Adorable Tiny Homes

Adorable Tiny Homes

Adorable Tiny Homes

Gypsy caravans get an update

The ornate wagons are gaining popularity for use as guesthouses and party spaces by affluent homeowners.

By MSN Real Estate partner Aug 8, 2014 10:00AM
 Mark BuryArcaidCorbisBy Lauren Etter, The Wall Street Journal
httponlinewsjcomhome-pagemodmsn_freeA different sort of mobile home is gaining popularity, making its way from Europe to the U.S. The brightly colored gypsy caravan, once used by Romany families, traveling salesmen and circus performers, is reappearing — this time used by affluent homeowners as guesthouses, party spaces and studios. The most ornate of the wagons resemble giant Fabergé eggs, with gilded woodcarvings, cut glass mirrors and red velvet interiors.
Earlier this year, a wealthy Russian throwing a party for his daughter's 25th birthday on a Greek island decided a gypsy caravan would add a nice touch. He called Kees Hoekstra, who specializes in refurbishing antique caravans and building modern replicas. Hoekstra had two to offer: one newly built; the other a restored antique, about 65 years old, with a marble mantelpiece and intricate carvings. Hoekstra sold the two for about $75,000.
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"They sent two trucks from Greece to pick them up," says Hoekstra. "They ended up painting them gold on the outside."
Hoekstra, a Dutchman living in southern France, started his business nearly 20 years ago. He sells at least half a dozen a year and often has a waiting list of equal size. Under his guidance, craftsmen in the Czech Republic build the wagons from scratch, carving intricate patterns on the exteriors and adding brass trim, and, if requested, sandblasting the windows with floral designs. It takes about six weeks to build a new caravan, he says, with up to eight men working full time.Many of Hoekstra's clients are affluent owners of large estates from across Europe, particularly in France, Spain and Sweden. Typically, he sells empty wagons. "Clients love to buy the stuff for the caravans," he says. But he sometimes does interior decorating, procuring furnishings and materials at flea markets in France.The price of his caravans ranges from $30,000 for a simple design to about $60,000 for the most ornate.Gypsy caravans emerged in the 1850s as the Romany people traveled across Europe. British stagecoach builders fashioned some of the finest wagons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Romany families decked them out to suit their personal style. The fanciest looked like Victorian parlors of the era. The wagons fell out of favor in the early 1900s; those that survive are collectors' items that can fetch well over $100,000.
The value of a caravan depends largely on the intricacy of its woodcarvings and the quality of its interior. "It's a piece of movable art," says Tim Jasper, a designer whose eponymous U.K.-based design firm builds garden wagons, as he calls them, or upscale, modern gypsy caravans. His first wagon, built in 2010, was featured at the Chelsea Flower Show that year. The wagon was inspired by the opera "La Bohème," which he says is reflected in its hand-hammered copper panels on the outside and silk curtains on the inside. It also has an oak interior and a flat-screen TV.Jasper has built three more wagons since then, including one sent to the estate of a German prince and another to a chateau in France. The flower-show wagon, sold for nearly $130,000, is at a castle in England. The caravans are starting to gain a foothold in the U.S. In 2013, Hoekstra posted an ad online seeking an American partner. He found one in Wally and Victoria Roth of Bend, Ore. Roth built his first wagon in 2005 — a crimson, gold-gilded Reading style. He sold it for $150,000 to a wealthy ranch owner in Colorado who used it as an ornament on her property. Now, he is finishing a small, $20,000 wagon for a woman to put on her riverfront lot. It features a hand-carved dragon and phoenix on either side of the door. The client, Christina Giltzow, a teacher in the Los Angeles area, says she fantasized about owning a wagon ever since she saw one in the movie "Lassie Come Home" as a girl. "It's like a little dream come true," she says about her vacation home.

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Phone: 252-489-3861
Dated: September 3rd 2014
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About Mike: Mike Siers is in the top 1% in the Nations top Privately owned Real Estate company, Howard Hanna. W...

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