Tag Archives: salvage

Guest Post: Celina Dill Pickle, 16 year-old Tiny House builder, talks about keeping your eyes open and finding what you need

Today is our first guest post here at The COMET Camper blog, and I am really excited about introducing Celina Dill to you all. I mentioned her and her blog in an earlier post here, and we immediately started talking about guest posts and sharing ideas. She’s got an incredible eye for finding amazing second-hand building materials and interiors. Her frugality and style is impeccable! Also, Celina is 16 years old, and left traditional schooling to start building her own tiny house, something I strongly endorse and think is downright awesome.

So here it is, our first guest post. Thanks Celina for sharing!

Eyes Wide Open

by Celina Dill

Who am I?  “South Whidbey teen builds tiny transportable house” This just appeared in our local paper – check it out – http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/139133434.html

In our culture everyone seems to want the newest shiniest things. This attitude tends to create a lot of waste, because every time a new product comes out on the market the older one’s worth decreases. The trick is using this fact to your advantage. For example – If you use your computer to check email and listen to music, you don’t need the newest mac book air, with the speediest operating system. I am writing this on my trusty five year old mac book that I got off of craigslist for under $400. I do high level photoshop and image editing, and it does everything I need and more.The question to ask is what do you need (but never forget the wants). Then keep your eyes open wide. Question. Look at things for their possibilities. It is amazing what a coat of paint and a little effort can do!

My dad is working in a friend’s barn refurbishing/customizing a 1956 Airfloat trailer (EveryoneCanDance.com) but that is another story. One day we pull up to work on the trailer and saw a pile of large Douglas Fir logs. We questioned the owner, who said they were going to be fire wood. After talking to a few knowledgeable people in the wood world, I worked out a trade to get four of the logs. With the help of a good friend, they along with another log given to me by a student of ours (we teach dance – EveryoneCanDance.com) are now milled up in to beautiful flooring, siding and trim. My cost $0. Yes it took a lot of work, but what I got out of it is much more.

When you are searching for something specific, it is rare to find it at a low price. Unless you are willing to live with a few dents or scratches. I had been scouring craigslist for the perfect sink for months, when I found it. A beautiful 30′ cast iron enameled farmhouse sink, plus it happened to be just down the road. The only reason they were selling this sink is because they were getting a bigger one, plus it had a few little scratches. So $175 for a $1000 sink is ok with me!

Or how about my new Kohler Memoirs toilet? My dad and I were in Restore is Seattle just looking around when I spotted it. The beautiful lines of this decorative toilet, caught my eye and the price tag said $45. I couldn’t believe it, it looked perfect – so we went inside and asked. The catch? The toilet bowl is 3/4 of an inch tilted sideways. It was a manufacturing defect. But I figure my house will be a little off skew, so it will fit right in.

I found my Carrara marble counter top for $100 in a wooden crate behind a granite and marble place in the industrial area of Seattle. The key word is found. I was out there looking and asking and digging and measuring.

Another good strategy is to find people who collect things. Because at some point they will likely get rid of some of it. I got over half the wood for the studs of my house from a guy who had had it for 20 years. It was time for it to go, so I stepped in and did him a favor.

I can go on and on about what I have acquired for cheap, and thats because my eyes are open. I am constantly questioning, asking and searching. If you are doing something unique and interesting, people want to be a part of it and are willing to pitch in. But first and foremost effort is required.

Keep your eyes open,





Thanks so much Celina, your advice is so relevant today for DIYers and tiny house builders. Definitely check out Celina’s blog to see pictures of what she’s already found and what she’s still looking for. Celina and I have the same 1950’s Dixie stove (out of a camper), which is just a wonderful coincidence! Not to mention her father is restoring my favorite type of camper EVER – the Airfloat. And read the article about her that she links to…it has great pictures and talks more about her “unschooling” which I whole-heartedly agree with!

More later, so stay tuned! It’s good to be BACK!



