Mariah Coz describes herself as a dreamer, builder, designer, rehabber, entrepreneur, and “nut case.”
A student and advocate of sustainable design and architecture, Mariah rehabbed a 1960s Avalon trailer and transformed it into the COMET.
The COMET stands for a Cost-efficient Off-grid Mobile Eco-Trailer.
When Mariah was in high school she dreamed of simply buying a camper and living in it.
But soon she discovered a passion for designing and building her own sustainable living space.
She didn’t just want a store-bought camper, she wanted to craft her own tiny house.
Mariah writes about sustainable living and vintage trailers at her blog The COMET CAMPER. She also helps others make the jump to frugal and small space living through her Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course.
I had the privilege of talking with Mariah and learning more about her story.
Andrew Odom: When did you purchase your tiny house and is there one reason in particular that you did so? When did the restoration begin?
Mariah Coz: Actually, my tiny house, the COMET Camper, chose me.
A friend of mine needed to get rid of the trailer ASAP before the Brooklyn parking authority towed it away, so he literally drove it to my house in MA (4 hour drive) in the middle of the night, left it in my driveway at 3 AM, and said “good luck”.
So suddenly I had this trailer that I had to renovate. I had the concept for the COMET camper in my head for years, but I didn’t know when I was going to be able to afford the trailer to build it out of. Then he gave me this camper for free and I knew it was the right thing at the right time; kind of magical actually.
When I went inside the camper for the first time, I thought I might sell it and use the money to buy myself the “camper of my dreams.” But it was full of vintage clothes and shoes in my size and it just felt right.
We’d end up finding lots of other little surprises as the restoration went on – like bloody towels wrapped around bullets and super weird porn from the 50s hidden in the walls.
Yep, she’s a keeper.
The restoration began about 2 years ago. We can only work on her in the summer months in MA, we don’t have an indoor workspace.
She’s 99% finished and I’ve been living in the COMET since she was somewhat livable about 1.5 years ago.
AO: What are the size specs of your tiny house (size of trailer if applicable, square feet, number of stories, number of occupants, etc)
MC: 15 ft. long but that includes tongue and the overhang bunk, it’s about 112 square feet.
The trailer was originally designed to sleep 6, but it’s just me and my partner Matt living in it, and I’d say 2 is just about as much as it holds!
Our other tiny home on wheels, our Honda Element that we customized into a micro-camper, is about 35 sq. ft. and sleeps two as well.
AO: Are you living in your tiny house? If so, for how long now? If not, when do you expect to move in?
MC: We’ve been living in the COMET off and on for about 2 years.
It’s an awesome 3-season home, but there’s just no way to make it warm enough in the cold Massachusetts winters.
So, for the past 2 years we’ve been traveling the country during the colder months in our Honda Element micro-camper that we customized and modded out with a bed, table, storage, and secret spots.
Last year we traveled in the Element for 2 months, this year for 4 months. It’s much more mobile than the trailer (and cheaper to travel with gas-wise) and we’ve just escaped to the southern states and California when it’s cold in MA.
Between the COMET camper and the Element, we’re pretty much set to live anywhere at any time. We have a fairly mobile “home base”, and a really mobile satellite vehicle that we live in while traveling long distances.
It works out great for us.
AO: How do you feel about the tiny house movement and being such an instrumental part of it?
MC: Ha! Am I instrumental? To be honest, I hate the term “tiny house movement”.
I think it’s just a dumb label for something that tons of people have been doing FOREVER and the way that 95% of the world population lives every day of their lives.
There have always been small houses and mobile homes. What’s so special about the current “fad” style “tiny home”? People think it’s this newfangled thing that’s been “discovered” in the past 10 years.
It’s great that people are finding more happiness and using less resources – but don’t pat yourself on the back. It’s not virtuous, and you don’t see every person that lives in a mobile home in a run down trailer park being profiled on popular websites, but they’re doing the same thing: living in a small space with few resources.
