Interiors

A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road

by Annie Werbler

After a year and a half of downsizing their lives, selling a brick-and-mortar Kentucky home, and prepping a vintage Airstream RV for a cross-country journey, Kate and Ellen took off on the road with their five-year-old daughter Adelaide in tow. Kate — a photographer, writer, and stylist — and Ellen, a former art teacher and now full-time woodworker, were well-equipped for the task at hand. The couple bought their 160-square-foot 1957 Airstream Overlander on May 29th, 2014, and spent the next year gutting the interior, then rebuilding it from the floor up, doing 99% of the work themselves. They embarked upon their travel journey exactly one year later on May 29th, 2015 (along with Adelaide, Sofie the chocolate lab, and Memphis, a lovable old cat), and after six months on the road are now settling down in a new Midwestern city.

Kate designed the Airstream interior, with three (often multipurpose) “rooms” — a living/dining/kitchen area, bedroom, and a bathroom. A straight line of sight across the home is available from any vantage point, keeping the space feeling its largest. The lightweight trailer contains only the bare essentials while blending period-appropriate finishes with modern amenities, and most of all, a space that allows for growth and change as they do. Luckily, Ellen had the skills to carry out her wife’s designs. The home offered “a constant, a place to retreat to and feel creatively energized by,” while traveling for half a year.

“Vintage Airstreams are iconic of the great American road trip,” Kate notes. Getting there required new flooring, electrical and plumbing, interior cabinetry and furniture, and an extensive repair of the exterior aluminum shell. Hidden storage eliminates the need for upper cabinets; it’s found under benches, beds, and in a console at the front of the trailer. Curtains establish zones in place of walls and doors, saving valuable floor space and maintaining an open plan. They made improvements after being on the road as they came to understand how the home functions in reality, and the layers of texture evolved as considered collections grew through their travels. “Traveling full-time can be so grueling and demanding,” Kate admits, but the family still retained the familiarity of home, no matter where they were or what they saw. Check out photos from the family’s Airstream adventures on Instagram. —Annie

Photography by Kate Oliver

This post is brought to you by Woonwinkel. Color your life and find colorful, inviting, modern gifts and objects for the home by independent designers from all over the world. Woonwinkel means “home shop” in Dutch. Thank you for supporting our sponsors! They help us bring original content like this to you four times a day.

woonwinkel180

 

 

