When the owners of Traverse Design + Build purchased this 1971 Airstream Overland International in Boulder City, Nevada, it had seen better days. The trailer’s aluminum hull was oxidized, and its trim needed repair. And the dated interior—with its avocado-green appliances, yellow walls, and dark fake wood—needed a top-to-bottom overhaul.
Based in Sun Valley, Idaho, Traverse Design + Build focuses on custom van and Airstream build-outs with a contemporary aesthetic. But this 27-foot Airstream was their personal project—and they had their work cut out for them.
The dated mechanical systems posed safety issues, the floors were rotten from water damage, and the rusty metal frame was in need of major TLC. "There were electrical modifications that were done to it which were extremely dangerous," says owner and Traverse Design + Build founder Jodi Rathbun. "We were surprised it never caught on fire, and that no one had been electrocuted."
Traverse Design + Build reinforced the frame, replumbed the pipes with PEX, and ripped out the floors and replaced them with engineered maple. "We planned and executed every single aspect of the build, the only exception being the installation of the engineered floor," she says.
They also updated the trailer’s systems with sustainability in mind, adding a 510-watt solar system, a Nature’s Head composting toilet, an on-demand hot water heater, lithium batteries, and LED lighting. "We built this so that it could be used off-grid, and away from power and water hookups for extended periods," says Jodi.
They also changed the layout slightly in order to open up the segmented, 168-square-foot space and make it feel larger and brighter. "It was heavily partitioned throughout, with no flow and very few open sight lines," says Jodi. "Between the dark wood, dingy walls, and dark space it felt very claustrophobic."
The kitchen and work area features modified and reinforced IKEA cabinetry topped with durable, heat-resistant stainless steel counters. A sofa that folds out into a full-size bed with storage underneath was built across the aisle. Between the convertible sofa bed and refrigerator, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry provides additional storage and delineates the space.
"We maximized storage wherever possible," she says. "We never had an issue of not having enough space while we lived in it on the road."
At the front of the trailer, they built a dinette, which folds into an oversized twin bed. And in the back of the trailer, they constructed custom cabinetry and a shower from scratch in the bathroom.
Jodi wanted to pay homage to the trailer’s heyday and incorporate sustainable building practices, so she salvaged and reused original elements wherever possible. The design team reconfigured the existing cabinetry to jibe with the trailer’s new open layout, and they salvaged and repaired elements of the electrical and plumbing systems, such as the wiring, kitchen ventilation fan, and fresh water tank.
"We did rebuild part of the original command center that was above the dining area, as it was cracked," Jodi says. "This piece was very nostalgic, and we felt it was important to reuse."