For many years I watched as friend after friend traveled around the country on everything from RVs to converted school busses. My husband I talked about getting a camper but we decided we weren’t “handy” enough to own one and so we gave up on that idea…until Covid lockdowns hit. Suddenly I felt like a caged animal. We LOVE to travel. In the year before the Rona hit I had traveled to Spain (twice), Italy, France, Hawaii, India, and South Africa…and of course New York, Dallas, Houston…the usual spots you know – LOL. Yep all in one year. Did I mention we LOVE to travel? My entire family is the restless sort. We just love exploring new places.
With the possibility of international travel seemingly so remote…we resurrected our camper dream, told ourselves we would figure it out and turned it into reality. We bought a used Airstream about a year ago and traveled all over in it. Many of you followed our adventures on social media. One time we even spent 3 weeks in the camper and I cooked almost every meal during that trip since there weren’t really any places open we could go to! So I learned a lot about how to cook in a tiny kitchen and how to pack smart and organized for long trips.
We weren’t sure how we were going to like camping in a camper…all four of us. What would we do with the kids? What if it rained? Tiny spaces and a toddler didn’t sound like my cup of tea. How would my husband like it (he had never been camping while I grew up backpacking/primitive camping with my dad)? How would my almost teen daughter like it? What if something went wrong and we are miles from home?
In all of our travels in the last year…we discovered the answers to all of these questions and more. We all most certainly enjoyed it although it was hard work and we did encounter many issues I never thought I would have to deal with…
….a blowout in the middle of summer somewhere between Abilene and Lubbock, TX. Now that was fun – we finally found a friend from Lubbock whose son helped us get some tires and brought them down to somewhere in Abilene to install them! While they worked on the camper we found a splash pad nearby and just played and found an awesome burger joint which was not only open but which also didn’t require masks (winning!). It ended up being a truly fun day we never would have experienced had we just driven through!
…the awning hitting me square in the nose complete with blood and extreme pain when I was supposed to be celebrating my best friend Ally’s and my birthday on a girls trip. I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I wasn’t even sure how I would get a covid test up my smashed nose! Thank God for our holistic remedies and first aid kit! I barely have a scar. I felt like I could tackle any issue after that!
…our camper raining on the inside due to a leak. Yeah that was fun. We were a few days into a long trip and had to sleep with buckets all around. We could not figure out where the water was coming from! Turned out it was something wrong with the air conditioner condenser clean out (or some other jargon filled term that only a handy man would know which I can’t recall).
…a completely dead battery right before a trip…
I could go on and on…let’s just say we have learned a ton! We thought we wanted to get an RV but then decided we truly loved our Airstream and wanted to keep it and renovate it to meet our needs instead. When I say “our needs” – to be clear – none of this renovation was a “necessity”. We could have easily continued to take it all over the place just as it was. It wasn’t that “old” and everything worked and was adequate.
However…cooking in the camper was a bit chaotic for me. And I do cook as you know…LOL.
I had only one tiny drawer for silverware. The kitchen lower storage area was completely used up by a microwave and an oven. The rest of the kitchen items I brought other than silverware had to be stored in overhead compartments like on an airplane and no matter how organized I tried to be…stuff would fall on one of us every single time I opened the bin (items may shift during travel right?).
I had an oven and a microwave which we never used. So those were just wasted space. To use the oven, one would have to light a match to light the pilot light and then it would heat up the entire camper. I really just didn’t want to deal with the fear of blowing up the whole camper just to use the oven. So I never did.
Our refrigerator had an odd stench to it – like old salami and pickles – and made our entire camper smell like that no matter how many times I cleaned it and sprinkled purification all over it.
Simply an aesthetic issue but the entire inside was beige/tan and black which we all found rather boring and sad…not cheery and bright.
Again these are all things we could have dealt with but just decided we could LEVEL UP the camper! I was able to find someone locally in Austin to help us with the renovation…but of course I was nervous. We had never renovated a camper before and I didn’t want to ruin anything! I was so happy but then didn’t even know where to start. Every conversation we had with the contractor was hilarious. We had so many ideas. It took us 6 months of chatting back and forth with him to finally get to a point where we knew kind of what we were going to do and he could start the work.
Time to renovate!
So what did we want in our new camper? We didn’t want to rip out everything. At one point we talked about creating some bunk beds but in the end we focused on some key areas of importance…the kitchen, bathroom and overall design. This wasn’t a complete gut job but we did want to get rid of so many beige and black surfaces to really brighten things up! Thankfully our contractor had some ideas and told me he could paint and reupholster things easily. And so that opened up a lot more possibilities.
Haha not a complete gut job but wow when I walked in to this I was so nervous about what was to come…but I kept the faith it would all turn out beautifully and we kept going.
And it did all work out – so well – and the process was super fun just being honest! So here is the big reveal…catch my Insta Reel here.
