On Progress

While it may seem like we have so far to go, we were able to stand on the muddy earth and be inside the Airstream at the same time - just six months ago. 

While it may seem like we have so far to go, we were able to stand on the muddy earth and be inside the Airstream at the same time - just six months ago. 

One step forward, two steps back. Sound familiar? Airstream renovation can be just that at times, or at least, it can feel that way. The thing is, most of us are doing this as a side project - on the side of full-time jobs and/or/maybe parenting (the constant "job"). We're squeezing in work hours on weekends when our friends are relaxing and barbecuing, trading in the days we used to have "off" to days one-thousand percent ON. We spend our days puzzling over subfloor removal. We perch precariously on curved, slippery Airstream roofs. We measure, measure again, saw once. We curse, grunt, and on occasion, go through an entire twelve-pack of craft IPA in one weekend (no? Just us?). 

Airstream work, especially full-gut job renovations, as many of you folks can attest, are most certainly not for the faint of heart. I love what Evan said in his Caravan Story last week about basing your entire life around when you can get work done on your renovation, and I echo his sentiment. You spend every single second talking and thinking about your project, and get frustrated when something impedes the process, and despite being slightly obsessed...er, passionate...about your renovation and wanting nothing but to renovate every second, you've still got to keep living real life in the midst of it all. 

We have been working on this Airstream for the last year now. A few weeks ago, we were getting a bit discouraged at our progress. As much as we love the Instagram community, it's easy to begin to compare yourselves and your renovation to others (guilty). We see other folks' wrapping up their renovations, but we are still building and still have a ways to go. So late one night, collapsed on the couch after a day at work and then work, we pulled out that same social media app and begin scrolling through the last year of our renovation, noting dates and realizing that for the first six months, we were only working when we had the time. We hadn't set a self-imposed deadline yet, and truthfully didn't yet have enough cash flow to do a major renovation. We noted that there were times we went weeks without working, and some days we'd put in just a few hours. 

Reminiscing this way helped us put things into perspective. The first six months was a slow, easygoing demo process that we worked on when we wanted to. It wasn't until August hit - right as Ellen returned to teaching another year and our kiddo started school - that we hit the ground running. At this point, we have spent six months rebuilding. In August, we could stand between the bars of the frame and our Airstream didn't even have wheels. Several of the windows were out, and we had the world's largest tarp draped over the entire trailer to keep the chassis from getting wet after we'd repaired and painted it. Now we are painting cabinetry and furniture and running plumbing, appliances are installed, and we are rounding the corner. 

Airstream work is it's own kind of beast. It helps to take a minute, every now and then, especially when frustrated or annoyed at the pace of progress, to take a deep breath and look around. Note how far you've come. In the moment, it feels like the build is going so slowly. You start your work days with a checklist of things you'd like to accomplish, and by mid-day, you've not even checked off one single bullet point. Yet what you've not done in making your list is account for all the other little things, the extra steps that you'll always need to take to accomplish just one of the larger tasks on your list. We've started to create two columns, one a task list, the other an achievement list that we fill out at days end. Seeing the two side-by-side reminds us how much work actually did take place, and it's much easier to move on to the next day's work feeling proud and successful.

Then we mentally take note of all the things we did outside of the Airstream work, like going to our full-time jobs, and the meetings before and after or during. Driving our kiddo to gymnastics and drama club. Writing a blog post here or upgrading the resources tab, doing three loads of laundry, cooking a healthy dinner and eating together as a family. Making a meal plan, list, and heading to the grocery. Getting a good night's sleep. Cuddling with our daughter and watching a movie. Going for a run or morning yoga. Writing and creating for self. These things matter too, and are just as vital to the success of the Airstream. The food and exercise and sleep fuel us and make us stronger. With our first Airstream, we didn't get much sleep and it wore on us majorly! The family time unites us and reminds us why we're even renovating an Airstream in the first place - it is for our family and for our values. We work hard at our respective jobs so we can pay for life, provide for our daughter, and make our way, slowly but surely, to our dreams.