A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
1/26
All the kitchen items in Kate and Ellen's Airstream RV kitchen are hidden and secured behind long sliding cabinet doors - including the fridge.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
2/26
Adelaide, Kate, and Ellen at home in their Airstream while visiting the Northern California coast.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
3/26
The dining and living space in the Airstream. Kate and Ellen built their table and benches in Portland, Oregon a few months into their yearlong road trip, and spend the majority of their time having coffee, homeschooling their daughter, working, playing cards, or entertaining around it.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
4/26
A Schoolhouse Electric sconce illuminates the windows framed in thin strips of birch plywood to hide rough screen edges.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
5/26
An induction cooktop can be tucked away in a drawer when not in use.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
6/26
Ellen crafted the two cutting boards by hand, on display in the home until they are sold.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
7/26
A mix of collected vintage cutlery, some leftover from the couple's wedding dinner. A white faucet lends a modern mood.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
8/26
The kitchen shelf is held in place by leather cords, terminating at the shiplap wall.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
9/26
Looking into the Airstream from the exterior door. "One really neat thing about moving from place to place is how the light spilling in the windows always looks different," Kate says. "It's fun to see how morning light looks in the kitchen, only to see how the same spot looks bathed in evening light when we move on and the Airstream is positioned alternately."
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
10/26
Kitchen implements like the pewter-and-brass ladle, heavy Indian copper pitcher, terra cotta planter, and woven trivet were found throughout the family's travels.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
11/26
At night, the bench in the living and dining area transforms into Adelaide's bed. "She gets so excited to make it her space at bedtime," Kate says, "Stacking up her stuffed animals on her floral bedding."
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
12/26
The Sam Avedon chair found for $3.50 at Goodwill years ago is one of the few pieces in the home not purchased specifically for the space. The hanging basket was chosen in anticipation of a home on wheels, before Kate and Ellen had found their Airstream.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
13/26
From the kitchen into the master bedroom. IKEA baskets, hidden behind the sleek cabinet, hold clothes, shoes, and other personal items. Beyond, the shower with its black hexagon tile floor, leftover from a bathroom renovation in the pair's previous Kentucky home.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
14/26
An adjustable showerhead on sealed cedar paneling in the shower. The copper pipe vents the Airstream's gray tank, which sits underneath the bathroom floor.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
15/26
A composting toilet is hidden away underneath this cabinetry, as is a kitty litterbox. A bathroom sink may make its way into the vanity in the future. "We don't have a mirror anywhere in the Airstream," Kate shares, "Which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on who you ask and on what day!"
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
16/26
The couple's bed during the day, which easily folds up and down. A thrifted macrame wallhanging was found in an Ann Arbor, Michigan shop during the couple's engagement weekend.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
17/26
The bed ready to receive sleepy travelers after a long day exploring. At night, linen panels hang over the windows for privacy, snapping to the wall.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
18/26
Wider view of the main kitchen counter and shelving. A thunderbird is etched into a pewter dish beside sink, and ceramic "Love" mugs made by a dear family friend named Tara was Ellen's first gift to Kate.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
19/26
"The 'Keep Driving' sketch was the first gift [I] gave Ellen - the first nine months of our relationship were spent living many hours from one another, and with [me] raising a two-year-old as a single working mom, it was often difficult to carve out time to be together," Kate recalls. "During a particularly difficult stretch of time apart, Ellen's dad said to just 'keep driving' - keep pressing on and finding time to be together, no matter how hard it was. [I] sketched out the little drawing after that, framed it, and gave it to Ellen. It seems fitting for it to now be in our Airstream!"
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
20/26
The classic, shiny exterior finish on the Airstream.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
21/26
Looking into the RV, toward a thrift store welcome rug and a market basket for holding shoes.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
22/26
Mementos from travel - purchased crystals, a fair-trade basket, and a stone that was found on an Alaskan beach.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
23/26
"What I love most about my home is: how it gives us a constant as we travel together." - Kate Oliver
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
24/26
Coffee on the table, typical of mornings in the Airstream. A market basket holds collected throw blankets.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
25/26
The Airstream interior is 23 feet long by 7 feet wide. View looking from the bathroom to the living/dining space.
A Vintage Airstream Adventure on the Road, on Design*Sponge
26/26
The 160-square-foot renovated 1957 Airstream Overlander is divided into multipurpose living/dining/kitchen area, bedroom, and bathroom zones.

Suggested For You

Comments

  • Wow. Very inspiring. I’ve often dreamed of travelling either with a trailer or stand alone RV. Right now I’m leaning trailer!

    Great work and love the overall commitment of the six month travelling too.

  • They are my favorite! I love following along on their adventure — such a cute fam.

    And if I’m not mistaken that little hanging fruit basket is from my old Etsy shop! Looks like it found a nice home! :)

  • The light in the instagram photos is simply amazing. You have gone beautiful places with your airstream…

  • As a mother to a six year old, I have to ask: In such a beautiful home on the road, how do you get your child to sleep before you do? Or do you all go to sleep at the same time?

    Separately, all of you are brave and wonderful! I’m very impressed!

  • So why no mirror? Is the outside reflective enough that there was no need for one inside? J/K. Beautiful people and restore!

  • Love your space! Simple, filled with clean lines, and feels like a warm home. Great vintage style! and LOVE those lamps you have everywhere. Great feature!

  • In my Airstream Cruiser 1954 are the same craks on the windows. How did you plan the curtains? I see fine wooden frame and horizontal a wider framwork…
    Greetings from Switzerland – Werner

  • Terrific post. Really enjoyed seeing this beautiful home and how it lets many of us fantasize about having an Airstream. Excellent reno.
    There’s just something about trailers that speaks to the soul. Beautiful job ladies.

  • Wow! So beautiful. We also have an Airstream Overlander in Portland Oregon, but a 1968. http://www.airstreampdx.com So far we have done little of these more extensive renovations, but I too would love to get another and emulate some of your design touches. We rent ours on Airbnb to help make it pay for itself and diapers for our son ;)

  • I love the Schoolhouse Electric sconces you chose to use. How did you get them to work with 12 volt power?

  • After years of dreaming and searching, I finally have an adoreable, “needy” 1959 Airstream. Just 16′ and just what I’m have been looking for.
    New is nice, but so looking forward to creating my own space and hitting the road – several short trips a year! Kate, Ellen and Adelaide give their homes such clean lines – appreciate that they have shared their adventure. I’m sure I’ll be using their services and expertise!

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.