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!

4 Reasons to Live in an Airstream

It’s official. I’m moving in with my boyfriend of five years. But, of course, I can never do anything normally. Instead of renting an apartment, we’ve chosen to renovate an Airstream trailer and travel the country.

This journey began last January when I discovered the tiny house movement on my Pinterest while apartment searching. The social movement aims to downsize and minimize our capitalistic lives. I immediately fell in love. In case you haven’t heard about the craze or seen the television shows, tiny houses are homes under 500 square feet. They can be apartments, traditional homes, shipping containers, bus conversions, RVs, travel trailers, cabins on skids, or even stick-built houses on trailers (THOWs). The possibilities are endless! I was particularly fascinated by the latter. If we had a THOW, we could bring our house with us while working in National Parks.

Despite my initial fascination with THOWs, Spencer and I decided that renovating an Airstream would be the best choice for us. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.





Our biggest reason for going tiny is mobility. Our current intention is to travel the country working at parks as either seasonal rangers or camp hosts. We’ll likely be moving around every six months and so we need to be mobile. When looking at apartments back in January, this was my main concern with renting a space. As a couple traveling together, there is no way we could move the entire contents of our apartment every six months like some seasonal rangers do. A THOW would allow us to take both our possessions and our home with us wherever we wander.

But my dad pointed out the challenges of moving frequently with a THOW. Since most THOWs are stick-built like a traditional house, they are significantly heavier than other travel trailers. Tiny houses on wheels can easily exceed 10,000 lbs, which requires a one ton truck to tow. THOWs also employ traditional roofs, which are less aerodynamic, ultimately leading to lower gas mileage. While THOWs are great for skirting housing regulations, they aren’t as practical for frequent travel as travel trailers.

I initially resisted the idea of a traditional travel trailer though, partly because (while more practical for frequent travel) they aren’t built for long term usage. However, this is primarily an issue with newer trailers; older trailers like the original aluminum type were built to be more durable. Due to these factors, I would prefer to tow an older, light-weight and aerodynamic aluminum trailer any day.

So, our criteria for mobility definitely ruled out apartments, traditional homes, shipping containers, cabins on skids, and other more permanent housing options. Mobility can be an issue with THOWs, but it didn’t completely rule them out as an option.





I know. I know. It’s always about money, it’s it? Well, money was a significant factor in our decision to go tiny and the most important factor to Spencer.

After researching local apartments, Spencer and I quickly realized that rent costs could become a significant portion of our income. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m looking to avoid the rat race. I refuse to be enticed into buying things I can’t afford just so I can work off that debt for the rest of my life. I also refuse to throw away money on something I will never own. And a THOW seemed the perfect affordable investment…until I did more research.

I’ll be frank with you. While Spencer and I aren’t starving college students, we are just starting out and we don’t have the financial resources to purchase a tiny house shell, a RV, or even a new travel trailer. Of course, it’s entirely possible to build an inexpensive THOW, but that requires more time and skill than Spencer and I possess. We wanted to buy a professionally built tiny house shell because it would allow us to finish and customize our space rather than worrying about constructing stable walls. Unfortunately, the low estimates we received were $30,000 or more: without electrical, without plumbing, without furnishings. We don’t have that kind of money. Period.

Plus, there’s the issue of resalability. Spencer and I view this purchase as an investment, so resalability is important to us. The current market for pre-owned THOWs and bus conversions is rather small, but from what I’ve seen it’s not looking so good. THOWs and buses are incredibly customizable, which makes it more difficult to find potential buyers. Pre-owned RVs and travel trailers have a larger market base, although they do depreciate over time. Airstreams are special. The name brand and iconic look of Airstreams not only make them incredibly resalable, but a good restoration can fetch a huge chunk of change. Don’t believe me? Check out Airstream Classifieds.

So, the issue of money ruled out three possible tiny house types. Professionally built THOWs and RVs cost way too much for us. But, on the other hand, DIY THOWs or bus conversions are too much of a project. We needed something in the middle.

Travel trailers (and Airstreams specifically) fit the bill. Airstreams serve as great shells, which we can gut and customize to our heart’s desire. Although slightly expensive because of their high resalability, project Airstreams are well within our budget and fit all our criteria.




Aesthetics was what ultimately decided the issue for me. Now, I admit that I’m a little vain. After all, the aesthetic of a traditional house was what drew me to THOWs in the first place. There are some really pretty tiny houses out there. Initially, I resisted my father’s suggestion to buy a traditional trailer largely because of aesthetics. I hate the cheap, plastic-looking exterior of most trailers. I could not imagine myself living in one. Not to mention, I desperately wanted to escape the white-trash stereotype associated with living in a trailer.

Then he mentioned Airstreams and I immediately did a 360.

I adore vintage Airstreams! They have a classic profile, beauty, and Americana charm. Admittedly though, I come from a household that owns…oh…eight+ restored, unique vintage cars, so I may be a little biased. It was easy to imagine myself living in an Airstream not only because of their beauty, but also because I come from a vintage-obsessed family. After doing more research, I fell in love with 70s Airstreams in particular. For some unknown reason, I just hadn’t thought of Airstreams as travel trailer before. So, aesthetics was an important factor in my decision to renovate a silver bullet.




Finally, my desire to go tiny is also motivated by a concern for the environment. Not only does living small reduce your physical footprint, it also reduces your carbon footprint. For example, it’s easy to run a tiny house entirely off of solar power. The lifestyle forces awareness of your impact; you have a greater awareness of the amount of trash you produce and the electricity you use.

Since studying historic preservation in college, I’ve learned some interesting things about the environment. Preservationists attest that, “The greenest building is the one that’s already there.” Why? Because the energy to build it has already been expended. The timber has been cut, the mortar mixed, the labor exerted. Demolishing old buildings to build something new, even if it’s LEED Certified, is not energy efficient.

So, the best thing about renovating an Airstream versus building a new THOW is, you guessed it, reusing materials! There are a lot of really cool THOWs out there using reclaimed materials (many of which I have pinned), but the framework of a THOW is always new lumber or metal for structural purposes. This makes complete sense from an engineering standpoint and I’m not bashing this choice. It’s just important to me to reuse as many materials as possible during construction to reduce my carbon footprint. Starting with an old Airstream shell fulfills this intention.