Before and After: This Airstream Reno Is a Total Adventure Inside and Out

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Trailer Trashin)

This Airstream trailer is 33 years old, and while its exterior is apparently in fantastic shape, its interior needed a lot of love. In less than three months, one power couple was able to take this rolling home from neglected to elegant.

The travel trailer’s new owner described exactly what they were up against:

We acquired this neglected 1985 Airstream Sovereign (34-foot) back in May 2018. Overall, the exterior was in excellent condition, so we took a chance and brought her home. Almost everything in the interior had been removed and piled in the center (which reminded me of an episode of “Hoarders”). It took a few days to remove and organize all the parts in the junk pile to see what was missing or needed replacing. Fortunately, besides the tedious process, most every part of it was accounted for and in a repairable shape.

This looks so great. The white walls and pale wood floors help the space feel airy and open, while the many black accents add definition, and the colorful accessories bring a sophisticated playfulness. This entire space flows so well, and I want to write about how well each foot has been used, but I keep getting distracted by those delicious teal chairs. They’re gorgeous, and picking out gorgeous chairs was a wise move in such a small space—they provide seating and ornamentation.

Brittany Rhinehart of Trailer Trashin is one half of the team who did this, and two other, Airstream makeovers.

My husband and I love renovating vintage Airstreams! He gets a big project, and I get to sharpen my design skills. This is our third renovation, to date, and we felt this was an ambitious project which would test both our skill sets. It turned out to be an amazingly rewarding flip!

I so admire when someone’s attitude is that they get a big project!

Here’s that heap Brittany described, and I’m getting stressed just looking at it; fortunately, everything appears to be fairly clean. Let’s dive into what Brittany’s renovation approach is like:

The process always starts with clearing out the space, taking inventory, and letting the space design itself. I like to find a piece of art or fabric which speaks to me and use it as my inspiration. As the space develops, I leave room for the design to change. To me, it is a very fluid design process that happens in layers.

The cost of this renovation was higher than our previous two flips, but we upgraded more expensive components as well (AC, fridge, water heater, lighting, couch, floors…). For this renovation, we performed every aspect of the flip. We have brought in our plumber friend on a previous renovation, but we were fortunate on this one to be able to perform every step ourselves.

There are always surprises with these Airstreams. They’re old and need love, and we love to give it to them. Most surprises have to do with sub-flooring, plumbing, gas lines, and electrical. There are surprises in design as well due to the curved walls and limited space.

This slim sofa offers plenty of seating without being too bulky, and that great rug does a good job of creating a distinct living room. The olive, teal, white, and dark wood palette is unexpected but totally successful, while the pillows and plant life add a lushness. Note that the pillows on the sofa are the same as the ones on the bed, unifying the entire space.

When we asked what Brittany loves about the Airstream now, this was the response:

All of it! The size of the space is by far my favorite component. All of the awesome aspects can be attributed to its large size (king bed, desk/dinette, multiple seating areas, ample storage…), but it still feels cozy. I love thinking about what to do differently with each one. Each Airstream has its own personality, and allows us to hone our skills. I’d love to be adventurous with different design and materials (tile, counters, lighting) in the next one.

This is a lot of wood, and note how the cabinetry that contains the oven has sort of a looming presence.

Now there is additional storage above the sink and stove, but thanks to the new paint and cabinetry, there isn’t that same lurking aspect; the clean white walls and dark cupboards contrast nicely with each other.

If you’re ever facing a similar project—or considering taking one on—Brittany has some well-earned advice to share:

Don’t get discouraged because every problem has a solution. We have racked our brains over the littlest (or biggest) things and have always come up with an answer. Whether it’s design or structural, these Airstreams constantly break the mold. Don’t be afraid to take risks!

Thank you, Brittany Rhinehart and Trailer Trashin!