So you can see we changed everything to a white and navy and stainless steel design! I selected Sunbrella for the fabric so it’s easy to clean and is waterproof. The dinette and the sofa were simply painted and reupholstered. Oddly enough it was tough to get the fabric ordered. Many of the fabrics were out of stock. This was like my tenth choice but I am actually quite happy with how it turned out. I am only nervous with the amount of white fabric – I have visions of ketchup stains already but that’s just how it goes so not going to stress about it. The overhead storage bin above the sofa remained and was painted white.
The overhead storage bins above the dinette and the kitchen were removed and a cute stainless steel shelf was put in their place for a more open feel. We integrated some LED lights underneath the shelves and under the overhead cabinets for added light.
The kitchen for me is the most important part of the camper…because I cook. I needed better storage. We had a large closet before which was not helpful at all. We didn’t have a bunch of clothes to hang! I made the kitchen countertop space longer and created a whole wall of large drawers, a pantry and ample other storage cabinets for all that we would need for longer trips. The cabinetry included no “hardware” to shake loose and fall off…just nice cut outs to open. They snap closed so nothing can fly open during long road trips (that’s the idea of course – we will road test it this weekend!).
I got this really cool kitchen sink that comes with a cutting board, drying racks and a colander and storage bin. All of these items fit nicely right inside the sink via rails on the sides! I am in love with this sink! The kitchen faucet is also awesome in that it can turn all the way around and has a great sprayer. It feels like a commercial faucet.
As I mentioned above I didn’t ever use the oven. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t bake or roast anything. I did. We have a Sharp countertop Toaster steam oven that we use at home and so it comes with us in the camper when we go somewhere. I had the contractor create a slide out spot for it with a plug inside…just like one might do with a microwave.
I decided to do a two burner cooktop instead of a typical 4 burner. I wouldn’t ever use all four burners in a camper! I usually just have two going at the most when cooking eggs and heating up tortillas or something like that. I luckily found a great deal on eBay for this gas two burner cooktop by Wolf.
What is that you ask? Why it’s a dishwasher! At first when I saw other Airstreamers installing a dishwasher I thought that seemed a bit nuts. But then when I researched these drawer type dishwashers I realized to wash an entire load of dishes it only used one gallon of water. I was using much more than that hand washing and frankly I got so tired of hand washing so many times a day for all our meals that I often would opt for paper and plastic. I also would be hounding my husband to dump the grey water every day which didn’t seem very conservationist of me. I didn’t want to do this…I wanted a dishwasher. So call me spoiled…yep I got a dishwasher and I love it.
The new pantry has these amazing slide outs and is super deep so I can fit a lot of what we need!
The bathroom had a sink that took up a ton of space in the corner and was super awkward to use. Also the cabinets were all broken and the doors didn’t shut. It was really just poorly designed. We really didn’t like it. And again with the black countertops and the brown cabinets..
We opted for some white Corian countertops (we found some scrap pieces from another renovation).
I searched for days for a sink and faucet that had the right dimensions and specs for this…but it was worth it! The basic foundation of the cabinets and those sliding doors remained but new cabinet fronts were created around this new sink and we got a whole new set of cabinets and shelves below while removing the upper countertop medicine cabinet so we gained a ton of countertop space! We also added a lock to the door which it didn’t have before making for some fun moments! HA!
We did end up getting a new fridge and now the camper blessedly doesn’t smell like old salami and pickles!
As you can also see from this photo the beds in the rear of the camper were also painted and a new stainless steel countertop was added as well as a new drawer front to match the others. Otherwise it basically remained in tact.
We added some LED lights under the overhead bins in the bedroom as well. My kids sleep in there and they are super happy.
We are awaiting some curtains to add to the overhead tracks for doors to close off the bedroom and also the shower area when someone is showering. (the shower is across the hall from the bathroom and we left that alone as well).
So that’s the big reveal! This week I have been busy figuring out how to load it up and organize things with all my new drawers and cabinets. We are taking a short trip to road test it and see what breaks (hahaha hopefully nothing!) and then we take a longer trip in August where we can really see how well we designed everything! I also need to get my daughter’s help to decorate a bit…add some plants here and there. You know the stuff I never think about but she does!
I am extremely happy with how it turned out! Huge thumbs up for JDK Creations in Austin, TX! They were seriously the best to work with. Super patient with us and just totally chill about the whole thing. It took about 3 months once he actually had our camper on site. I did this all myself with Jeremy the contractor without the help of a “designer”. Thankfully Jeremy at JDK had some CAD software and so we would just sit together and draw stuff. He was awesome about that!
We decided not to install a new awning since our old one attacked me and it ripped…yeah let’s just say the awning and I have an understanding…I don’t think about it and it doesn’t attack me again. Not but seriously we do need to do something about it but that wasn’t for this round. We just don’t open it right now when I am near it!
So what do you think? I can’t wait to share some more pics of things we do to organize and decorate and fill you in on how well this all works on the road!