A 1973 Airstream Gets an Organic Remodel Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture, this vintage airstream has a pared-down interior filled with natural materials.

After spending an adventurous summer traveling in a van with their dog, Richmond, Virginia–based couple Grace Kuhn and David Phinney wanted to take their van life adventures to the next level with an Airstream trailer.

"We knew that we could travel full-time if we had something larger," Grace says. She works remotely for a wildlife protection agency—and she also knows where she can park for free. Just like that, the Richmonders were prepared to untether and hit the open road.

After spending 18 months rehabbing their 31-foot-long Airstream, the couple took it on the open road, traveling out west with their dog.

Load-bearing drawers pull out from under the sofa, allowing the lounge to transform into a full bed that can sleep two adults. The drawers and cubbies underneath house their solar batteries, blankets, and other miscellaneous items. Above the lounge, a shelf displays the couple’s decorative items. And for movie nights, they place a projector on the shelf and hang a screen in front of the couch.

The couple found a 1973 Airstream trailer for sale on Craigslist. Located just down the road in Henrico, Virginia, the 31-foot trailer was completely intact with the original interior for just $5,000. "They go pretty quickly," Grace says, "so we totally lucked out."

Grace created a workspace by attaching a piece of maple to Floyd legs. The work area also doubles as a kitchen table.

IKEA stools do double duty as side tables in the living room.

Grace and David got to work, and it took them 18 months of weekend work to renovate the trailer from top to bottom. "In order to make them safe, you have to gut them," says Grace. "We ripped up the floor and found rotting wood, and the frame was corroded."

Grace and David opted for an open-concept layout, taking down interior walls and moving the bathroom from the back of the trailer to the center for optimal flow.

Maple cabinets are topped with thin Corian countertops. Above the cabinetry, a ledge hung with picture hangers and wire displays plates and bowls.

Shop the Look
Ben Soleimani Cream Chunky Textured Rug
Hand-woven from a soft wool blend, our rug has a thick, lofty weave and a subtle, sophisticated luster. Ben is inspired by the natural variations within fibers, textures and weaves; each one of our handcrafted rugs is slightly unique.
Artek Aalto Stool 60
Through experiments in wood bending, Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto developed and patented a technique for cutting and steaming birchwood to make it more malleable.

With some help from family members, the couple were able to DIY the entire trailer renovation. David’s brother handled the welding, and Grace’s stepdad, a retired cabinet maker, helped to create storage throughout.

The kitchen features small appliances—including a marine refrigerator, gas burner, and oven.

All the interior walls were torn down to create an open-concept space with all of the designated areas—bedroom, kitchen, dining/workspace, living room— flowing into one another. The team also relocated the bathroom from the back of the trailer to the middle, adjacent to the kitchen.

"The layout was really boxed in. People want privacy, but how do you have privacy in 190 square feet?" says Grace. "So we just kept it open."

In the back of the trailer, a queen bed opens to storage underneath. Two floating shelves—installed in the trailer’s rounded corners with pocket screws—serve as nightstands.

Since it was their first trailer rehab project, naturally there was trial and error. For instance, patching the aluminum hull took some additional effort. "It was the rainiest winter that Richmond had seen in 30 years, so we were testing for leaks every single day," said Grace with a laugh.

The elevated cabinetry at the end of the kitchen is a clothing dresser—its placement helps delineate space and define the transition from the galley to the bedroom. Also, when open, the bathroom door creates privacy—so someone can dress in the bedroom, while others are hanging out in the living room.

The interior walls were stripped of dark MDF boards, and then the aluminum was sanded and painted in a flat white. The warm white walls set the tone for a pared-down and tranquil aesthetic.

"I started resonating with colors like browns and grays found in nature," says Grace. "Nature makes makes people feel calm and collected. I wanted to have a space that gives me that feeling."

The pint-sized bathroom features maple cabinetry, a tiny European sink, and a composting toilet.

The Airstream’s organic material palette includes maple wood cabinetry and cork flooring and shower tiles. "I thought, let’s go really neutral and calm," Grace says. Earthy textiles were layered in as well—like the sandy-colored cushions on the convertible couch, and the rust-colored bedspread, inspired by the couple’s trip to Utah’s Valley of the Gods.

The shower features earthy cork tiles coated in a poly cover.

"When we designed our bathroom, the goal was sustainability," says Grace. The door is covered in rice paper to create privacy, while simultaneously welcoming in natural light. The space features a high-quality composting toilet, and the shower is covered in soft cork tiles that—unlike ceramic—won’t crack from the trailer bouncing up and down on the open road.

Solar panels make the trailer totally self-sufficient—but it can also be plugged into the grid.

In the kitchen, maple cabinetry is topped with a thin Corian countertops. A floating ledge gives the galley a minimal feel while also offering up plenty of storage. 

The couple recently lived in the trailer for 9 months—two of which they spent traveling out west. "Your home should be your sanctuary," says Grace. "I wanted to be somewhere that makes me feel calm."

In line with Grace’s desire to embrace nature, the aluminum hull of the Airstream doesn’t detract for its surroundings—its reflective nature allows it to blend right into the landscape wherever the couple parks it.


Last Updated

Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.