Before & After: A Couple Revamp an Old Airstream Into a Charming Workspace and Home

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By Kathryn McLamb
After stumbling upon an outdated Airstream on eBay, a couple decide to make a radical life change—and Mavis the Airstream is born.

When Sheena and Jason noticed their everyday was becoming a bit too monotonous, they knew it was time to shake things up. So, they did what any curious mind would do—they turned to the treasure trove of eBay.

It didn't take long before the Atlanta–based couple laid eyes on their next adventure: an outdated Airstream in desperate need of renovation. While it took 10 months and countless hours of hard work, Sheena and Jason have successfully revamped the old trailer, and are now transitioning to living in the 1975 Airstream—also known as Mavis—full time. 

Below, Sheena tells us more about the couple's DIY renovation and sheds a light on what it's like living and working on the road. Keep scrolling for the remarkable "before" and "after" images.

Before:

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A peek inside the 40-year-old trailer before the 10-month renovation.

A peek inside the 40-year-old trailer before the 10-month renovation.

Dwell: When did you and Jason first get the idea of taking your life on the road? 

Sheena: We spent the majority of the beginning of our marriage traveling every chance we got. Like most people, we lived for vacations. We also wanted to move to a different part of the country but we just couldn’t decide on where. So that’s when the idea for an Airstream came into fruition. Why not work and travel at the same time? 

"I did my daily searches of Craigslist, eBay, and Airstream Classified every single morning," Sheena says. "I'd find the perfect trailer and jump on the phone, only to find out it had already been sold. We lost out on countless trailers."

"I did my daily searches of Craigslist, eBay, and Airstream Classified every single morning," Sheena says. "I'd find the perfect trailer and jump on the phone, only to find out it had already been sold. We lost out on countless trailers."

Tell us more about the renovation process. Did you have to stay within a specific budget for the revamp? 

We rebuilt the Airstream over the course of 10 months and transitioned it into a rolling living and workspace. We didn’t have a specific budget, as we really had no idea what to expect with renovating one of these things. I’m a really good bargain shopper so we really managed to keep the costs down. 

After endless searching, the couple finally found Mavis on eBay. The trailer had originally been intended to be a retirement home for the previous owner and her husband. Yet, unfortunately, the owner's husband had passed away before they could make that happen, and the Airstream was left in storage for the following eight years. Sheena explains that the previous owner "didn't have the heart to sell it and had been waiting for the perfect person to come along to breathe new life into it. After a long conversation, she told me, 'you're the one I've been waiting for all these years.' And that was that. I had her blessing!"

After endless searching, the couple finally found Mavis on eBay. The trailer had originally been intended to be a retirement home for the previous owner and her husband. Yet, unfortunately, the owner's husband had passed away before they could make that happen, and the Airstream was left in storage for the following eight years. Sheena explains that the previous owner "didn't have the heart to sell it and had been waiting for the perfect person to come along to breathe new life into it. After a long conversation, she told me, 'you're the one I've been waiting for all these years.' And that was that. I had her blessing!"

My mom gave me our kitchen faucet which was a spare she had in her garage. We found our vessel sink at a scratch-and-dent shop for a mere $10. We did have our share of splurges though, such as a big pile of tongue and groove reclaimed barn wood we used throughout the space. 

The Airstream was originally a rear-bath unit with two twin size beds. However, the couple relocated the "bedroom" to the front of the trailer during the renovation. 

The Airstream was originally a rear-bath unit with two twin size beds. However, the couple relocated the "bedroom" to the front of the trailer during the renovation. 

Given that the renovation was 100 percent DIY, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced during this project? 

 We had two big challenges: designing a space that could sustain the trauma of rolling down the road at 70 mph, and designing a space basically inside a fishbowl, as my dad liked to call it. I didn’t want to disassemble everything every single time we moved the trailer. But I also wanted the space to have lots of layers, including plants and hanging baskets.  

"When it came to the actual build of the Airstream, I did much of the construction and Jason did the plumbing and electrical work," states Sheena. "We renovated in two phases. After living in the first set-up for four months, we decided we needed to change things around so we spent an additional three months moving the bed and living space around and added a second work area."

"When it came to the actual build of the Airstream, I did much of the construction and Jason did the plumbing and electrical work," states Sheena. "We renovated in two phases. After living in the first set-up for four months, we decided we needed to change things around so we spent an additional three months moving the bed and living space around and added a second work area."

After:

"We are really happy with how the space turned out, but if we were to change one thing, it'd be a bigger bed. We currently have a full size bed and although it works, we'd rather have a king."

"We are really happy with how the space turned out, but if we were to change one thing, it'd be a bigger bed. We currently have a full size bed and although it works, we'd rather have a king."

