Vardo Carrettino 

 Vardo is the Romani word for a horse drawn live-in wagon. Carrettino is the Sicilian word for an elaborately decorated little cart drawn by a horse.

Although this vardo is pulled by a pickup truck, Jeanette & Chris, the owners at Island Girl, built this one by hand starting in the spring of 2016. It's road-worthy and fully functioning but needs the finishing touches such as interior finish work and the exterior decorative trim vardos are renowned for. Vardo Carrettino traveled many miles during the 2016 festival season and is eager to escape the confines of the barn for the 2017 season.

Vardo Carrettino going on her maiden voyage July 10, 2016. Don't worry, a shiny new red truck was bought to match. 

Adding a camp sink created from a stainless bowl with a drain line cut and attached to the bowl. Clean water is pushed up the copper line from a portable water tank by a foot pump on the floor. The drain line empties into a second portable tank. Both 6 gallon tanks are transported in the back of the tow vehicle then placed under the counter and secured for use. 

How did Jeanette & Chris build this on their own? It's crazy how easy physics and fix-its come naturally to Chris, and Jeanette grew up with a father that still shares his handcrafting 'hobby' with her. He's built everything from tables and cabinets to boats and houses, much of it with Jeanette at his side. 

Jeanette & Chris have well over 30 years experience each as DIYers, between owning three houses together (all of which were handyman specials and needed to be gutted and rebuilt) to aiding family and friends with their home renovations and repairs.

Building a vardo, or tiny home, that needs to be road worthy is not the same as building a house. Uncountable hours of research, dozens of informative websites read and hundreds of educational videos watched went into learning how to do this project right.

Would the Harpers build another one? Only if they have to.  About a quarter of the way through this project they contemplated building more than one. By the end of 2016, that turned into a maybe... for $50K and a minimum two years to build it. Not sure if that price still stands.

Weeks of painting several coats of primer and exterior paint during weekdays. Construction on weekends with the trailer moving in and out of the barn to protect it from rain and snow. Wall frames are built from pine with the exception of the four corners and the front and back wall studs which are oak.

With so many colors available, only five could be chosen and metallic gold was already selected for accenting... down to four. The trailer frame was painted yellow to match the ledge boards so it would be less noticeable.

Here's a look at more of the framing details and finally, the roof goes on.

This 7'x10' roving micro house serves as accommodations for the Island Girl team. The charming interior surprisingly includes a bed, portable bath, kitchen counter with camp sink, solar electric, lots of storage and other amenities.

The Building Process
The construction of Vardo Carrettino started in the spring of 2016 - the year it rained or snowed nearly every weekend from March to June.  Mouse over or click on any of the photos for a brief description.

The project started with a 5'x10' utility trailer with a 3' tongue and a hinged tailgate ramp. The tailgate was removed because it was in the way, and to lighten the load. The trailer body was in excellent condition except for some minor surface rust on the frame. The rust was removed and the frame painted with automotive undercoating.


Up next, wall and roof insulation, ceiling installation and exterior decorative mouldings so she looks more like a traditional vardo. More images will be added throughout the 2017 season as work is completed.

© 2013-2017 Island Girl.  All Rights Reserved.

The door for Vardo Carrettino was originally a closet door from the Harpers' rental building on Main St. To be re-purposed, the 116 year old door (yes, you read that right, 116!) was dismantled to shorten it from 7' to 6' and to create three separate moving parts: two top windows hinged on the outside edges and the bottom half. The three parts lock to the frame of the vardo and to each other with slide bolts and two locks. One lock is original to the door. Wait 'til you see it!

It's not just a kid thing.

Window frames in, wall boards going up, one coat of burgundy paint and a minor change in the turquoise color so you can look at it without it burning your eyes.

Lightweight vinyl flooring installed (before the counter), windows and door installed, decorative trim being painted for installation in 2017, and all new wiring installed for the trailer lights so Vardo Carrettino can go for its first ride out on the open road!