that I would no longer be required to sleep on the living room floor.

The first order of business was completion of the taping and floating of the drywall in the bedroom. When the contractor had walked away in August, that work was only half completed. Worse, it had been very badly done. In the end, I had to remove all of the taping, which was incorrectly applied by one of his inexperienced laborers and extensively bubbled. I had to re-apply it all, and I had to apply unusually large amounts of drywall “mud” in an effort to hide at least some of the waviness of the ceiling (old mobile homes are never squared).

After painting the ceiling and walls (Valspar Classic Red for the walls), I built a platform bed that will eventually have drawers beneath for storage. I made the headboard 10 years ago to resemble a “dog bone” design made by the Heywood Wakefield Company in the 1950s, but without the center cutout normally seen on those. The nightstand is authentic Heywood Wakefield, purchased on eBay many years ago. The nightstand lamp with fiberglass shade was likewise purchased on eBay. Can you tell that I love eBay?

I overlaid the platform panel of the bed using flooring underlayment material leftover when I took up the laminate flooring that was present when I purchased the coach. I am hoping that this will protect the fabric of the mattress.

I also wanted to put a few tchotckes up so that the walls would not be bare. What 1950s home would be complete without paintings on black velvet? Since I am just 90 miles from the Mexican border, I thought their subject matter was appropriate. And three-dimensional painted plaster harlequin dancers ... another de rigueur item in the 1950s. The framed photograph is of my maternal great-grandparents and was taken in the 1920s. Good luck getting framed items to hang straight in Palm Springs, since we are right on the San Andreas earthquake fault line!


The bedroom is now functional, but far from complete. I put the cheap laminate flooring back in place pending the installation throughout the house of traditional full-thickness oak plank hardwood flooring. Baseboards will go in after the hardwoods. I also still need to do the cabinetry work under the platform bed, including installing a wood panel across the foot supports so as to hide them. And I need to find a 1950s chenille bedspread. But at least I can now use the room and not feel as though I am living in an active construction site.

 Not so with the bathroom ....

8 December 2018 - I am at present actively working on the bathroom, though I have not gotten very far yet. Adapting from a photograph (laying on the floor in the photo at the right, under the sink’s p-trap) of a tile pattern from a period bath that I found on RetroRenovation.com, I have test-laid the tile to make sure the pattern properly fits the dimensions of the room. My former contractor abandoned his high-end tile saw when he left the job, thank goodness, so I can and will do all of the tile work myself.

The look I am going for in the bathroom is stark black and white. The walls will be high-gloss 4x4 black tile on the lower half, with white grouting. The upper half of the wall will then be painted white. The floor will be equally high-gloss tile, but white hexagon tile with charcoal grouting. The pattern laid into the tile is intended to represent stars, similar to the stars on the ceiling of the outdoor awnings. The bath linens and decorative items will provide color, and that color can be rotated daily if I so choose.

Once again, all of the materials are as authentic as possible. The bathtub was made by American Standard and bears a manufacturer’s date stamp underneath for January 1940. It is a little pre-Mid Century Modern, I admit, but I could not pass up the amazing floor-mounted fixtures that came with it. They were purchased from an eBay seller (of course!) in New York City and hauled to Southern California by an independent shipper that I found on UShip.com. The total cost of just the tub and its fixtures, purchase plus shipping, was far beyond the retail price of a modern acrylic bathtub, but I absolutely HATE acrylic bath fixtures! And acrylic fixtures did not exist in the 1950s, so there you are ....

13 December 2018 - It took several hours to adjust the floor tile pattern so that it will be symmetrical across the span of the floor in two directions. Very tedious work, and headache inducing! But I got it to work to my satisfaction and was able to start laying tile yesterday. The entire process is very labor intensive. First, I had to trim hundreds of the hexes where they butt up against the walls, bathtub, shower pan, or straight-sided perimeter accent tile. That took an entire afternoon, complicated by a wet saw with a clogged water line that I had to repair. Once the edge tiles were trimmed, I had to remove hundreds of individual white hex tiles from the 12x12 squares of mesh to which the white tile is attached so as to make space for the black tiles that create the pattern. Once I completed that task and very carefully stored the sheets in the order in which I needed to re-lay them, I was able to start laying the tile permanently into place. I laid most of the perimeter first, then backtracked and started filling in the center space. The photo above shows only about one third of the total floor space, so I have another full day of tile laying ahead of me just for the floor. (See if you can spot the single incorrectly laid tile, which I spotted myself only as I prepared this post!)


5 January 2019 - Finally, after interruptions for Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day, I have been able to get some more work done! The bathroom has now been entirely painted in a satin-finish bright white. I installed a magnificent 1950s light fixture over the spot where the sink will go. It repeats the iconic Mid Century Modern star pattern, of course. I bought it on ... you guessed it ... eBay! The tile on the sink and door walls has been installed, including the edge trim. I cleaned it today to get ready to grout it tomorrow. The floor is also 90% complete but not yet cleaned. I am waiting for the delivery of a re-supply of white hex tile in order to complete the floor, plus the final installation of the plumbing risers for the bathtub.

