Pictured: Matthew and Wally Hofmann/
When Wally Hofmann (former owner/operator of the Mammoth Times) lived in Mammoth Lakes, he at one time resided in a 5,500 square-foot home in the Starwood neighborhood. Today, Hofmann is in Santa Barbara enjoying life in a 120 square-foot Airstream trailer.
While the trailer definitely isn’t trashy, it is small, but it’s the smallness that reflects the simplified lifestyle that Wally learned from his son, Matthew, a trained architect.
“Two years ago I had a day job at an architecture firm,” Matthew reminisced during a phone interview this week. “I bought a (Airstream) trailer on a whim and remodeled the inside.”
Realizing it was a good concept and lifestyle change, Matthew quit his day job and opened an office from inside the Airstream and lived in it full time, simplifying his life and becoming a poster child for a less is more mentality.
“It started as a way for Matt to reduce his costs when he went out on his own,” Wally added.
“My story resonated with a lot of people,” Matthew explained. And that’s putting it mildly. The whimsical and adventurous idea has taken off and today, Hofmann Architecture or HofArc, Matthew and Wally’s firm, has 20 Airstreams outside its office building waiting for renovations, and television shows such as HGTV’s Retro Roadhomes knocking at its door.
“When you say less is more, the more can be a ball and chain,” Matthew continued. “People are slaves to their things and oftentimes need to tweak their mentality and determined what is really appropriate for them, not what society thinks is appropriate.”
“It says something about freedom,” Wally said. “It’s simplifying and purifying life to its essential qualities. Today I don’t have a house to be maintained and I get to take nice vacations instead.”
In addition to the message, the Airstream projects are, simply put, cool. The Hofmanns keep the vintage shell of these iconic trailers, but remodel the often-outdated interiors, often for less than many people spend on a kitchen remodel in their homes.
“It doesn’t have to be a huge investment,” Wally said, with renovations ranging from $20,000-$100,000. “We are guided by people’s budgets so it can be as simple or as complex as you want.”
To date, HofArc has renovated about 40 trailers and continues to grow the Airstream idea, using some of the renovated models as rental properties and potentially developing the idea into a hotel brand.
This week, the father/son duo was working on a Yamaha Music Airstream.
“It’s a 1964 Airstream Safari 22’ we delivered to the Anaheim Convention Center this week for a Japanese company, Yamaha Music, demo-ing a new music electronic systems at this year’s NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants). We added a gull wing door that opens up to display products,” Wally explained.
Currently HofArc is solely focusing on the Airstream products as both Hofmanns enjoy that each one takes less time, money and permits to complete.
So what’s it like working as father and son when son is the founder, principal and president of the company?
“We’re just working together, I don’t think about who’s the boss,” Matthew, who has since sold his Airstream to retired NFL linebacker Ian Gold and now lives in a modest one-bedroom apartment, said. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done, which is build projects together. We’re 50-50 partners who are very complementary to each other in a dynamic way that encourages the other to make a better company.”
(Photo courtesy Wally Hofmann)