An Old Airstream Is Transformed Into a Midcentury-Inspired Dream Machine
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An Old Airstream Is Transformed Into a Midcentury-Inspired Dream Machine

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By Lucy Wang
This masterfully renovated 1965 Airstream oozes modern luxury in 216 square feet.

After repeatedly declining a client’s request to renovate a 1965 Airstream Overlander Land Yacht in Arkansas, custom fabricator Eoin Murphy and designer Robin Grundy-Murphy finally relented after five years.

With its original aluminum facade polished to a high shine, the fully restored Airstream is designed to go off-the-grid with rooftop solar panels with an inverter, a composting toilet, and a large water tank.

With its original aluminum facade polished to a high shine, the fully restored Airstream is designed to go off-the-grid with rooftop solar panels with an inverter, a composting toilet, and a large water tank.

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"We decided to say yes at the beginning of 2017," says Robin, who runs the design practice BORIEN Studio with her husband Eoin. "We were moving back to Ireland permanently in the spring of 2018, so we thought it would be amazing to have this as our final project in Canada before we left."

The Airstream was christened the Navajo Maiden after a postcard the couple found inside the Airstream with a picture of a Native American woman and the words "Navajo Maiden" on the front.

The Airstream was christened the Navajo Maiden after a postcard the couple found inside the Airstream with a picture of a Native American woman and the words "Navajo Maiden" on the front.

Thrilled, the Airstream owner shipped the vehicle up to Toronto and gave the Irish-Canadian creative couple full reign over the design. His only requests were a vintage sunburst wall clock and a finished result that evokes "a midcentury modern art piece."

Furnishings fold away to create a sense of spaciousness in the compact Airstream. The vinyl floor is from Altra floor in the UK.

Furnishings fold away to create a sense of spaciousness in the compact Airstream. The vinyl floor is from Altra floor in the UK.

"I was excited to have a midcentury brief, which obviously works perfectly given the time it was made," notes Robin. "I was conscious that I didn’t want this to be a film set. This would be a modern updated take on the midcentury design. I knew that Steve would not necessarily be traveling or sleeping in it often, so it was more of an entertaining space which could adapt to a family adventure once grandchildren arrived."

The magazine rack originally found on the wall of the Airstream was replicated at the bottom of the dining banquette.

The magazine rack originally found on the wall of the Airstream was replicated at the bottom of the dining banquette.

The dining area converts into a double bed. Natalie Crittenden at Haversack Leather did all the upholstery.

The dining area converts into a double bed. Natalie Crittenden at Haversack Leather did all the upholstery.

The renovation process, which spanned 13 months, began with a thorough gutting of the interiors—Eoin and Robin found multiple animal nests and a live possum when they first opened the Airstream. The pair worked diligently to preserve relevant and original elements, including all of the original badges, which they replated in brass.

BORIEN Studio saved and replated all of the original badges in brass for a striking contrast against the silver aluminum.

BORIEN Studio saved and replated all of the original badges in brass for a striking contrast against the silver aluminum.

While restoring the Airstream, the creative duo took inspiration from futuristic salt flat race cars. They streamlined the exterior, and polished the original aluminum to a high shine.

Before: The original walls were clad in aircraft aluminum, however Eoin and Robin found that the material overwhelmed the space. As a result, they painted much of it white.

Before: The original walls were clad in aircraft aluminum, however Eoin and Robin found that the material overwhelmed the space. As a result, they painted much of it white.

The exterior’s elegant character carries over to the interiors. While the redesigned Airstream stays true to its original midcentury spirit, the vehicle also integrates an abundance of modern luxuries—like a Bose sound system and air conditioning units, which are hidden from view. Rooftop solar panels allow the Airstream to stay powered off the grid.

"I based the whole palette off the orange wall sconces," says Robin, who purchased the lights off Ebay from Denmark.

"I based the whole palette off the orange wall sconces," says Robin, who purchased the lights off Ebay from Denmark.

A sliding pocket door reveals a bathroom made from a solid piece of maple, machined by a robot, stained pink and layered with an Alexander Girard-inspired vinyl on top that's finished in resin. The composting toilet negates the need for a sewage tank.

A sliding pocket door reveals a bathroom made from a solid piece of maple, machined by a robot, stained pink and layered with an Alexander Girard-inspired vinyl on top that's finished in resin. The composting toilet negates the need for a sewage tank.

Since the airstream would be used for entertaining rather than serving as a home, Robin preserved the open-concept layout and visually divided the front and back of house with a timber architectural screen in the centrally located kitchen.

BORIEN Studio designed and built all of the woodwork from Canadian Ash. "The trees are being decimated by beetles, so we wanted to preserve this beautiful wood within the bus," says Robin, who is pictured at the kitchen.

BORIEN Studio designed and built all of the woodwork from Canadian Ash. "The trees are being decimated by beetles, so we wanted to preserve this beautiful wood within the bus," says Robin, who is pictured at the kitchen.

Cedar & Moss lights are installed above the robin's egg blue sink.

Cedar & Moss lights are installed above the robin's egg blue sink.

A securable ceramic pendant light by Brooklyn–based potter Helen Levi hangs above the ash countertop. Robin purchased a bar kit with 1960s World's Fair glasses as a nice surprise for the client.

A securable ceramic pendant light by Brooklyn–based potter Helen Levi hangs above the ash countertop. Robin purchased a bar kit with 1960s World's Fair glasses as a nice surprise for the client.

A leather banquette dining area occupies the front of the space and converts into a double bed. The bathroom and kitchen with a sofa and bunk occupy the middle. In the rear is a "chill out" day bed area that Robin says is "a definite nod to the van life, hippy culture."

Cables clip onto the ceiling to support an upper bunk, while the bench folds out into a bed. The Airstream can sleep seven comfortably.

Cables clip onto the ceiling to support an upper bunk, while the bench folds out into a bed. The Airstream can sleep seven comfortably.

The day bed in the rear of the Airstream serves as the "chill out zone."

The day bed in the rear of the Airstream serves as the "chill out zone."

A redwood and teak folding rocking chair and loveseat are strapped to the back of Airstream with a bridle created by leatherworker Remco at Vanderhyde Toronto.

A redwood and teak folding rocking chair and loveseat are strapped to the back of Airstream with a bridle created by leatherworker Remco at Vanderhyde Toronto.

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Project Credits:

Architect of Record: BORIEN / @borienstudio

Builder/ General Contractor + Cabinetry: Eoin Murphy at BORIEN

Interior Design: Robin Grundy Murphy-BORIEN