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.

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