The plan going forward includes grouting the wall tile tomorrow and (I hope) installing the sink, as well as the linen cabinet and a few wall decorations. Then I will return to the kitchen in order to get it entirely completed for an promotional photo shoot for ReFind Kitchens, the company from which I bought most of the cabinets. Once that is done, I can circle back to finish the bathroom. The former contractor failed to install vent pipes for the bathroom plumbing, so I will have to crawl under the house and do that myself. But it is too cold to do that this week!

9 January 2019 - Ok, so this tiling business takes longer than I remember from the last time I did it ten years ago! But two of the walls are now fully tiled and grouted (the other two are awaiting completion of work on the plumbing). The white grout really “pops”! The 1950s medicine cabinet is up, though it needs a new mirror, and I have hung my collection of Miller Studios chalkware fish on one wall. Those things were so popular early in the 1960s! The framed photos are of me when I was 23 months old ... I will say more about those later, since they tie in with my collection of 1950s toiletries. And speaking of that ... the Burma Shave sign! Score! Those of a certain age will remember the old Burma Shave advertising signs along highways, especially Route 66. This one is authentic and dates to the 1930s or 1940s when the Burma Shave colors came in two pairings: black on orange and white on red (the black on orange pairing was dropped by 1950). It will hang on the long wall above the bathtub, but I need to find some special hooks to hang it since it is double-sided.

Tomorrow I will grout the floor (charcoal grout to contrast with the white hex tile) and mount the sink. Then back to the kitchen to finish it up before returning to the bathroom to finish it.
Does this constitute a disaster?
14 January 2019 - So you are rolling along nicely, feeling good that you are finally making real progress with your mobile home rebuild, despite the ridiculous number of problems that have already arisen ... and then it rains. Now, understand that Palm Springs is in a desert, and deserts are usually very dry. Throughout all of 2018, Palm Springs had a mere 1.42 inches of rain. The normal yearly average is about 5.8 inches, but we have reached or exceeded that in only four of the past fifteen years. More importantly, our “rainy season” is 1 December to 28/29 February. So we are currently right smack in the middle of the “rainy season.” And we had 1/2 inch of rain today. To put it in relative terms, we have reached 30% of the total amount of rain that fell during all of last year, and we did so in just one day!

And my roof leaked.

And not just a little. It came pouring through the large roof patch that my idiot “contractor” put on the roof last summer. It filled a one-gallon bucket in just a couple of minutes. So in a mad rush, I had to rip down the drywall and insulation from the closet ceiling (the roof patch was above the bathroom, closet and bedroom) in order to find the leak point. That done, I grabbed up some of the sheet plastic that I had previoulsy used as a dropcloth for painting, borrowed a neighbor’s ladder, dug up some large rocks from the landscaping to use as anchor weights, and set about covering the entire back half of the coach with plastic, all in a driving rain and an air temperature of just 51 degrees. Then, once I came down from the roof, dried off, finished placing mortal voodoo hexes and curses on the “contractor,” and calmed down a bit, I started calling contractors. But since roofing issues are common in Palm Springs on the rare occasions that it actually rains, I have been relegated to the waiting lists of multiple contractors, with no repair work likely until at least a week after this weather system moves out of the area. And that clearing may not arrive until several days from now, if the weather forecasters are at all accurate.

In all likelihood, I am going to have to have the entire roof redone at a cost exceeding $5000. And as has been discussed above, the budget went bust long ago. It is anyone’s guess as to how I will pay for it.

I am beginning to think that this house is cursed. It is already a money pit. It is all very frustrating, angering, depressing, anxiety-producing ... you name it!

In the close-up photo above, dozens of water drops are visible on the inside surface of the aluminum metal roof patch, through a round vent hole in the original galvanized steel roof.

18 January 2018 - I received the strangest voicemail message last night. It came from my former “contractor,” of all people! And it came right in the middle of my re-doing the bathroom plumbing that he had installed so incorrectly. He said that he wanted to apologize for walking off the job. Gee, that took only six months! Not one word since August, and now he suddenly feels moved to apologize. Weird. Even worse, he offered to compensate me for his failure by doing any work remaining “without additional charge”! Who does he think he is kidding?!?! He already has all of my money, and he abandoned the job without finishing it! Keep your “free” labor; refund my money instead! I did not return his call. I suspect an ulterior motive, probably the reclaiming of the tools he left on the site.They are mine now. Meanwhile, work on the bathroom plumbing continues. Two steps forward, one step back. Will this project never be completed?!?
31 January 2019 - What can you do when faced with disasters other than moving forward with determination? Castro Roofing will overlay the existing sheet metal roof with a layer of polyurethane foam roofing on 20 February. That will, in effect, provide me with a new roof that will last for at least twenty years. It will also provide much-needed additional insulation, which will in turn lower my electricity consumption. And all for only $5300! (I am being facetious ... the cost is going to kill me financially.)

