July 22, 2014

Project Airstream: Renovation Begins!

Last week we shared the beginnings of an exciting collaboration we're working on with Josiah and Jocelyn of Lockhart Family Farm. To make a long story short, they recently brought home a vintage 31' airstream camper in all of it's 1976 glory to house on the farm as both a camp classroom and airbnb glamping getaway. They kindly asked us to help with the updating process as a way to bring this vintage beauty up to the next level. We jumped at the chance and you can read up on our very first visit to see the camper in this post.

Over the past week we gathered an overload of inspiration and ideas for ways to update the camper in order to transform it into more of that glamping (glamorous camping) look and feel. We couldn't wait to get back out to the farm last Saturday with all of our tools in tow. We supplied the donuts and Jocelyn brought out a large pot of fresh coffee while we all got started. Josiah's mug had us all entertained, since they specialize in heritage breed pork on the farm:

Throughout the week, Josiah had been working to update both the electrical and plumbing in the airstream, bringing them up to a fully functioning mode. While doing so, he'd swapped in updated switch plate covers and Tim completed the wiring and installation of a new usb-compatible receptacle in the front area:

This space has a suite of different receptacles, including spaces for old phone jacks and a DC outlet. We're thinking about replacing the lower phone jack receptacle with some sort of mobile accessory storage compartment to make better use of this wall space. Also, can I just take a moment to say I love it when my husband puts on his tool belt? Thanks.

We also had this little helper working to "fix up" the camper right alongside us:

Alexander, Josiah and Jocelyn's 2 year old son is a farmer in the making and just to die for. He is so curious, always smiling and ready to "help out."

While getting started, we snapped as many "before" shots of the camper in its current state as we could and took measurements for things like curtains and the front living area to get an idea of whether or not we should tackle custom cushions to fit the current folding bed or if there might be room to remove this structure all together, freeing up space to bring in a more modern style futon.

Here's a more detailed view of the current fold-out seating area and built-in storage:

We've got some bigger ideas for brightening up the entire space with fresh coats of paint, updating the kitchen counters and installing lots of creative storage solutions, but this past Saturday we focused on tackling the removal of the overhead storage compartment along the entire back wall of the camper:

We felt like removing this closed-off storage would really open up the space, showing off the classic curve of the airstream ceiling — plus we have plans for exposed wood shelving, basket storage and metal rail racks to replace the function of the original overhead compartments.

First up, we needed to free up the gas-line wired through the outside of the compartment — this would have originally housed a gas lantern (like this):

What we didn't anticipate was just how long it would take to remove the overhead compartments. If you did not know, the airstream was originally modeled after the aircraft industry and everything is riveted, so very few nuts and bolts can be found in the construction —after a while, we thought we were deconstructing the space shuttle! Luckily, Josiah had an extensive user's manual we were able to reference to see exactly where each part was we'd need to dismantle, one by one.

We started out trying to reach the few screws we could find, which were installed in hard-to-reach angled areas.

We quickly realized pulling out the board atop of the fridge and cabinets would give us a couple of extra inches to work with, which actually turned out to be a huge help:

As much as we were hoping to just pop the screws out with a power drill and pull out the storage compartment out with ease, it took us about 2 solid hours to get the entire thing dismantled and removed — so you can imagine how good of a feeling it was when we were finally able to free up that upper space.

It was amazing just how much more open the camper appears with the removal of this upper compartment, and feels like such a bonus!

Here's a more proper before/after view to save you from scrolling back:

It might not look like much, but it was a huge accomplishment for the day, and we all agreed — this job is going to get a lot messier before it gets prettier. I think that's just part of the renovation process, right?

After the overhead storage was completely removed, we measured the open space for installing a large reclaimed wood exposed shelf. Josiah had a stack of milled oak wood drying in their farm workshop, so we picked the best from the pile and he propped it up on the bed of his truck, sawing it to size, giving the entire surface a good sanding, and finishing it with a healthy coat of Thompson's oil right then and there.

We brought the board into the camper to test for fit and it just slid right into place:

From here, we cleaned up and re-installed the wood covering for above the fridge, and Josiah has plans to cut and round the wooden support that held the older upper storage in place:

For now, we decided to leave the overhead storage above the sink on the other side of the camper since it contains the airstream's "control center," oven ventilation and other electrical components. We may try to give it a more open feel by removing and exposing the rolling covers or some other creative solution:

We also ended up taking the large brown plastic storage bins from the lower kitchen cabinets back home with us to clean up and paint. These original bins provide such great storage capacity and we think a bright coat of paint will help to give them an instantly updated feel in the space.

After we left, Josiah ripped out the veneered surfaces around the front of the camper, replacing them with new wood for a fresh feel. Here's a sneak peek of those:

Image from @FarmStream

Josiah and Jocelyn also chopped down a dead tree, freeing up space for the camper's summer & fall location on the farm — how welcoming does this view look?

Image from @FarmStream

Next up, we hope to begin painting the space, updating the kitchen counter and deciding on colors for things like cabinets, a potential foldout couch/bed, curtains and more. We can't wait!

Keep up with our airstream progress by following @FarmStream on Instagram and Twitter.

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  1. Hi TIm and Mary!
    this looks like a fun project. I just saw a similar one on Design Sponge and thought you'd enjoy checking it out. They're using reclaimed wood as well. http://www.designsponge.com/2014/07/before-after-an-airstream-trailer-gets-a-rustic-overhaul.html

    1. We did see that and we hope to renovate this one to be half as cool! Thanks for sending.


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