Remembering why you are doing this renovation, why you're giving up weekends of freedom, why you're working and thinking about the Airstream 'round the clock, and when it feels never-ending, just pause. Take a moment to reflect on how far you've come. Take a moment to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Say it out loud. Progress is happening, and you're one step closer to where you want to be. 

Airstream Kitchen

Building our Airstream kitchen has been quite challenging this go round. Opting for higher end finishes and fixtures led us to focus our efforts on saving weight elsewhere. In our first Airstream, we crafted custom cabinetry with sliding doors, which ran along tracks we created by routing out channels for both the top and bottom of the cabinet. We used 3/4" ply as both dividers and supports on the cabinetry, which spanned the majority of the length of the street side, with a smaller yet identical cabinet on the curb side. While we loved the look of the cabinetry we designed, in practicality and daily use, we didn't prefer it. We often get questions on how to build the cabinetry from the '57 and I'm quick to dissuade, or offer alternative sliding options.

The 3/4" ply was quite heavy, so this go round, we opted for a combination of 2x2" and 1x2" framing to craft our cabinetry, allowing us to save weight. The countertop, along with a waterfall edge, conceals the framing, as well as the drawers and cabinet doors themselves. We also opted for a modified toe kick, which was a lesson learned from our first Airstream project - too many toes stubbed, as well as an often uncomfortable lean to cook or do any sort of food prep. I say modified toe kick, as the average toe kick depth is 2.5"-3.5" D x 3" H, and we opted for 1.5" D x 3" H, which some cabinet makers may roll their eyes at, but we tested for comfort and felt it was entirely sufficient and allowed for a sturdier cabinet base, which is always appreciated when rolling down the road.

We went with finger pulls on all drawers and door fronts for a clean, modern look. I fell in love with these simple pulls on our first Airstream, where we used a hole saw to create perfect circle pulls in our sliding doors, which was a nod to the mid-century design of the fifties and suited the era the trailer was from. The idea was to create a clean, simple facade for a tiny space. As much as I love all the gorgeous cabinet hardware out there to choose from, I knew I'd be overwhelmed by a flurry of metal pulls. Before we'd purchased our second Airstream, I'd landed on rectangular finger pulls and deep drawers and had begun sketching out the potential kitchen. View some of my inspiration images for our current Airstream project right here and below.

The street side of our galley kitchen has been the most complicated so far, and hopefully we'll be wrapping it up within the next few weeks. We waited for our convection oven to arrive before we planned the build fully, it was much easier to conceptualize once we knew the oven's dimensions and installation instructions and had the oven in the space. The build for the oven required the use of 3/4" (for the oven's base) and 1/2" ply (sides and top), and we also built a sturdy main base for the oven cabinet unit, which was built as a standalone piece initially, with a half-size drawer for pots and pans underneath the oven itself. This project took a few hours, which was a pleasant surprise.

Surrounding the oven is our plain framing, which we crafted for the curb side kitchen cabinetry. It is a combination of 1x2" and 2x2" boards that while light, is incredibly sturdy. I can attest to this, I leaned on a piece one afternoon and dozed off for a good thirty minutes...and it held up beautifully. Ha! These pieces will divide the oven and fridge, as well as create the full height of 35.25" to meet the 3/4" walnut countertop. Finish pieces will be added around the top of the fridge, oven, and around the sides of the oven to conceal the framing and polish the look.

A floor-to-ceiling pantry, large enough to house a small trash can, recycling, average broom, and typical pantry items, like small appliances (our slow cooker and food processor), food items, and cleaning supply, will fall in line adjacent to the refrigerator. Pantry items will rest on drawers, so everything can be easily accessed and all storage is utilized. We are installing a DC light on the inside of the pantry so our items are well-lit.

