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WEEK 5 (6, 7 + 8): 1976 Airstream Sovereign

Well. 

Here we are, nearly five weeks after our last post.

Needless to say, we're so focused on the work (out of complete necessity), that we've barely had time to do updates for you all (and we were doing so well at first!). We truly want to give out as much information as we possibly can to you all, but this season of life has been so incredibly chaotic. Not only are we still getting a business going, we're now working on an actual renovation project. Ellen is wrapping up her last year of teaching (we still have one week of school left here!), and then there's that tiny insignificant detail of moving out of our house, downsizing everything we own, and getting back on the road. 

So many rainy, dark days - working in the rain isn't much fun and doesn't lend itself to great photos, either...this image was taken a few weeks ago. 

So many rainy, dark days - working in the rain isn't much fun and doesn't lend itself to great photos, either...this image was taken a few weeks ago. 

With just 28 days until we move out of our house and into the Airstream, we are just trying our best to keep our heads above water, finish the renovation project beautifully, say our goodbyes to friends and family, and transition smoothly (or smoothly enough) into a very new way of life. Yes, we've lived on the road before - but it was a very different experience than this (though the crazy workload is very similar). This time though, it's not our Airstream we're pushing to finish...which brings us to the real point of this post: an update on our progress in Siya and Kristen's Airstream home.

Progress: dry fitting custom countertops and tabletop. Appliances, receiver, subwoofer, converter box installed. Time to paint and make some cabinet doors and drawers! 

Progress: dry fitting custom countertops and tabletop. Appliances, receiver, subwoofer, converter box installed. Time to paint and make some cabinet doors and drawers! 

We've made excellent progress over the last month. We previously left you all with updates regarding reinstallation of panels, paint, wiring in light fixtures, et cetera. Since then, we've done the following: 

  • Laid flooring
  • Framed out the entire Airstream: 
    • bathroom walls
    • bed
    • street side cabinetry 
    • curb side cabinetry
    • dinette
    • new wheel wells (plus insulation) 
  • Installed bathroom/kitchen dividing wall (using 1/4" ply)
  • Installed toe kick on cabinetry and secured to Airstream
  • Built fridge platform and installed undermount fridge 
  • Installed kitchen sink 
  • Built platform for oven and did dry install
  • Cut Elm planks and assembled tabletop, began planing/sanding process
  • Installed a city water inlet
  • Switched out fresh tank vent plumbing for new and properly angled 
  • Fleshed out dinette framing with 3/4" ply and cut drawer front, along with top down openings for storage access
  • Seat cushion foam cut to fit, linen upholstery cut and sewn
  • Installed subwoofer, receiver, outlet, and converter box in dinette benches
  • Built out bed, along with front laundry access
  • Installed and wired AC + DC outlets in bed frame 
  • Began ripping barn wood planks for custom countertops
  • Wiring up the AC + DC into the converter box 

And I'm sure we're missing tons of other little things, especially as this Airstream is really coming together! Though we've still a long way to go (and in all likelihood, 20 hour days ahead of us starting next weekend), we're confident that we'll get finished on time. We are getting so excited to do this big reveal for Siya and Kristen, as they are our only clients who will not be (or rather haven't been), with us for the entire duration of the renovation. Their jobs as travel bloggers take them all over the world, which is so incredible - so there is something really special about this renovation. We're doing our best to keep from oversharing so these two get a big surprise when they walk into their home for the first time! We will definitely be getting some video of their reactions, so stay tuned for that. 

Two months down, one to go. 

 

Kate OliverComment
Week 4: 1976 Airstream Sovereign
Ready for flooring! 

Ready for flooring! 

Sitting with an extra dry gin martini (with a caper berry, my favorite), to soothe the adrenaline rush and relax myself after the past weekend of crazy. It's been absolutely pouring here, just buckets and buckets of rain. Much of the Midwest is under flood warnings, and we are no exception. Rain poured into part of our basement (luckily far from where we're storing renovation supplies), and onto our backs as we stepped out and back into the Airstream repeatedly. I even found myself (not wanting to lose any more time due to the storms) on my hands and knees scrubbing window frames as the skies unleashed. The thunderstorms brought lightning, which dampened our efforts at times, and overall, the rain always contributes to slowed productivity when working on an Airstream, as the lines between indoor and outdoor are so blurred. Yet we pushed through and pushed on, and had an incredible weekend to be proud of. 

