Before & After: “Elsie” The Trailer Gets Road Ready

published Feb 27, 2016
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(Image credit: Submitted by Mel)

After growing weary of their home state of Nebraska, Carson and Mel needed a change. Recalling an old pipe dream of theirs to travel to every state and file stories from the road, the couple started scouring Craigslist and abandoned shelter belts for vintage travel trailers they could rehab.

They met ‘Craigslist Ray’ in a parking lot in Stuart, Iowa, where they purchased the trailer — soon to be known as Elsie — for $1,300. Elsie’s sweet vintage shape and functional interior layout fit the aesthetic they were looking for in a vintage trailer.

(Image credit: Submitted by Mel)

The Process & Time Spent
They kicked off an 8-month renovation in November 2014, spending nearly every weekend meticulously renovating the space to meet their needs and personal aesthetic. Carson’s father, Jerry, guided them step-by-step through the renovation. A former carpenter and house builder, Jerry had a Quonset full of tools and materials, saving a ton in rentals and tool expenses. While neither Carson or Mel is particularly “handy,” they completed the entire renovation DIY-style.

Design & Materials

Elsie was dark, dingy and outdated. The couple knew immediately that they wanted a fresh, modern looking interior, which meant scraping off the old faux-wood contact paper and painting the interior a bright bistro white.

The trailer is nearly 50 years old, which meant the couple had to spend a lot of time and money replacing water lines, appliances and electric. The behind the scenes work kicked up expenses, but with life on the road in 120 square feet, they knew it was important to make sure everything was up to code.

Carson is a freelance writer and needed a functional work space on the road. They ripped out an old bench seat and custom built a folding desk and utility cabinet. For Mel, the couple built a custom kitchen backsplash from old pine boards and rehabbed all the appliances in a white and copper finish.

The couple upcycled old copper pipes into curtain tie backs and shelving bars. They added several other custom finishes, too: faux tin tile wallpaper on the ceiling; cement countertops in the bathroom and kitchen; copper switch plates and metal accents; and plenty of aztec patterns and plants to liven up the white walls.

Sticking with the industrial theme, the couple also built their own pipe lights to replace retro wall sconces on the back wall. They also laid down dark wood plank vinyl flooring (it holds up best in the elements) and even sewed their own bench seat cushions in a brown/grey vinyl.

Mel and Carson were able to salvage and use many of their favorite home decor items in the space: a 1990s jean comforter and red/orange wool blanket; a handmade clipboard; a bulldog dog treat jar; a wooden tray with gold handles; etc.

Both Carson and Mel were on a budget. With the cost of the trailer ($1,300), building materials, a new paint job, a few new appliances (a water heater, convection oven, water pump), and organizational supplies from IKEA, the couple spent just under $5,000.

Thank you, Mel & Carson! You can see more photos of Elsie on Mel & Carson’s blogLocal Color XC.