SF House Tour: The Janssen Family’s Roving Abode

updated Apr 18, 2019
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Name: Matt, Sara, and Bella Janssen
Location: On the road, at time of post: Scottsdale, AZ
Size: Approx. 200 sq. ft. (32 ft x 8 ft)
Years lived in: 8 months

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We couldn’t have dreamed up a more appropriate house tour to end our Small Cool month. You may remember Sara, Matt and Bella as finalists from the contest last year. We were impressed by their declaration, “Small is BETTER! Even with a 3-year old and surely more on the way, we will never go back. Small is the new big!”, but even more impressed with their follow through. Way to put your money where your mouth is….check it out.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


With the lease up on their small apartment, Matt and Sara grabbed daughter Bella and hit the road. They’re currently motoring across the country teaching folk about sustainable living from their fully renovated, veggie-oil powered RV. Having seen their previous digs in their contest entry, we were extremely curious and anxious to see how their style would translate from “cozy nest for three” to a mobile home for three. Surprisingly, there’s not that much of a difference between the two…still cozy and colorful as before.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

AT Survey:

Our Style: Thrift store funk. We love to recycle items for new uses. Color, color, and more color! Color makes me happy and energized

Inspiration: The décor of the RV is nearly identical to our previous apartment. We loved the colors that we used so much…and decided to just transfer it to the RV.

Favorite Element: The “smallness”. I love that we are in such close quarters…our family life thrives because there is no where to “get away” from each other. We are in constant conversation. It’s also great that we can see Bella no matter where she is playing…and that we are so involved in her life. I also love that we can completely open the RV up and have fresh air blowing through…or decide to eat outside whenever we want. There is nothing better than falling to sleep hearing the raindrops pitter patting on the roof…or waking up to the sun and breeze streaming in the windows.

Biggest Challenge: Designing for an RV is sometimes difficult because everything is bolted down….we decided to leave all the furniture intact because it was all in great shape. What was already there was what we had to work with. One of the most obvious challenges is how to separate the living and bedroom spaces most effectively. We ended up taking out the door that closed off the bedroom, and now just use the dividing door in the middle of the RV to create 2 rooms. It works wonderfully.

What Friends Say: “It’s so cute!” “I could totally live in one of these!”
“You guys must really like each other to be this close all the time!” “It’s so much bigger than I thought!”

Biggest Embarrassment: When you live in a home that has a portable toilet, the odors can often be embarrassing. Ya gotta love toting your poo everywhere!

Proudest DIY: The entire thing! Matt did all of the painting, installed bamboo flooring, built a new king size bed platform with storage area underneath and created a new nook where the microwave used to be. I would say that it’s much harder to paint the interior of an RV because there are so many nooks and crannies…taping it off took an entire day!

Biggest Indulgence: While we really didn’t indulge financially with the remodeling of the RV (much of the materials were generously donated by The Refuge (a green building company) in Bozeman, MT)…we are definitely not “roughing it” on the road. We have our own king sized bed, a shower and bath, full kitchen, entertainment center. We have the perfect amount of space for us right now at this point in our life.

Best Advice: “If it’s not useful, beautiful, or loved…get rid of it!”

Dream Source for Stuff: Anthropologie and Ikea


(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


RV details: 1994 Fleetwood Flair, 32 feet long, 8 feet wide
GMC 6.5 liter V8 Engine
Veggie Oil Conversion: Golden Fuel Systems Custom Installation
90 gallon veggie oil tank/18 gallon diesel tank
On-board gathering and filtration system
Grease passes through a pre-filter, and three 8 micron filters before hitting the injectors
Veggie oil system rated to -20 degrees F
Roof-top solar panels provide partial solar power

Appliances: 3 burner gas stove with oven (although it doesn’t get much use because we eat primarily raw foods!), 6 cubic sq. ft gas/electric fridge and freezer

Flooring: Installed bamboo flooring throughout

Beds: Modified bedroom to add our own king-sized bed (which created more storage under the bed)

Paint: Painted all cupboards and walls with AFM Safecoat paint

Thanks Matt, Sara and Bella!


If you’re interested in checking out the RV in person, look for the Janssen family in San Francisco from May 18th-20th. Check out the Live Lightly website and blog for more information.

Photos by Sara Janssen
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