Our Airstream Vacation

For my birthday last summer, my mother gave us a gift certificate for a stay at an Airstream hotel. She hoped we’d get some inspiration for our own renovation and, boy, did we!

While this post is not intended as a review of AutoCamp, Spencer and I enjoyed our stay, especially since it was his first vacation in a year and a half. The AutoCamp staff and accommodations were nice and there were plenty of activities nearby. We went wine tasting, ate some great food, and gallivanted up and down the coast.

It was also Spencer’s first time (in memory) visiting the Pacific Ocean so the power of the water surprised and entertained him. An unexpectedly large wave broke on a rock near us and got us rather wet. At which point, Spencer was no longer amused by the beach, but the discovery of the rusty remains of something mechanical made him happy again.

Later we asked a park employee about it and researched the model number. It was a steam shovel used to transport rock debris onto the beach to build a jetty. We also discovered rusted tracks buried in the beach, which were part of the same operation.

While wine tasting, we learned a lot and actually came home with a bottle we both like. All around, it was a great (albeit short) vacation.

Autocamp’s airstreams

AutoCamp tested my ability to identify Airstream models. For those familiar with Airstreams, can you figure out what’s unusual about this photograph?

The windows of course! Airstreams always have a wraparound window above the hitch. In contrast, AutoCamp’s Airstreams have the front window in the rear and the rear window in the front, plus a window configuration and layout I’ve never seen before, a 70s style, a 90s wide shape, and modern technology. I was so confused. These Airstreams didn’t fit any of the decades I knew.

So, we asked the front desk. Turns out, the Airstream factory in Ohio actually custom built them for Autocamp’s Russian River location. They were designed specifically to be hotel rooms and so they have an unusual layout with a front bathroom and rear bedroom, plus other special features like keycode entry.

Despite having plenty of fun, we were there to evaluate the functionality of an Airstream for full timing. We both liked and disliked things about the AutoCamp design.

what we liked

To begin with, we both liked how bright the space was. The bedroom was especially bright since there were four vista view windows plus a skylight. The white walls and opaque glass bedroom door helped reflect and distribute the light. The bathroom and bedroom were both spacious, which was nice; however, these two rooms took up about half of the trailer. So, while nice in a hotel room, this layout would be impractical in our trailer. Spencer appreciated the location and number of outlets. I liked the individual reading lights and nightstands next to the bed. I also liked the bathroom mirror, vintage light switches, and the small auxiliary heater in the bedroom, which was great for nighttime.

The best thing about staying at AutoCamp was the experience of sleeping in an Airstream. We’re currently debating bedroom layouts. AutoCamp’s layout takes up more space, but it allows us to access both sides of the bed, which is great if our sleep schedules differ. It also allows us to have individual nightstands and lights, plus access to more drawers under the bed. With our space restrictions though, we might need to sacrifice these things for a more compact bedroom. I’m leaning towards the first option, but what do you guys think?

There are one or two things I’m definitely stealing from the AutoCamp Airstreams. First of all, I absolutely adored the blinds. If you’ve seen our Airstream tour, you’re aware we dislike Nellie’s current blinds. Sure, they’re ugly, but they also don’t function properly. The autolock mechanism hates me and the blinds refuse to roll back up. In all Airstreams, the curved walls make curtains or blinds difficult because they swing away from the wall without a secondary attachment.

The blinds used in new Airstreams are OceanAir brand, which do not have a locking mechanism. Instead, the curtain pull slides into a holder at the bottom of the window. If you want the blinds partially open, they can tuck under the window levers or additional posts. I thought they were absolutely brilliant. The design is simple with a minimal profile and solves the issue with the curved walls. Plus they’re blackout shades, which is always a good thing.

Another thing I thought was particularly brilliant was the bathroom window treatment. The opaque glass eliminated the need for blinds while preserving privacy. Since Spencer and I are already intending to restore Nellie‘s windows, we can easily add opaque window tint on our bathroom window.

What We Disliked

There were a few parts of the Autocamp design we won’t be replicating though, which was just (if not more) useful to learn.

Spencer didn’t like the available seating space in their Airstream design. There was a couch in the living area which was useful for putting on shoes in the morning. However, Spencer wished there was a desk or coffee table for his computer. He also didn’t like the gaps above both the bedroom and bathroom doors. While these gaps allowed air to reach both rooms with the door closed, Spencer felt it wasn’t private enough if there were visitors. For the same reason, he also found fault with the bathroom door because it couldn’t lock.

I, personally, didn’t like the bedroom door and cabinet kerfuffle. Since the swinging door blocked the cabinetry, I had to move it each time I needed to get into the closet or the fridge. A sliding door (which the bathroom used) would be better. We would also prefer a quieter air conditioning/heating unit, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.

