Hitching to ride
After renovating an old Airstream to use for Airbnb, designer Lynne Knowlton got the urge to hit the road
Lynne Knowlton knows what stressed, big-city people need.
Her 11-by-16-foot tree house and 10-by-10-foot outdoor bathroom the designer/blogger built on her 100-acre property in Durham bear witness to her love of small spaces — especially when they’re nestled among extensive grounds.
Designed as a getaway for over-programmed urbanites, the rural retreat has become a rental hit on Tripadviser and Airbnb.
Knowlton’s latest small space endeavour was the renovation of a 31-by-8-foot Airstream travel trailer from the mid-’70s that she plans to both rent and travel in. Enthralled by cool, compact design of the cigar-shaped trailers, she began to look for one two years ago.
It was a tough search. The Airstreams Knowlton found had either been gutted to raw metal walls, and needed extensive work, or came with very dated original fixtures and finishes.
“They’re all brown, orange and beige on the inside, which I don’t like,” says Knowlton, who admits — with characteristic enthusiasm — to being “crazy about white.” Both options, says Knowlton, were pricey.
In a stroke of luck, Knowlton says friends found a suitable trailer in nearby Walkerton that had original “super groovy” blue chenille fabric on the benches, and, more importantly perhaps, good bones.
“A lot of Airstreams were designed with bathrooms in the back, so you had to walk through the bedroom to get to it. I don’t want that, especially when you have quests,” she explains.
After ripping out original navy blue carpet and white laminate flooring, and painting the entire interior white, Knowlton says “it looked 1,000 per cent better.”
“The last thing I want is to feel like you have to squish your shoulders.” LYNNE KNOWLTON
Still, within10 minutes of seeing the results, Knowlton decided that storage bins and drawers were cramping the corridor, and had to go.
“The last thing I want (in a small space) is to feel like you have to squish your shoulders,” says Knowlton.
The soft white palette remained. White linen curtains from Tonic Living were added. The original blue on the benches stayed, and gold was layered in with pretty paper from Hygge and West in the bedroom, gold-toned drawers and champagne fixtures for kitchen and bath from Delta, all of which echo the gold trim on the trailer.
Generally, Knowlton loves rustic decor. She insists, however, on good bed linen. “I want it to feel hotel-like, with good quality cotton and linens,” she says.
The renovated trailer is comfortable for two, but there is extra sleeping space for two on a pull down bed. With access to a pool, pond, outdoor kitchen and miles of walking trials, the trailer was being rented until Nov. 1 (it has heat and AC).
In February, Knowlton plans to embark on a grand tour with her husband Michael.
“We want to go on a journey and see some of the world outside our home,” she says.
The trip will be a mix of work and play. “I want to take my blog on the road and have meet ups and workshops while we’re travelling.”
In light of a lengthy tour, Knowlton has no regrets about losing the storage space. She’s decided it makes sense simply to have less stuff when on the road.
Like much of this renovation, there’s something of the unexpected about the road trip.
“At first, I thought I would renovate, park it and rent it,” she says. “Now, I just want to hitch it and go.”
NOW: Bench covers were one of the few original elements Knowlton would keep in this Airstream trailer from the mid ’70s.
THEN: Tearing out storage added space to the interior of the 8-foot wide trailer.
NOW: Original beds, with storage underneath, are dressed with high-end bed linen.
THEN: Removing excess storage bins also allowed more light from windows.