Last week, before we laid on that first coat of primer. We used Zinsser on this Airstream, but Kilz is just as good and we've used it in the past. We recommend both of these primers when painting over the skins with the existing vinyl for stain, grease cover-up and fantastic grip/stick. 

Last week, before we laid on that first coat of primer. We used Zinsser on this Airstream, but Kilz is just as good and we've used it in the past. We recommend both of these primers when painting over the skins with the existing vinyl for stain, grease cover-up and fantastic grip/stick. 

Cutting the aluminum - keep it in the box while it's still got quite a bit of length to it. Cut a slit along the long side of the box and slide the aluminum skin through the slit. Repeat this process until all your pieces are cut to length. This image was taken when we only had this length left in the box, and removed it only then. The tight coil and pressure could be dangerous, but mostly, it's much more manageable to cut, especially in a tight space. 

Cutting the aluminum - keep it in the box while it's still got quite a bit of length to it. Cut a slit along the long side of the box and slide the aluminum skin through the slit. Repeat this process until all your pieces are cut to length. This image was taken when we only had this length left in the box, and removed it only then. The tight coil and pressure could be dangerous, but mostly, it's much more manageable to cut, especially in a tight space. 

Friday night we took off, per the usual - our one night off per week to recuperate, be together as a family, or hang with our people. We spent time with our amazing friends, Scott and Erin, and their brood of girls. Lots of wine and the most amazing salmon (flown in fresh from Alaska) and such good conversation. We are going to miss them so much! 

We were up bright and early Saturday morning to strong thunderstorms, making a Lowe's run for some electrical supplies and then crossing some items off our personal to-do list while we waited for the lightning to slow. As soon as the dangerous weather cleared, we hit the Airstream work hard. We worked consistently the rest of the weekend, taking breaks only to eat and sleep, with serious focus and determination. Knowing we've had this Airstream for one month and have only two months left to finish is pretty good motivation to kick it into gear and get shit done. 

Clean, gorgeous end cap. The dining space is going to feel so open and inviting. Picture some cozy benches with neutral, gray linen cushions and a custom solid Elm table, made right here by us. 

Clean, gorgeous end cap. The dining space is going to feel so open and inviting. Picture some cozy benches with neutral, gray linen cushions and a custom solid Elm table, made right here by us. 

Here's what we've been working on since we last checked in: 

- Finished installing/riveting in ceiling panels

- Installed remaining patches

- Cleaned the skins thoroughly

- Custom cut aluminum for both end caps and installed

- Primed

- Painted

- Installed electrical boxes (in skins only)

- Wired in 35 DC recessed lights and 2 custom made swing arm DC sconces, installed

Wiring in one of the DC lights - after 35 of these, I definitely felt like Popeye. My forearms were getting a crazy workout. 

Wiring in one of the DC lights - after 35 of these, I definitely felt like Popeye. My forearms were getting a crazy workout. 

- Installed/wired AC outlets

- Installed/wired DC switches (in skins only)  

- Cleaned and installed window frames/screens

- Reinstalled door frame

- Painted window frames

- Cut aluminum to square and installed Fantastic Fan framing (link below to the fan model we love)

- Reinstalled AC unit and ceiling assembly

- Installed four Furrion speakers

- Cleaned and prepped for floor installation 

Lots of white primer and lots of wire. 

Lots of white primer and lots of wire. 

Most of this work was done in the past two days, starting at the DC lighting in the above list. The end caps, along with priming and painting, took about a week. We've been surprising ourselves, quite honestly, with our ability to keep at this work at such a fast clip. Hard to believe that just two weeks ago, we were finishing up insulation and installing interior skins, or that just one mere month ago, we were gutting and taking out interior skins and wiring to start fresh. 

Everything starting to come together. The recessed 12v lights came from Amazon and we love how they look so much we may replace the ones in our own Airstream. Link below - we purchased the white finish, which we love. The lights blend in perfectly with the ceiling, keeping the look clean throughout, which is good, since we have 35 lights up there!   The 12v swing arm sconces are from Lucent Lightshop, and were custom made for our partnership. They are launching a 12v line of RV lighting and asked if we'd try out their product. We love how they look and the smaller sizing suits the Airstream bedroom space so well. 

Everything starting to come together. The recessed 12v lights came from Amazon and we love how they look so much we may replace the ones in our own Airstream. Link below - we purchased the white finish, which we love. The lights blend in perfectly with the ceiling, keeping the look clean throughout, which is good, since we have 35 lights up there!  