Can you tell us more about the trailer’s layout and how you went about designing the floor plan? 

Since we work from the space, we wanted to be sure we both had dedicated work areas. We designed the space so we could have as much space between us as possible—my desk is at the front of the trailer and Jason’s is at the rear. Originally, our trailer was a rear-bath unit with twin size beds. We relocated the "bedroom" to the front of the trailer. It’s the sunniest spot and definitely makes for a great space for our dog to bask in the sun for his afternoon naps. 

A peek at the desired layout before the renovation.

A peek at the desired layout before the renovation.

Because Sheena and Jason both work remotely, the couple made sure to create two dedicated work areas.

Because Sheena and Jason both work remotely, the couple made sure to create two dedicated work areas.

Sheena's workspace is near their bed at the front of the trailer, while Jason's work area is separately located toward the back of Mavis. 

Sheena's workspace is near their bed at the front of the trailer, while Jason's work area is separately located toward the back of Mavis. 

The interior of Mavis feels so bright and airy! What were some of your biggest sources of inspiration when decorating? 

I knew I wanted the space to feel as bright and large as possible so everything from the floor up was painted white, and we added warm wood accents to the walls and countertops. I love the clean lines of Scandinavian style, yet I also wanted to add some nods to the 70s with lots of dreamy macrame and antique Turkish rugs.  

The interior is Scandinavian-inspired, while also incorporating a 70s feel. 

The interior is Scandinavian-inspired, while also incorporating a 70s feel. 

What are some of your favorite storage hacks? 

We hide storage everywhere possible. We have a ton of space under our sofa and bed. I think my favorite storage hack is the little space under our refrigerator to kick off our shoes when we walk in. Also, I use the walls to store things that make great wall decor. 

Due to the lack of space, the couple have quickly learned to maximize every inch of storage space. For instance, Sheena uses vintage clips on the walls to stylishly hold papers and photographs.

Due to the lack of space, the couple have quickly learned to maximize every inch of storage space. For instance, Sheena uses vintage clips on the walls to stylishly hold papers and photographs.

Another peek at the bright and airy interior. 

Another peek at the bright and airy interior. 

What has been your favorite/least favorite aspect of living in a 200-square-foot Airstream? 

I love how few things we have in the Airstream. Instead of a cabinet full of various sized pots and pans, we have one pot and one pan. We have no excess of anything. Everything in the trailer serves a purpose. 

When we came back to our townhouse after the first four-month stretch in Mavis, we felt like everything in the house was suffocating us. Every time we make a stop back in our home town, we spend the time cleaning out the townhouse and downsizing. 

To make the space feel larger, the couple opted for white walls and a minimal color palette.

To make the space feel larger, the couple opted for white walls and a minimal color palette.

Now that we know we can survive without a house, we will eventually sell the townhouse, put everything in storage and then continue to roam the country. Our plan is to build a tiny solar-powered container home somewhere in the country to serve as our home base with a nice covered area to park Mavis in the backyard. 

Before & After: A Couple Revamp an Old Airstream Into a Charming Workspace and Home - Photo 14 of 18 -
No matter the destination, the couple's poodle, Riley, always tags along for the ride.

No matter the destination, the couple's poodle, Riley, always tags along for the ride.

How often are you and Jason on the move? Is there a specific place you’re dying to visit while living in Mavis? 

 Last summer, we spent it roaming across the western part of the USA, staying only a week or two at a time. We journeyed to Iowa to spend time with family and parked on their beautiful farmland. From there we headed west through Colorado, New Mexico, and West Texas. However, it became a little stressful juggling where to go and what places had a cell signal to work from. 

"We've found it's best to spend at least a month in each place. That way, you get to know the area and get a real sense of what it's like to actually live there," Sheena explains.

"We've found it's best to spend at least a month in each place. That way, you get to know the area and get a real sense of what it's like to actually live there," Sheena explains.

This past winter, we spent a couple of months on the North Carolina coast in the teeny tiny town of Southport. It was picturesque and quiet—a welcomed change from the scene we are used to in metro Atlanta.  

Before & After: A Couple Revamp an Old Airstream Into a Charming Workspace and Home - Photo 17 of 18 -

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is seeking to restore an Airstream trailer, camper, or bus? 

 Plan, plan, plan! It’s one thing to build the space how you think you’ll like it and another thing to actually live in it. A tiny space is a very different animal to build. You need to think about every little area and how to make it useful. Think of creative ways to build in storage, like hiding shoes under the refrigerator or utilizing wall space for everyday items.  

The couple are currently transitioning to living and working in the Airstream full time.

The couple are currently transitioning to living and working in the Airstream full time.

To learn more about this renovation, or to follow along with the Sheena and Jason's travels, check out their website and Instagram.