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For the love of Ordinary Things: My Top 5 Favorite Things About The COMET

When my camper buddy Hayden (who once had an indoor vintage camper collective in NYC and still has multiple Airstreams in his lot in the city – more on him later) said that he needed a place to put this camper that he had ASAP, he knew I wasn’t going to say no. He drove up to Massachusetts from NYC in the middle of the night, and dropped The Avalon (the trailer that is now The COMET) off at the house I lived in at the time. It was supposed to be a temporary situation – he just needed the space in NYC and I lived in a place I could keep a camper. I was either going to get rid of it for him or something like that. But as I said before, campers keep falling into my lap and then I fall in love with them. I was in The Avalon for about 10 minutes and then realized it was probably my soulmate. The previous owner had left tons of vintage shoes and clothes in the closet, in my size. That sort of tipped me off: This camper is awesome.

I knew that I was in the market for a camper trailer to convert into an off-grid tiny house, but I didn’t know what I would end up with. I thought it would be something bigger, something in worse condition, something else. I know I found the right one. Here are my top 5 favorite things about The COMET, part of the reason why I chose her for the project! The COMET really is one-of-a-kind. Vintage camper enthusiasts and vintage lovers in general, feast your eyes! Let’s do this like a countdown!

#5 – The light fixtures (and other weird atomic amoeba hardware)

These 1960’s light fixtures are all in beautiful condition and have the original fiberglass shades still in them. Just look at them!
#4 – The appliances.

The stove and oven, the sink and the “Swing-A-Way” can opener (attached to the wall) are all a matching pink color. Even the Hydro-Flame furnace is the same pink enamel!
#3 – The built-in picture clock.

I don’t know if this was standard in Avalon trailers of the 1960’s or any trailer of the past, but there is a built-in picture clock with an image of Acadia National Park (Maine) mounted on fancy green brocade fabric wallpaper in the cabinet in the back of the camper. I’d seen normal clocks built in to older campers, but never something like this with such a specific geography. So unique!
#2 – 1950’s Indesit refrigerator

This fridge isn’t original to the Avalon. It came out of another camper but Hayden threw it into the Avalon when he brought it to me, thinking maybe I could use it or sell it or something. It weighs a ton so I haven’t moved it yet, which is why these pictures are so silly and sideways. It’s a classic 1950’s style refrigerator – just miniaturized for a camper! It’s white on the outside, has a little crown emblem on it, sea-foam green interior, and built-in countertop attached above it (50’s linen print formica with aluminum trim!). The interior has a special egg-specific shelf with 12 little egg-shaped indents. It’s incredible.
#1 – The Flower Power finish brads

Maybe this is an unexpected favorite feature. It’s really small and not immediately noticeable, but it’s a finishing touch that I’ve never seen before and think is absolutely hilarious and distinctly 1960’s. On the ceiling, each finish brad that holds the ceiling panels up on the frame is covered by a little plastic flower cover. It’s such a unique thing to do. I guess I can’t really put into words why it’s so enchanting, but if I had to try: I just think it’s amazing that the person who designed this camper made something as simple as a flathead finish brad into an extraordinary design element with a little plastic flower. It’s the attention to detail of that era that really gets me excited.

Another thing that I love about The COMET that I didn’t include here is all the original paperwork: owner’s manuals, instructions for how to use the appliances and systems, little illustrations, and mail-in order forms from the 1960’s. It’s rare to find all that stuff in such an old camper that’s changed hands so many times. All those little pieces of history are really interesting to me. I’ll post pictures of the manuals and everything else soon, just for fun!

More practically speaking, why did I choose the Avalon as the camper to build my off-grid tiny house out of? It was inexpensive, it was in incredibly good condition for it’s age and price, it had a bathroom closet (really important!) and was just the right size for one person. I figure 16 feet is the smallest camper I would be comfortable in for full-time living. I wanted it to be the smallest possible while still being comfortable – less heating and construction costs that way.

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