Airstreamin',  Alan's Musings

The Ups and Downs of an Airstream Remodel

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Remodeling an Airstream is full of many struggles and, hopefully, long-lasting rewards. While away from home one day last fall, I sent Alex a text with a simple, spur of the moment idea, “What do you think about living and traveling in the Airstream?” She responded in the affirmative. Immediately we began prepping for a full remodel. Within a couple weeks we had gutted everything from the Airstream interior and began thinking about where we would travel to first. We set a June departure date (and we are still on track to meet that goal!)

Oh! Those were simple days! We looked at our empty Airstream and thought, ok, we can do this. Needless to say, the floor plans changed numerous times. We painted the walls one color, didn’t like it, and painted it again. We spent hours on Pinterest and travel blogs trying to figure out what others had done with similar projects. We got some good ideas, but nothing popped out at us. So, after four months of working weekends and other spare days, we’ve really tested the limits of our skills and talents with our own custom designs. I knew little about carpentry when we started, certainly not enough to build anything with confidence. I also knew nothing about how to design a floor plan for something that would be moving at 65mph down the highway every week or two.

Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how many hours I spent marveling at other Airstreams! I would see someone who built a really cool dinette, an awesome kitchen set-up, folding tables, tiled showers, brilliant space-saving devices, and the list goes on. I thought, there’s no way ours is going to be as comfortable, spacious, pretty, and attractive as what others have already done. But after several weeks of remodeling work, actual construction of stuff (with new tools that I convinced Alex we absolutely have got to own), I’ve discovered a newfound faith in what a person can accomplish when they focus, gain some understanding of the task,  practice diligence, and learn some patience. Now, would a professional carpenter criticize us? Maybe. That’s beside the point. The point is things are working out and our silver bullet is lookin’ gooooood.

I still don’t know how everything is going to work out with the rest of the remodel, but most of what we’ve done so far happened sort of, well, unplanned. We didn’t know exactly what the dinette was going to look like until we finished it. Same could be said about the kitchen counter. We didn’t know how we wanted to patch a hole in the kitchen wall until we found a cool antique LOAF PAN that fit perfectly! (I think that’s a first) But this I can say with total confidence: we never would have gotten anywhere if we had allowed intimidation to take root in the beginning. There have already been many frustrations, such as working with wood that the saw didn’t cut right (trust me, it’s always the saw’s fault), dealing with the ole girl’s curves (you know, the walls), and repairing leaks in places where you didn’t know water could go.

Alex and I visited our nearest Airstream dealership a few days ago. Grandpa and I used to visit RV dealerships all the time, dreaming I guess. Grandpa was always willing to trade his RV for another one, if the deal was right. Anyway, as Alex and I walked through the new Airstreams, we said to each other, these are nice, but… Oh no. It’s happened. We’ve become official used Airstream snobs. We’ve become accustomed to the smell of fresh-cut pine and oak, the beautiful glisten of homemade furniture with high gloss polyurethane finish, and the lived-in feel of a weathered tin-can on wheels. New Airstreams are furnished with lush upholstery, new gadgets, and sleek modern decor. Never mind that. We are more burlap, plaid, and loaf pan type people.

So here’s the moral of my little story: trying to impress others by being or creating something you don’t like isn’t worth the time or the hassle. When we started our remodel, the accomplishments of others seemed to outweigh anything I could ever imagine creating on my own. But here’s a little tip, whether you’re remodeling an Airstream, writing a novel, building a house, starting a business, etc., learn what you can from others’ experiences, but don’t dwell on the comparisons. The Southern novelist Walker Percy couldn’t write a thing until he stopped comparing his work to that of others. He achieved his greatest work when there was nothing in the room but paper, a pen, and his God-given imagination.

(p.s. read all about how we got our Airstream here!)

See our Airstream Remodel Reveal here!


  • Doug Barrett

    We enjoyed your tour of the remodeled interior and spent some time looking at the rest of your site and are behind you 100%. We live and travel in a 1978 Avion which we remodeled to suit our lifestyle. We have gotten the occasional offended reaction at not keeping everything original but we made things the way we wanted and took advantage of the really good bones we had to start with. We are in Texas now but came here from SC and I have kids at Clemson, which from the sound of your accent, must be right down the holler from y’all. Keep up the good work and enjoy your travels. We tell our story at” in our rear view mirror ” on Facebook.

    • Alexandrea

      Thanks for the support, Doug! We are in SC ourselves, down in Aiken county. We were the same way– wanted to make it the way WE wanted it! We’ll be sure to check out your Facebook page!

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