Refurbished trailers and an overhauled school bus show the possibilities for life on the road
The exterior of the 1976 29-foot Ambassador trailer that Jordan Menzel bought was in good condition for its age. But the interior came with the shag carpet, wallpaper and claustrophobic curtains common to vintage Airstreams. While the trailer’s interior received a complete makeover, Menzel decided to keep the exterior unchanged. “Nothing I have done trumps the original exterior,” Menzel says. “No matter how many Airstreams I see, I am still in awe at the clean, modern design that originated in the late ’50s, completely ahead of its time.”
The view from Alyssa Pelletier and Will Hitchcock’s refurbished home is always changing. Sometimes the view is a steady stream of American landscapes passing by while Pelletier lounges comfortably on her bed, staring out the windows, her Bernese mountain dog, Hilde (or Hildebeast), curled at her side as the converted school bus she and Hitchcock now call home crawls along at 35 miles per hour up another steep mountain road.
They have no real destination. Instead, they’ve settled into a perpetual vagabond lifestyle, always searching for the next awe-inspiring mountain to plunge down on their bikes, a new sweeping vista to hike to with Hilde or the next pristine river to kayak through. Imagine Kerouac’s On the Road, but with Ikea furniture and granola-munching.
The bed lifts up to reveal storage, while drawers below a nearby counter store clothes. The bed is level with the windows. “I lay there when Will is driving and look out, and it’s the coolest thing,” Pelletier says.
Always up for a challenge, Aaron and Amy Carman went on the hunt for a vintage Airstream trailer to put their design and woodworking skills to the test. After scoring a 1971 Airstream Caravel on eBay, this Wisconsin couple spent four summers refashioning its outdated avocado-hued interior into a bright and modern space.
The Airstream’s exterior was the only portion the couple needed help with. The aluminum siding had been treated with a clear coat commonly used on Airstreams in the 1960s and ’70s. Although it protected the aluminum, the clear coating had started to decay and peel. The Carmans had a professional remove the coating and buff the exterior to a polished shine.
Here, the couple’s daughter stands outside the finished Airstream.
The couple chose Corian countertops because they have a lighter weight than stone or concrete. A simple bamboo-hued laminate backsplash protects the wall.
Bill and Cathy Johnson love camping. The architect and real estate agent have been doing it since they began dating at age 15. So they jumped at the chance to buy and restore a 1970s Avion camper that they could turn into a mobile summer home for canoeing and fishing trips around Tennessee.
The previous owner, a former client of Bill’s, had kept the camper in pristine condition, even developing a homemade manual that detailed special care and maintenance considerations for preserving the plumbing and mechanical lines during winter. The aluminum exterior paneling, naturally resistant to corrosion, was still in good condition. All the Johnsons had to do was give it a good washing.
They then replaced the upholstery with a durable outdoor fabric and changed out the hardware and drapes.
The original crystal chandelier over the dining table is one of the Johnsons’ favorite touches. The other light is a surface-mounted incandescent fixture. The table collapses so the front area can turn into a full-size bed.
They like to keep the camper fully stocked with towels and extra clothes and blankets in case guests show up or they want to spend some time there on the spur of the moment. “That way it feels almost like a furnished weekend home,” Bill says. “You don’t have to think about a lot; you just bring your clothes.”
This vintage 1964 Airstream Sovereign was completely renovated by Hofmann Architecture to create a remote office and guesthouse for a Malibu, California, mom. A stylish striped awning can be unfurled to provide protection from the sun.