But in the realm of good news, one corner of the bathroom is entirely finished. It took some doing, though. The sink absolutely requires the legs to prevent it from falling off the wall bracket. But the original legs were made for the 1940s, when sinks were mounted very low on the wall. I wanted my sink to be at “man height.” After some considerable searching, I found some reproduction legs from a company called Jones Stephens that I was able to mix-and-match with the original legs. The actual leg portion was sufficiently similar to the original, and sufficiently long, that I was able to use them with the original upper escutcheons and towel bars. It just required a little engineering to put the two together in a way that would remain stable.

The medicine cabinet required a little work as well. I had to repaint it, which was easy enough. But the silvering of the mirror had become crazed and discolored, and I did not like the floral motif across the top. I temporarily solved that by buying a very thin (0.06 inch) sheet of acrylic mirror material that I very carefully but inexpertly cut to fit and then glued directly onto the existing mirror. At some later date, when more important parts of the project have been completed, I will replace the entire mirror with a new glass one.

The three photographs in the frame to the right of the sink are images of me pretending to shave when I was 23 months old (November 1960). Ain't I a cutie?

I moved the Miller Studios chalkware fish to a different spot and mounted three floating glass shelves where the fish had been. Those shelves now hold my collection of toiletry items from the 1950s. A few items are also situated on the side shelves of the medicine cabinet. The collection will grow as items recently purchased on eBay arrive over the next week.

(To enlarge for better viewing, click anywhere on image to open in new window.)

My favorite items in the collection are the mirror, the can of Gillette Foamy, and the safety razor, each of which exactly matches what I used in 1960! I am also very pleased with the jar of “Butch Wax” hair product that sits on the second shelf on the right of the medicine cabinet. “Butch Wax” was de rigueur in the 1950s and 1960s when crew and flattop haircuts, a.ka. butch cuts, were the height of male fashion, not unlike the gels and such that ‘the kids’ use today on their spiky hairdos. I vividly recall my mother putting that goopy stuff in my hair when I was five or six years old, just before men started leaving their hair longer in imitation of the Beatles.
Just when you think it cannot get any worse ...
13 March 2019 - No real advances have been made since the last update in late January. That is due in part to a severe lack of funds. It is also due to a major issue with my back that has left me unable to stand for long periods, though that is now resolving, finally. But it is also due to a profound sense of discouragement. I genuinely feel that this effort to make a home for myself is cursed. And that leaves me with very little motivation even to try to work on the place. I am simply disgusted, dejected, and downtrodden by the entire process and the many setbacks.

The rains have continued to fall in amounts that we have not seen here in the desert for many years. We have had six inches of rain this season! And that has left my outdoor prep area soaking wet. I cannot use power tools while standing on wet concrete. But it does seem to be slowing down some, so maybe I can get back to work soon.

Then there is the air conditioner issue .... The Midea system installed by RCC Cooling and Heating of Menifee, CA, continues to be grossly defective. So two weeks ago I called the company owner, Robert Cordova, and demanded that he honor his own 2-year written warranty and remove the system and refund my money. He flatly refused. So I started the process of taking him to small claims court. And one of the first things that I discovered in that process is that his contractor license number 918624 was revoked by the State of California in July 2014, five years ago! It seems that he has been sued previously by other customers and has failed to settle the judgments against him. A process server informed me that he has multipe liens against his property and assets. Any judgment in my favor that I might get from the courts would therefore go to the back of the line behind those prior judgments. Public records also show that he has changed his address multiple times over the past five years, which I interpret as evidence of fleeing debt collectors. So I am out $5000 on an HVAC system that does not work, and I have no reasonable expectation of recovery on the loss. The lesson learned here? Even if a contractor presents you with a license number, always check the state license database for the status of that license!

I will almost certainly have to replace the HVAC system before the summer heat starts in late April or early May. As with the roof, it is anyone's guess how I will pay for it. But the roof is on hold for now. Air conditioning is the new priority. The roof has sheet plastic over it to prevent leaks, and while that may be unsightly (trailer trashy?), it allows me to put off spending money on the roof at least until the next rainy season one year from now. Thank goodness for the relative predictability of long periods of dry weather in the desert!

And then the drain under the sink burst last night and flooded the kitchen ....

It seems that the main “contractor,” Dan Kennedy, must have been having one of his “bad” (drunk) days when he installed the drain, and he did it improperly. A joint separated, spilling dishwater everywhere. Easily fixed, but just one more straw on this poor camel’s back.
You really never know what may or could happen next!
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