Re­vamps make these five trail­ers fit for hit­ting the road— or just chill­ing in the back­yard. DIYers share their tricks for re­do­ing a tiny abode on wheels.


See how five fam­i­lies trans­formed a di­lap­i­dated camper into a space all their own. Be­fore you make the leap, we of­fer ad­vice on get­ting started and liv­ing large in a tiny trailer.

1 The full-size bed at one end of Patrick Neely and Kerri Cole’s Airstream is for both sleep­ing and sit­ting. Patrick fit IKEA cab­i­nets around the wheel wells to bal­ance the in­te­rior’s weight and make the most of awk­ward spa­ces. 2 Kerri re­freshed the orig­i­nal over­head cab­i­nets with leather pulls. Co­or­di­nat­ing leather straps hold the win­dow treatments in place.

3 In the kitchen, Patrick in­stalled a two-burner cook­top and a sin­gle-bowl sink. Cut-to-fit medium-den­sity fiber­board (MDF) coun­ter­top with wal­nut ve­neer is a durable, light­weight work sur­face. 4 Few awn­ing com­pa­nies can fit their sys­tems to a curve, so Patrick tracked down an orig­i­nal Airstream awn­ing man­u­fac­turer, Zip Dee, to find a sys­tem with curved arms they could cus­tomize to fit. Then Patrick and a friend in­stalled it. “When the awn­ing is pulled out, it gives us another 100 feet of cov­ered liv­ing space,” he says. He also pol­ished the trailer to bring back its hall­mark mirror fin­ish.


5 Cab­i­nets and an un­der­counter fridge sit op­po­site the stove to help dis­trib­ute weight evenly. 6 The back bench is the sec­ond “chair” for the ta­ble and is another sleep­ing space when needed. The bench cush­ion lifts up to access stor­age below.

7 Kerri picked serv­ing pieces that travel well, such as an acrylic tray. One cab­i­net fea­tures a drawer with pull­out di­viders where they can safely stash bot­tles and bar­ware. 8 The orig­i­nal Airstream sconces light the din­ing area but Patrick aug­mented them with over­head can light­ing.

9 A lo­cal RV shop helped the Gublers or­der a new sheet metal skin cus­tom­ized to their camper’s size. Mandi and Court then used de­tail­ing tape, au­to­mo­tive paint, and a spe­cial sprayer to achieve the mod design based off a ‘50s ther­mos.

10 Mandi painted the ac­cent wall yellow, tracing around a di­a­mond sten­cil with a paint pen to mimic the look of retro wall­pa­per.

11 A plant shelf fea­tur­ing predrilled cir­cu­lar holes spans the win­dow and holds potted green­ery in place.

12 The din­ing ta­ble turns into the bed’s base be­neath an airy light fix­ture that Mandi fash­ioned from brass tub­ing. 13 Mandi painted the camper’s pa­pered walls and dark lam­i­nate cab­i­nets white to brighten the in­te­rior. A primer for plas­tic sur­faces was es­sen­tial. The new door has plex­i­glass win­dows and a core pieced from ¼-inch ply­wood to re­duce weight. 14 Want­ing to echo the ge­om­e­try of the light fix­ture, Mandi de­vised a floor design based on 30-120-30-de­gree tri­an­gles. She and Court used a miter saw to cut ¼-inch pine and then dry­fit the pat­tern on top of the orig­i­nal linoleum. Two-inch finishing nails hold the tri­an­gles in place, and a few coats of satin poly­crylic seal the sur­face. To­tal cost: $80. 15 Mandi and Court ripped out the closet and re­placed it with plex­i­glass­front li­brary shelves with bot­tom-lock­ing latches. 16 Mandi cut new, larger cab­i­net fronts from MDF and trimmed them with ½-inch round mold­ing to high­light playful pulls. 17 They placed 1∕8-inch-thick con­crete over­lay on top of the lam­i­nate coun­ter­tops and ap­plied a feather fin­ish. Mandi re­placed the orig­i­nal two sinks with one, build­ing a bridge faucet from parts she found in the plumb­ing sec­tions. A white penny tile back­splash affixed with flex­i­ble grout adds a finishing touch.

18 Ver­sa­tile seat­ing was a must. Dann Boyles scored this $10 chair at an an­tiques store. The tall stool is a per­fect perch or side ta­ble, in­doors or out. 19 New shelv­ing of pipe brack­ets and weath­ered boards holds stacks of dishes, matches, and vin­tage flash­lights. When the trailer moves, ev­ery­thing is packed in a nearby cab­i­net.

20 Dann and part­ner Chip Mi­nor fa­vor por­ta­ble furniture that can pull dou­ble duty in the trailer. The green-striped chairs and French park ta­ble fold flat and can be stowed un­der­neath the bed. Sturdy vin­tage crates hold drinks or fire­wood.

21 Work­ing from a 1968 auto paint book, Dann se­lected the per­fect shades of glacier green, white, and red and then painted the camper with his fa­ther.

22 Dann and his fa­ther, Jody Boyles, in­stalled box­car pan­el­ing with tongue-and-grove joints that flex when the camper is mov­ing. 23 Pil­lows from Dann and Chip’s col­lec­tion add a cozy touch to the mat­tress-in-a-box they bought so they could un­roll it in­side the camper. 24 For the floor­ing, Dann se­lected light­weight float­ing lux­ury vinyl that clicks to­gether and doesn’t have to be glued down. It’s easy to clean, vir­tu­ally in­de­struc­tible, and water­proof.

27 Natasha cus­tom­ized IKEA brack­ets and laths to build plant shelves that fol­low the curv­ing walls. She threw many of the planters, which led to the found­ing of Su­gar­house Ce­ramic Co. 25 Build­ing new walls was a process of trial and er­ror that re­quired Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw to learn to use a scribe to get the di­viders to fit the curv­ing in­te­rior.

26 A daybed serves as seat­ing, work bench, and guest bed with stor­age below. In­spired by en­gi­neered end­grain wood floor­ing the cou­ple saw in a cof­fee shop dur­ing their van-trav­el­ing days, Natasha in­stalled the floor­ing the length of the trailer.

28 Brett and Natasha parked their Airstream in an

RV park and worked on it while they lived in it, be­ing con­sci­en­tious to min­i­mize the remodeling noise and mess. They also made sure the deck

and con­tainer gar­den looked invit­ing. With four six-hour pol­ish­ing ses­sions, Brett brought

back the Airstream’s iconic mirror fin­ish.

29 Dave and Kate Malo re­moved the over­head cab­i­nets above the win­dow and tore out a fold­out sofa, re­plac­ing it with a bench topped by a leather-look box cush­ion. Can lights above turn the bench into a reading nook at night. 30 The Ma­los’ camper came with a lot of stor­age com­part­ments ac­ces­si­ble around the ex­te­rior to hold fold­able chairs and camp­ing sup­plies. 31 Thomas and Al­lie each have a bunk bed and a bas­ket for games and crafts. An over­head cab­i­net is di­vided by shelves for their folded clothes. Kate hung a wire bas­ket at the foot of their beds to hold toys, books, and a flash­light.

32 Dave and Kate painted the base cab­i­nets blue and topped them with butcher-block coun­ter­tops. Pee­land-stick sur­fac­ing op­tions el­e­vated the back­splash in the cook­ing area and the floor­ing through­out the camper. FOR RE­SOURCES SEE PAGE 101.

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