Cynthia Tuan and Shane Beers began renovating their 1958 Airstream Overlander not too long after finding one another and settling into their relationship. The pair, both single parents, were attracted to the idea of creating something together, creating a self-imposed design challenge: honoring the Airstream's original intent, yet streamlining a plan for efficient tiny living and creating a vacation rental for folks to explore their home city of Portland, Oregon.
When interviewing Cynthia and Shane (we share mutual friends, the ever-lovely Peter and Kate Schweitzer, who renovated and lived in a vintage Airstream for years), I loved their down-to-earth, cool responses to our questions. Their take on the work they've done and will continue to do was wise and rather pragmatic, starting with their expectations from the get-go. Knowing their responsibilities ultimately were to their jobs and parenting, they understood that their Airstream renovation project would have to be something they'd slowly chip away at. They honestly admitted to, at times, feeling that the work itself was insurmountable, yet they continue to plug away at it, pulling late-night work sessions after the kiddos are in bed.
Shane and Cynthia began work on their Silver Sequoia, named for the 75-foot tree she lies underneath, in April of last year. In the last eleven months, they have gutted the entire space, with the exception of the rare and lucky sound subfloor and frame. They've spent the near-year sourcing materials, running new electrical, planning the design, and begun what they called 'the seemingly never-ending build and fabrication phase'. They've done the majority of the work themselves, outside of a few minor tasks, such as moving and rebuilding their property's fence for the trailer's parking space under their sequoia tree, it's namesake. They also hired an electrician to install an exterior circuit breaker to power the Airstream, jokingly calling it the 'Umbilical Cord', and had a local laser company custom cut aluminum patches with pre-drilled rivet holes (so smart!).
The design goal for the Silver Sequoia was simple: they were seeking function, as well as a modern approach to the aesthetic. In trading out the original twin beds, they are creating a space well suited for couples who'll stay in their Airstream. Cynthia elaborated on wanting to maximize the feeling of expanse despite the actual square footage using clean lines and a neutral and light color palette. Later on down the line, they will layer in textures and elements with the hope that their guests will feel they are unwinding in their favorite homey nook. While the pair's immediate goal is to create a short-term rental for out-of-town explorers, they've also considered the weight and type of materials that will deem the Airstream road-worthy as well, hoping to one day take a road trip or two.
They've leaned into the Instagram community quite a bit. They've shared their own story and have found knowledge and inspiration in those of us going through similar trials and tribulations. Seeing that others don't have it all figured out has helped them through moments of being stuck, and have likewise contributed their own lessons and ideas, such as their gorgeous hardwood floors and their aluminum framework they are using for the build out (side note: we almost used this same system and likely will sometime in the future!).
One of the challenges Shane and Cynthia have faced in the last eleven months of renovation are location, yet also noted that their location is also a great thing as well! Living and renovating in the often wet and cold climate of the Pacific Northwest, much of the build has to be completed inside the Airstream trailer, requiring a bit of acrobatics and shuffling to complete tasks. However, the plus side of living in progressive, often-walkable Portland has given the couple access to the tool library just down the street, the Benjamin Moore paint store up the street, and a local neighborhood hardware store for the countless last-minute runs us renovators all know so well (too well). Managing the renovation around their children's schedules has also kept the two juggling. They sagely noted that at times, external life really does play into the renovation's clip. Weather, job loss, political climate, kids - all of these things can hinder and spill over onto progress, but these things always inevitably shift and everything begins to move along again.
The two hope to be complete with their Silver Sequoia by late spring or early summer, yet I'll finish this piece with not my words, but theirs:
"Even though we’re still in it; the process of creating, and journey that comes from stretching when you’re learning something new has been sweet and enduring. Often it means being pushed outside our comfort zone, but the small celebrations that come from completion has allowed us learn so much about each other."
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