Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell
With its distinctive silver, bullet-shaped profile, the Airstream has been an integral part of the American recreational landscape for more than 85 years. Its shiny exterior, unique silhouette, and adventurous reputation are often the first things that people notice about Airstreams—but it's the spirit in which they were created that makes people fall in love with them.

In her new book published by Harper Design titled Living the Airstream Life, Karen Flett tells the interesting story of the designers who transformed the Airstream brand into a mainstay of American life, diving deep into its rich history with stories, anecdotes, and practical advice for travelers. She explains that Airstream's original founder Wally Byam intentionally avoided having a marketing division. Instead, he formed what he called the "Airstream Way of Life Department." He wasn't merely selling a trailer—he was sharing the lifestyle he loved. 

Cover mural by Zio Ziegler

Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 1 of 19 - The "tiny home movement" is now in full force and Airstreams have attracted a cult following.

The "tiny home movement" is now in full force and Airstreams have attracted a cult following.

In her introduction, Flett references Byam, explaining how the vehicle provides a sense of stability and enables regular citizens to step outside of their comfort zones. She writes, "Traveling with my home is where I find both comfort and experience. With the ability to hitch up my home and take it with me on my adventure, I find the nervous excitement of the unknown, yet travel with the comforting experience of the familiar." Today, these nostalgic trailers continue to gain popularity. 

Flett provides a detailed account of Airstream’s design and its developments over the years—from the 1930s Torpedos to the modern-day Toy Haulers and Limited Edition trailers. She takes an in-depth look at what it really means to live the "Airstream way of life."

Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 3 of 19 - For Airstream fanatics, there are caravans and rallies all over the world, including an annual "Alumapalooza" every summer at the Airstream factory in Ohio that brings together fans from all over the country. The trailers are in high demand—so much so that Airstream factories can't keep up. On average, customers have to wait up to three months to receive their vehicles after placing an order.

For Airstream fanatics, there are caravans and rallies all over the world, including an annual "Alumapalooza" every summer at the Airstream factory in Ohio that brings together fans from all over the country. The trailers are in high demand—so much so that Airstream factories can't keep up. On average, customers have to wait up to three months to receive their vehicles after placing an order.


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 4 of 19 - Shown here is Bambi II, a rare beauty owned by veteran Airstream DIY-er Kristiana Spaulding.

Shown here is Bambi II, a rare beauty owned by veteran Airstream DIY-er Kristiana Spaulding.

The Airstream trailer (as we know it today) first took its form in the mid-1930s. The Airstream Clipper was the first trailer that was made from aluminum and rivets. Its shape was influenced by World War II aircraft design—unsurprisingly, since many of the trailer designers (including Byam) participated in the war effort by building airplanes. The skills Byam learned during this period allowed him to apply the same high quality of craftsmanship to his trailers. 

Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 5 of 19 - This is one of the five Airstreams that Katie and Rob own, but this 1986 Excella Airstream is extra special. 

This is one of the five Airstreams that Katie and Rob own, but this 1986 Excella Airstream is extra special. 


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 6 of 19 - Storage is always high on the priority list for any Airstreamers, as is having a place to sit down. Rob and Katie combined the two, creating little storage containers that double as seating.

Storage is always high on the priority list for any Airstreamers, as is having a place to sit down. Rob and Katie combined the two, creating little storage containers that double as seating.

Flett also includes a how-to guide to design, decorate, and customize your own Airstream for both DIY-ers and experts alike. She offers inspiration for those actively pursuing a life on the road, whether for permanent living or as a temporary escape from the daily grind. 

As she writes in her introduction, "We live in an era when we are so lucky to be able to see beyond our needs, to see our desires. To be appreciative of that and to make the most of this wondrous opportunity will make us feel that we have truly lived our lives rather than just letting the days pass us by." 

Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 7 of 19 -  Nearly 70 percent of all the Airstreams ever built are still on the road today.   

 Nearly 70 percent of all the Airstreams ever built are still on the road today.   


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 8 of 19 - The beautiful interior of this Caravel was created by ARC Airstreams.

The beautiful interior of this Caravel was created by ARC Airstreams.


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 9 of 19 - The design brief for this 1964 Airstream Overlander restored by ARC Airstreams was "luxury with a country feel." Ralph Lauren’s Corral Canyon fit the bill.  

The design brief for this 1964 Airstream Overlander restored by ARC Airstreams was "luxury with a country feel." Ralph Lauren’s Corral Canyon fit the bill.  


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 10 of 19 - Called the English country retreat, this renovated interior that was done by ARC Airstreams features quality furnishings and fttings, Leadlight windows, and a fully functional fireplace.

Called the English country retreat, this renovated interior that was done by ARC Airstreams features quality furnishings and fttings, Leadlight windows, and a fully functional fireplace.


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 11 of 19 - The renovation of this 1955 Flying Cloud features a whale tail (or the Dutchman’s cap) and is the creation of Paul and Mary Drag. 

The renovation of this 1955 Flying Cloud features a whale tail (or the Dutchman’s cap) and is the creation of Paul and Mary Drag. 



Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 13 of 19 - This Argosy model was lovingly restored by Kristiana Spaulding to complete her own personal collection of Airstream models. 

This Argosy model was lovingly restored by Kristiana Spaulding to complete her own personal collection of Airstream models. 

 

Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 14 of 19 - Not long after her new purchase, she was off on a dream trip to Africa, heading out on a safari and staying at one of the most well-known Airstream hotels in the southern hemisphere. The textures of the African landscape, colors of the traditional arts, and textiles of the safari tents all inspired the interior design. 

Not long after her new purchase, she was off on a dream trip to Africa, heading out on a safari and staying at one of the most well-known Airstream hotels in the southern hemisphere. The textures of the African landscape, colors of the traditional arts, and textiles of the safari tents all inspired the interior design. 


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 15 of 19 - During the process of bringing the Argosy back to life, the dilapidated carpet was replaced, the bathroom was restored to its original fixtures, every corner was cleaned, and broken parts were replaced.

During the process of bringing the Argosy back to life, the dilapidated carpet was replaced, the bathroom was restored to its original fixtures, every corner was cleaned, and broken parts were replaced.


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 16 of 19 - The result was an authentic Argosy trailer.

The result was an authentic Argosy trailer.


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 17 of 19 - This sophisticated renovation was created by the professional Airstream designers at American Retro Caravans. 

This sophisticated renovation was created by the professional Airstream designers at American Retro Caravans. 


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 18 of 19 - Shown here is high-quality interior by ARC Airstreams. 

Shown here is high-quality interior by ARC Airstreams. 


Live the Airstream Life Vicariously With a New Book That Celebrates the Timeless Trailers - Photo 19 of 19 - This Airstream is "home sweet home" to Matt Hackney, WBCCI region three president, and his wife, Beth. 

This Airstream is "home sweet home" to Matt Hackney, WBCCI region three president, and his wife, Beth. 

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