The 12v swing arm sconces are from Lucent Lightshop, and were custom made for our partnership. They are launching a 12v line of RV lighting and asked if we'd try out their product. We love how they look and the smaller sizing suits the Airstream bedroom space so well. 

Thanks to Airparts, Inc. for the aluminum for our custom end caps - we ordered the 60-inch width this time around and just loved the flexibility it gave us in cutting those curves for this project. While the end caps aren't a quick project, we love how they open up and modernize the space instantly, as opposed to reusing the original molded plastic from the 70s. We think a lot of folks make the originals look fantastic, we just prefer the open, clean look for our Airstreams. 

On another note of gratitude, this one is for you all: thank you for hanging in there, guys. Our tight turnaround on this project, along with finishing up our current jobs, limits time to produce content (and respond to comments/emails) significantly. We can't thank you enough for your patience with us! 

Until next time, folks. 


DISCLOSURE:

The Modern Caravan is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

Kate OliverComment
Form + FUNCTION: DESIGNING AN AIRSTREAM

"Form ever follows function." 

This string of words was coined by architect Louis Sullivan to describe 20th century modernist architecture, meaning, quite simply, that the style of a building or even an object when designed and built, should only reflect the intended purpose. 

After reading a blog post and several comments/emails in the past several weeks, I felt compelled to open a discussion regarding form and function, as well as touching on individualism, personal taste, aesthetic, needs, and sacrifice in a tiny space (this for that). In fact, this topic is fairly present in my mind, especially as I exist in social media and online, and see one of two things happening amongst people (strangers): 

- Loss of individual tastes: copying others' interior/exterior spaces, objects purchased, clothing, as opposed to thinking about what we actually want and truly love and getting truly creative with it

- Criticism of others choices, only when/if different from our own. 

Recently, we've been criticized (both openly and passively) for only being able to design a "pretty" Airstream interior, with the implication that the function of the space must be lacking, simply due to it being beautiful. Whether it's that we don't have enough storage space, we didn't choose optimum technology, or that we only made something aesthetically pleasing (which automatically seems to translate to giving zero thought into how practical or functional our tiny space really is). 

When I (Kate) was young, I fell in love with art and design. I would spend hours pouring over books and magazines filled with beautiful rooms and homes, art, and architecture, completely fascinated by the human ability to create, to dream up the things before me on the page - and not only dream them, but bring them to life. Architecture and interior design (which is not simply the placement of objects or the selection of finishes, but actual spatial design and conceptualization of entire rooms) were of particular interest to me. While I can most certainly appreciate paintings or sculpture, there was an allure to these two media for one simple reason: form marrying function. 

I do not believe (in the slightest) that aesthetics must be completely mutually exclusive from function or practicality. Since my childhood days of discovering interior design, I knew I always wanted a French farm table. Perfectly worn, distressed, delicate yet sturdy. Twenty-some odd years later, and I finally had enough money saved to begin searching for the table I'd always wanted, and I found it. It resides in my dining room. The table itself serves many functions throughout the day: office, design studio space (where I can lay out samples and sketches), a place to drop grocery bags, and the obvious, a location to gather and rest as a family and nourish ourselves. The table is where we host our friends and conversation has unfolded that serves purpose and brings light and clarity into the lives of those gathered around it. This table is special. It's something we saved for, something I waited two decades for, something I fell in love with, something that makes me smile when I see it, something that brings me joy, something that makes people want to gather around it. It's beautiful. The worn wood, the history, the knowledge it was handmade in the 1800s, the character carved into it by age. This table is special because of it's history and beauty, but it also serves us a human beings, daily, hourly. 

Yesterday, we were in our Airstream, referencing the work we'd done on the endcaps, just to verify our methodology. We stepped out smiling exchanging remarks that though we've not yet moved in, it is a functional and beautiful home. You see, our Airstream will serve a purpose for us as a mobile home and office. We planned and designed and engineered every aspect. When we opted for no storage under the curb side/street side benches - it's because we valued a space for our feet to go over storage for unnecessary objects we don't need to bring on board. It was not just a style choice - for us, we like to tuck our feet under benches when we're eating and working. It's more comfortable. We opted instead for baskets that could moved around easily but still provide storage for objects that tend to move around often, such as shoes, books, blankets, and toys. 

