When Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw returned to Seattle after months traveling cross-country in a Volkswagen van, they knew they were hooked on tiny house living. In hopes of creating a more comfortable tiny home of their own making, the couple ventured into the world of Airstream renovations and came out the other side victorious—with a dream dwelling they named the Tin Can Homestead.
Starting with a leaky 1971 Airstream Sovereign shell they purchased for under $5,000, Natasha and Brett gutted the vehicle, preferring to work from scratch for total control of the interior layout. An Airstream renovation specialist was hired for initial work on the subfloor, brake replacement, and waterproofing, while Natasha’s father, a master electrician and experienced builder, provided invaluable advice and assistance. Otherwise, the couple did almost entirely everything themselves, from the flooring and custom cabinetry to wiring and plumbing.
Where they lacked renovation experience, the couple made up in determination and careful research and planning. In the end, the Tin Can Homestead project cost approximately $22,000. Over half of that money went to paying for the 1971 Airstream Sovereign shell; the flooring, glue, and varnish; as well as the work done on the subfloor, brakes, and waterproofing.
"How you live in a space determines so much about its design," says Natasha, an illustrator and former display designer for Anthropologie. Numerous revisions of the Airstream layout saw the nixing of a fixed dining table in favor of a daybed with hidden storage and folding tray tables. Plans for a shower were also scrapped because the couple didn’t have plans of traveling with the Airstream—they stationed themselves in an RV park with shower facilities—and wanted more storage.
The daybed area in the front of the Airstream transitions into a small kitchen with a bathroom. The bedroom with a king-sized bed occupies the rear. For added space, Natasha and Brett build a wooden outdoor patio (with steps) where the couple entertained guests and tended to a small vegetable and herb garden.
While the renovation process wasn’t glamorous, the end result is nothing short of beautiful. Inspired by a Scandinavian aesthetic, Natasha sought to create a minimalist home that was bright, airy, and modern. She picked a neutral color palette of mostly black and white with brass accents and fastidiously stuck to it to create an interior that was beautifully cohesive and full of life, yet visually clutter-free. Timber cabinets and floors add a sense of warmth. Plenty of potted plants—Natasha counted over 60 at a certain point in time—breathe life into the space.
A big challenge of renovating an Airstream are the curved walls, which meant the couple custom built almost all the furniture out of necessity. Metal stud framing reinforced by 2x4s was chosen for flexibility—the steel can be curved to the shape of Airstream—and tongue-and-groove pine boards were put over top. Whitewashed walls and white counters, paired with low sight lines and plenty of natural light, give the small home a surprisingly spacious feel.
A beautiful white hexagonal kitchen backsplash beautifully ties the space together.
Natasha, Brett, and their two dogs no longer live in the Tin Can Homestead. After a year-and-a-half of calling it home, the couple set their sights on Vermont as part of a dream to grow their expanding ceramics business. Their Airstream was sold to buyers in California.
As part of their goodbye to their beautiful tiny home, Natasha and Brett wrote Tin Can Homestead, a tell-all book about their Airstream renovation with helpful cost breakdowns and walk-throughs of how they did the research, planning, building, and finishing. There’s even a sourcing list. Tin Can Homestead is available for pre-orders and comes out this spring.
You can follow the couple and their latest adventures at their Vermont dwelling via Instagram at @sugarhousehomestead.
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