People tell me my house isn’t a “tiny house” because it doesn’t have cedar siding and it’s not “pretty”.
Screw those people.
I don’t care what you call it, it’s a place that’s mine that I can afford and it allows me to travel freely, I’m not interested in being part of “the club”.
If anything, I try to use my influence and platform to help other people and bring awareness to really important issues that people don’t like to talk about.
Things like composting humanure, the re-use of menstrual blood (and the unsustainable industrialization of menstruation), consumerism, and ecological issues that each person has an impact on every single day.
People think they are powerless to change things, but that’s a cop out. You have tons of power. Every little dollar you have is power.
How you spend it is POWER.
The decisions you make about where you eat, what you buy, where you work – you have a lot of power to change things on an individual level.
I try to help people see that and stop underestimating themselves. Even just telling people about something that is REALLY uncomfortable or taboo can help change things.
They see my work and they are exposed to something that grosses them out or they think is weird – but they’ve been exposed.
They now can second-guess their choices. Some people love it. Some people are threatened by it.
I get both responses on a daily basis.
AO: How long do you expect to live in your tiny house?
MC: For now, the COMET camper and the Element are our home.
Though I have no concrete plans to move out of them, they are limited in many ways, and I know that I will need to design and build a space that accommodates the things I’ve been giving up for a few years while I pursue travel.
I don’t really have room for my electric guitars and amps (in my mom’s basement now), and Matt needs room to create large-scale art.
We both enjoy woodworking and building furniture. Eventually I want my small business to be integrated in my home, so that requires some space too.
So eventually, when we get tired from traveling so much, we’ll probably build a small house with a big workshop/barn. We don’t need a lot of living space (kitchen/sleeping/bathroom) but we do want more room to pursue creative projects.
There’s definitely a balance: right now we are able to travel almost constantly because we have so few things. It’s incredible. We can leave on a dime, follow opportunities, and say “yes” to everything that comes our way that excites us.
However, I haven’t recorded any music in 3 years and Matt hasn’t been able to paint because of this constant movement. We made a choice to travel now for as long as we can, and get back to practicing our other passions in the future.
It’s a choice that has pros and cons. But for now, we’d rather be moving than sitting still. In the future, we’ll be burnt out and excited to be sitting still for a while.
AO: What is the one thing in your tiny house you couldn’t live without?
MC: You know what’s interesting? There’s nothing I couldn’t live without.
For 6 months out of the year I’ve been peeing in a bottle, wearing the exact same outfit every single day, and living “without” anything of my own.
And it doesn’t matter.
I never would have thought that I of all people could be happy without any stuff.
But in the car, it’s just my boots, my P-Style, and me and I’m happy to be seeing new things every day and spending time with my partner Matt.
Stuff is a hoax we’ve been sold. The only way to learn that you literally could live without anything is to try it.
I guess the only thing that is so practical I would be sad to lose it is my P-style, a female urination device.
Talk about freedom!
AO: What one thing would you do differently or do you wish wasn’t part of your tiny house?
MC: For the longest time I thought that the bathroom was such a big deal. I was so concerned that if your house didn’t have a bathroom it would be so uncomfortable.
But I wish I’d just ditched the stand-alone bathroom and used that space for something else. We have a composting toilet, so that’s good, but it just takes up so much space for something that you only use once a day.
I would have ditched the bathroom closet and just had a composting toilet under a bench for emergencies. Honestly I pee outside more often than not.
AO: Is your tiny house relatively stable or still mobile?
MC: The COMET camper is mobile, but it’s not fun to tow.
I don’t think we’ll really tow it outside of New England. It’s fine for an hour or two, but it’s just really stressful to tow long distances.
That’s why we outfitted the Element as a tiny camper, because we needed to move around and knew the trailer would be too expensive and stressful to go cross-country.
It’s mobile enough that we can move around New England as we please, but the real mobility is in our Element. We needed a little bit of both!