Throwback Month

Before and After: A Groovy ’70s Vintage Travel Trailer Squeezes in a Kitchen and Sleep Space for Life on the Road

published Apr 14, 2022
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About this before & after
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From school buses to boats to campers to storage units and more, Apartment Therapy has showcased tons of alternative, portable homes, and it takes a special design eye to see how sleeping, eating, and living can happen (and stylishly at that) in these often-small spaces.

When Whitney Kuhn bought her 1979 Boler travel trailer (@thewilhomboler), one of only 10,000 ever made, she could see its potential. “I wanted to renovate the travel trailer to be used for travel and camping,” she says.

Whitney bought the trailer in May 2021; before that, it was used for mountain bike storage (hence the wooden platforms). Whitney challenged herself to work around those. “I never planned to restore the trailer to its original design and instead wanted to work with existing materials,” she says. “This decision was made to be cost effective, but I also really liked the existing quirky elements, like the wavy pine boards under the windows.”

Whitney spent about $3000 on the trailer and about $1,000 in DIY materials to spruce up the space. She worked on it on weekends with her friend Daniel Camargo.

Their tasks included adding a kitchen area including a sink with a rechargeable faucet and storage underneath, adding storage across from and under the bed, cutting a foam mattress to fit the platform bed, adding wooden trim to the windows, and painting the whole interior white.

The biggest splurges, though, were the mattress and the little kitchen’s butcher block countertops. “I’m most proud of how inexpensive I kept the project,” she says.

Whitney’s biggest constraints in the project were physical, given the small egg-like shape of the Boler. To give a lay of the land, when you step inside, there’s a sherpa-covered bench to the right, the kitchen area is in the middle, and the bed is located to the left. All of the walls are curved in the 10-foot-by-6-foot space.

“With no square edges, all materials had to be measured and cut to fit the curves of the travel trailer,” Whitney says.

Whitney says the only part of her project that was easier than expected was adding the closet. “We had run into so many errors with cutting materials to fit the curves of the camper, so we were surprised and excited when we cut the closet wall perfectly the first time,” she says.

The fiberglass surround of the trailer also made things difficult to hang. “We had to get creative,” Whitney says. “We used mounting tape and also a Gorilla Glue caulk, which worked great.

They also hung things from the existing wood frames, “so instead of trying to adhere the counter top area and the closet wall to the fiberglass shell, we were able to screw it into the wooden bench and bed platform,” Whitney explains. “I was also able to add hooks to the little wooden wall above the countertop rather than the walls.”

Although the fiberglass made decorating and building somewhat difficult, Whitney says fiberglass trailers, like hers are a good way to go, travel-wise. These types of trailers are less prone to leaks, and they’re lightweight, so they can be pulled easily.

Having wanderlust yet? Whitney’s biggest advice for those looking to buy, renovate, or decorate a home on wheels is to “do your research.” She says there are lots of fiberglass campers for sale out there, but some are in better shape than others.

As for decor, Whitney opted for mostly thrifted finds to keep costs low and so she wouldn’t worry about any damage to the items during travel. “I love that most of the pieces are vintage,” she says, but if you’re looking to shop her style, you can find the black and white rug and the storage baskets at Target and the bedding from Amazon.

“It’s such a warm and cozy space!” Whitney says, and she looks forward to it evolving with her as she travels.

“I wanted to create a space that would feel like a home away from home,” she says. “I’m new to camping, and I’ve found that having a cozy space helps alleviate anxiety related to solo traveling!”

Here’s to safe and stylish solo adventures ahead.

This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!