Again, none of these items are criticisms of AutoCamp. We loved our stay and will likely return to either their Santa Barbara or Russian River location. It was a great research opportunity as well as a nice vacation.

5 Inspirational Small Spaces

Now that you’ve seen our diamond in the rough, take a peek at my dreams for Nellie.

In anticipation of our own Airstream project, I’ve been collecting inspiration for the interior design and style. Throughout the year, I collected various ideas on my Pinterest, but these are my favorite five inspirational small spaces (both Airstreams and Tiny Houses). Together they will shape the renovation and decoration of Nellie.

Throughout the post, I’ve supplied links to my sources if you wish to dive down the Airstream rabbit hole. So, in no particular order, here are my five favorite small spaces:

#1: Happy Camper Airstream

Happy Camper Airstream is the work of the marvelously funny Lynn Knowlton. She began with a 1976 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht  (the same as Nellie), which she partially renovated (i.e. did not replace insulation, etc.) into the gorgeous Happy Camper Airstream. Lynn kept a lot of the original elements including the turquoise stove and the original couches.

For our project, we likely won’t be keeping as much as Lynn did, but one thing I absolutely adore about her renovation is how she blends modern and vintage elements into a unique and beautiful aesthetic. I also love her use of champagne gold faucets and drawer pulls. They compliment the  original gold on the cabinetry and, as she says they’re, “like jewelry.”

Finally, I love the way the white opens up the space and how it is complimented with pops of color like the couch, the pillows, and the wallpaper. I want to achieve a similar aesthetic in our Airstream. In regards to keeping such a white space clean, Lynn recommends durable paint and linen textiles.

#2: Lucy

When we originally thought we would be building a tiny house, I stumbled across this tiny house built by Tom and Shaye, a couple who’ve chronicled their construction of several ecofriendly homes. Besides a tiny house on wheels, they also have a cob building and a straw bale home. They live in New Zealand and now have a young daughter.

Throughout the design process, their tiny house has probably been the most influential. Both Spencer and I absolutely adore the combination of dark wood, light walls, and pops of color. Their colorful cookware and wood counter tops in particular make me jealous. I also really love the turquoise color inside the pantry shelves and the variegated wood ceiling. While we can’t incorporate everything we love from this tiny house into our Airstream, it’s still incredibly inspirational.

#3: Mavis the Airstream

When I found Mavis on Instagram, several of the things I’ve mentioned before drew me to Sheena and Jason’s project (such as dark wood, light walls, and pops of color), but ultimately it was their ingenuity and creativity that made me stay. The two also write a blog in which they detail their Airstream projects, including unique vent covers. The two (plus their pup Riley) are currently on their shakedown trip.

I have yet to figure out their secret, but I’m continually impressed by the combination of colors and textures they achieve without making the space look messy. Plus, their addition of small vintage or thrifted items throughout the Airstream makes the trailer feel unique and personal without cluttering the available space. My personal favorites are the road sign above their couch and the dolphin bottle opener behind the sink.

#4: A Small Life

A Small Life is a blog run by Melanie, who lives in this beautiful Airstream with her husband George and their dog. I initially stumbled upon her advice for renovating an Airstream and was inspired by her passion for…well…living a small life. Melanie’s blog gave me a realistic view on Airstream life and ultimately inspired our choice. Melanie recently published an ebook full of advice for transitioning to a smaller lifestyle, which I immediately purchased. When initially planning our Airstream project, we looked for rear bath models, intending to follow a similar layout.

One thing that I really admire about Melanie’s design is the way they’ve incorporated hobbies and work into the Airstream. For example, they display their record collection on one wall of the Airstream, including vintage wood drawers. It’s a beautiful addition to their home. George also has his own desk for artwork. Plus, isn’t that just a great chair!

#5: TinCan Homestead

Renovated by Washington couple Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw, this Airstream has slowly evolved over the past year. Once the space was livable, the couple updated incrementally, ultimately creating a usable, effective space which is still evolving. The project was recently featured in Sunset magazine.

My favorite thing about this Airstream are the white-washed shiplap walls. The wood makes the space warmer and more homely. Spencer also loves the hexagonal backsplash. We plan to incorporate both shiplap and hexagons into our own Airstream. One of the most distinctive features of their Airstream is the jungle they are cultivating. At last count, there were 63 plants. Their color palette is largely neutral and so the plants give color.

Tincan Homestead also helped inspire our floor plan, but more on that in another post!

So there you have it. My five favorite inspirational small spaces. Each has contributed in some way to our design conception of Nellie. As we begin our renovation, we intend to create a space which combines vintage and modern elements, dark wood and light walls, and pops of turquoise and tangerine throughout.

I’m so excited!