An Adventurous Florida Couple Revitalize a 1970s Airstream for Just $15K
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An Adventurous Florida Couple Revitalize a 1970s Airstream for Just $15K

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By Alia Akkam
A 1970s camper gets a DIY gut renovation that smartly maximizes its 200 square feet of living space.

For the first two years of their marriage, Ashton and DJ Whaley lived in a 900-square-foot apartment while Ashton completed her college studies. Worried about student debt, the couple realized they would actually save money if they bought a pad of their own. In addition to finding financial freedom, the Whaleys dreamed of traveling around the country—so they began to think about downsizing and making life on the road a reality.

After two years of apartment living, husband-and-wife Ashton and DJ Whaley gave up renting to save money and travel the States in their new abode, Honey the Airstream.

 "We are both from a small town outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Neither of us had ever lived any place other than where we were born and raised, so we always wanted to explore the rest of the U.S.," explains Ashton.

In between meals, the custom-made dining table can fold away to create a more open space.

Once they figured out how they would pay the bills and feed their savings account while on a cross-country adventure—DJ as a traveling nurse and Ashton as a virtual interior designer—they began researching travel trailers that required the least maintenance. A large, shiny, built-to-last Airstream was the ideal fit.

Keepsakes and photos give Honey a well-worn feel.

At first, Ashton and DJ scoured Airstream forums and Facebook Marketplace for potential sales between Tennessee and the Florida Keys (locations within a day’s drive), but they came up empty-handed. Then, during a serendipitous visit, Ashton’s grandfather mentioned that there was an Airstream sitting idle right across from her parents’ horse pasture. After her grandfather had a chat with the Airstream’s owner and found out he had plans to scrap it, the Whaleys were able to snag it for a great price.

A plant and vintage carpet set a cozy, welcoming tone at the entry. 

There were "large amounts of gunk and grime that had built up on it over the years," points out Ashton—and the 1972 Airstream was ripe for a complete overhaul. For one year, the couple renovated Honey the Airstream—named after Ashton’s grandfather, who is playfully called PopaHoney—from top to bottom.

The bed was raised to make way for storage underneath. In the living area, the sofa pulls out to provide another bed for guests.

Instead of taking out a loan, the budget-savvy couple largely funded the revamp of the 200-square-foot camper by selling furniture and electronics on Facebook Marketplace. They also got rid of their Chevrolet Silverado and Honda Accord and picked up a new vehicle to tow Honey.

This slender laundry closet conceals the washer and dryer. Next to it is a counter with a built-in hamper.

That Ashton and DJ knew several skilled and generous handymen was another boon. PopaHoney did all the welding for the frame repair and taught DJ how to do the plumbing, while an electrician pal ran wiring through Honey. "We saved nearly $30,000 by doing everything else ourselves, and we came out with a final renovation cost of roughly $15,000," says Ashton.

Originally, the Whaleys wanted a brass pipe for a shower curtain rod—but this curved grape vine, found creekside and then stained by Ashton, is a far more creative alternative.

Honey’s material palette is simple—it’s largely a mix of wood, stone, and leather because Ashton didn’t want the tiny digs to be overwhelmed by disparate finishes. Throughout the interior, she paired modern, clean elements with antiques, noting how she is especially drawn to "items that are looked upon as junk or trash and just need some TLC—like Honey."

The bathroom has an earthy vibe thanks to greenery and a shower covered in muted penny tiles.

Incorporating personal elements is important to the Whaleys—vintage Persian rugs meld with family photos and souvenirs from the couple’s travels, including pine cones and stamps. Ashton says she and DJ were strategic about what they purchased so that their home wouldn’t feel crowded.

They also came up with clever solutions—like the wraparound counter in the bathroom that holds dirty laundry underneath, and the custom-made dining table that folds down when needed. Their used sofa, too big to fit through Honey's door, was taken apart piece by piece and reassembled inside. The green velvet pillows that adorn it, from World Market, were easily darkened from their original hue with Rit dye.

In the minimalist yet warm kitchen, dinnerware and food storage, including ceramic jars purchased at discount stores, "serve a dual purpose of function and decor," says Ashton.

The Whaleys, along with their three dogs, just embarked on their journey over the summer, first holing up in South Carolina, then Texas. Although their goal is to spend three months in one place so that DJ can work at a hospital, the weekends are devoted to exploring.

The couple dismantled their cozy leather couch so that it could fit through the door.

"We know that there are some places we’d love to see, such as Utah, Arizona, and most of the western states," says Ashton, "but that’s the fun part about what we’re doing; we don’t really have a plan."

Related Reading:

A Musician Makes His Home in a Restored 1968 Airstream Land Yacht 

A 1972 Airstream Sovereign Is Transformed Into a Family Home For $23K

A 1970s Airstream Is Revamped Into an Off-Grid Home For Six 

Project Credits: 

Interior Design: Ashton and DJ Whaley / @honeytheairstream

Electrical: Jay Williams 

Welding: Gary Jaques

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