When we decided on storage, we knew exactly how much we'd need, because we've done this before. We've lived on the road. We've lived in 160 square feet. We also went through everything we owned, downsized more, and measured each item we'd bring along with us. 

When we chose our layout, hours, days, and weeks of discussion, measuring, and planning went into our final decision. Having lived in an Airstream of the same length previously, we were able to compare and contrast our experience with our future plans. We went with a beautifully tiled wet bath - and initially, we planned to build it before anything else, but we hadn't worked out all the kinks yet. We planned our bathroom structure, function, and components perfectly before we began to build.

We knew we were sacrificing in one area to have what we wanted more in another when we decided on a wet bath, yet were able to draw on our previous experiences in our 1957 Airstream Overlander. In that trailer, we barely used our bathroom. We barely use the large one we have now, in our house! When we decided on a mid wet bath, it ultimately came down to us choosing a queen size bed over a full, because we knew, from experience, that a full-size bed was so uncomfortable for us. In order to have the queen sized bed, we would need to relocate the rear bath to mid. We also wanted a large, entirely functional kitchen - where we spend the majority of our time as a family. This left us with a 3' x 4' space allocation for a bathroom, which meant we needed to embrace the wet bath and make it work. Seeing that we spend so little time in the bathroom, and that we're only three people, it was a tiny sacrifice - for us.

What we need and want would likely vastly differ from someone else - for example, a single person living in the same size space could potentially keep the full-size back bath and have a fold out bed in the middle of their trailer. Sure, we we could have done this instead, except it didn't suit our needs and wants. We really wanted a bed that was stationary, something we could keep made up as a bed during the day. Having to pull out both beds in our first Airstream showed us that wanted something simpler next time around. Now we only have one bed to make up each night, not two. We have a space readily available for relaxing and collapsing into, especially being that our jobs are renovating Airstreams while living in one - we'll want to be able to collapse at the end of a long day without adding extra work on top of the task of readying for bed. 

The amount of design and engineering that went into our bathroom meant that it could hardly be construed as not functional. To be able to fit everything needed/wanted into a 3' x 4' space meant that a lot of planning and design and conversation was a must. Yet the vision for the bathroom was also one of beauty. Being in such a tiny space, why not make it feel as open and airy as possible? Why not select finishes and fixtures that are pleasing to the eye? If it only served a simple purpose of bathing and using the bathroom, it might feel dark and dank and unwelcoming - instead, when we step into a bathroom smaller than most folks' closets, it doesn't feel small at all: it's the opposite. It's inviting. When we brush our teeth, there's plenty of room to stand comfortably at the sink. When we use the toilet, we're able to ease into the seat. When we shower, we extended the space by adding a bench - for not only seating, but a space for toiletries. While I wasn't super fond of the idea of everything getting wet every time we showered, there was a simple solution - a clear plastic shower curtain to easily divide the shower from the toilet/sink without making the user of the shower feel cramped. 

Simply put, designing a beautiful wet bath, one that has received quite a lot of attention for not just looks and style, but overall function, a tiny space packed with everything one needs to comfortably use for it's three intended purposes, has been incredibly rewarding and something we are both quite proud of, whether or not it would work for someone else. It works for us, and due to our strategic planning, design, and build, it works really well. Bonus? It's fucking gorgeous and a tiny space actually want to spend time in. 

In conclusion, my goal in writing this is in hopes that we can all be a little more understanding of one another. That criticizing another person's design choices is criticizing what their needs and wants are, especially in a tiny space where we are all making sacrifices in one area or another. To assume that someone who wants a light, bright, lovely space is immediately foregoing practicality does a disservice to them. It most certainly underestimates their ability to actually design and engineer and build. To do all of these is not an easy feat. We are so proud of our new Airstream home, as well as the ones we are working on and designing now, because they are not only incredibly beautiful and pleasing to the eye, but are functional and practical in every single respect.

If design work only followed the modernist principle, then it wouldn't be so lovely. We wouldn't need choice in fixtures and finishes for our spaces. We wouldn't select paint colors or wood or countertops or faucets based on looks, but simply on function. We wouldn't adorn our spaces with decorative objects and items of meaning. Isn't it wonderful that we have preferences, likes, and options that can make an Airstream trailer (which is a perfect example of form and function in and of itself) a home, instead of constraining it and only using it for its original intended purpose - a recreational, occasional use camper. 

Kate OliverComment