Our kitchen was planned for efficiency, a modern aesthetic, comfortable food prep, and multiple persons at one time (and probably pets, if we're being honest). The traditional galley kitchen works quite well with ample floor space and a triangular workspace, drawing an invisible line from your sink to your fridge, to your oven, and back again. Having a full-size pantry allows us to not compromise on storage, having a normal-size broom (we went with a half-size tiny broom in our last Airstream and it was pure misery to sweep with, I felt like a hunchback), and to neatly tuck everything away for both tidiness and travel. While it's taking a good chunk of time to get just right, I believe it will be worth every slow, steady step to have the Airstream kitchen of our dreams.

Leave questions about your tiny kitchen below - or email me for a design consultation! See the services tab for more information about how we can help with your Airstream.

1977 Airstream Overlander: A Summary

We brought our current Airstream project home on February 5th, 2016 and immediately began demolition. The initial demo took a day - pulling out furniture and cabinetry and dry rotting plastic. What followed was far more intricate and painstaking: down came the walls, one drilled out rivet at a time. We removed insulation, a mouse carcass, quite a few wasp hives, and a thriving ant colony. Down and out came the mess of wires. We got outside and removed broken awning arms, Plasticoat, weird stickers. We carefully removed the subfloor, leaking vista windows, old fans and AC, hydraulic brake system, broken step, belly pan, tanks (the black tank was filled with something yummy), and the water-filled bumper. 

Once we'd completely gutted the entire trailer, we began to assess and repair. We replaced beams of the chassis, ground the rust off the chassis and tongue, painted with several coats of rust-stop and rust-prohibitive paint, installed new hubs and electric brakes (the tires were new when we bought it and our axles were luckily in good shape), a new subfloor, leak-proofed the vista windows and reinstalled, and began the tedious task of installing all new everything while simultaneously waterproofing. New LED running lights, backup/taillights, rooftop AC, three new fans, scare light, porch light. We crafted inconspicious hidden patches for fans and vents we no longer needed. We ran lines of caulk inside and outside on every seam (and on every rivet inside). We scraped old gaskets from around windows and doors and replaced as needed. Then we leak tested, again and again and again with a high pressure hose and during downpours until we were certain we'd done a thorough job and our trailer was water-tight. 

February 5th - August 1st

We spent a day or two a week on all of these tasks. We were in no rush, and took our time. Once August hit, we went full-speed ahead, hoping to move into the Airstream on December 15th, when our lease was up. We spent every single weekend, from 7am-9pm, both days, working...and would come home from work on weeknights and tackle whatever we could before our daughter's bedtime. It would be the beginning of October before we were able to call the Airstream watertight, and by October 5th, we'd run the majority of our wiring. 

October 11 - October 30th

One of our busiest, most unbelievable couple of weeks. We went from having just a subfloor to insulating, riveting walls and frames back in, installing all electrical boxes and switches, lights, wiring the fans and AC in, and laying the new flooring. 

November 

We began the build in the dinette area, which houses our converter box and eventual battery bank and inverter, and then moved on to the kitchen. We knew it was a long shot that we'd be getting the Airstream livable with the intricacy of the design and build by December, but we plugged away anyway, hoping our efforts would be enough. 

December

A backordered wood stove and sub-zero temperatures made us realize that no matter what the state of the build, for we were cool with living in a construction zone, we needed to wait to move in. We've got a wonderful location for building, with a beautiful, flat parking pad for the Airstream, a garage space for our tools and supplies, and our basement wood shop, not to mention a warm and cozy home to return to after a day of work. Currently, we're about 65% finished with the interior build, and still need to run plumbing, install the new tanks, insulate underneath the subfloor, and install a brand new aluminum belly pan. In the spring, we plan to polish the Airstream and install solar, money and time permitting. 

This should bring you all up to speed. There are a ton of captioned images on our Instagram gallery, right here, for more details!