A Gleaming Airstream Borrows Space-Saving Tips From Boat Design
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A Gleaming Airstream Borrows Space-Saving Tips From Boat Design

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By Lucy Wang
After two years at sea with their family of five, a couple continues their tiny house lifestyle by renovating a rundown Airstream.

Having flipped 11 houses—and lived in all of them—in the span of a decade, Annie Jomphe and Martin Readman of Canada–based design/build firm Sitka Concept are used to getting their hands dirty to finish a job. So, when the couple discovered that a 1976 Airstream Land Yacht they purchased sight unseen was more run-down than anticipated, it wasn’t enough to shake their resolve.

"We purchased this trailer online without seeing it," Annie says. "She was in Ontario while we were in Florida. When we picked her up, at first I was a bit discouraged. The interior was a mess and the exterior needed a lot of work/love!"

"We purchased this trailer online without seeing it," Annie says. "She was in Ontario while we were in Florida. When we picked her up, at first I was a bit discouraged. The interior was a mess and the exterior needed a lot of work/love!"

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Annie and Martin in mid-restoration. The couple purchased the secondhand Airstream after spending two years at sea in a boat with their three children.

Annie and Martin in mid-restoration. The couple purchased the secondhand Airstream after spending two years at sea in a boat with their three children.

The dynamic duo rolled up their sleeves and—with some help from Martin’s father—spent three months to transform the decrepit vehicle into a comfortable and stylish home for their family of five.

Peanut is a 31-foot-long 1976 Airstream Land Yacht. Sitka Concept successfully restored the exterior to a mirror-like shine.

Peanut is a 31-foot-long 1976 Airstream Land Yacht. Sitka Concept successfully restored the exterior to a mirror-like shine.

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The living area  is located in the front of the Airstream. It includes a full kitchen with a fridge, sink, and propane range; movable benches with integrated seating; a walnut folding table that matches the countertop; and upper shelving for dry food storage in mason jars.

The living area is located in the front of the Airstream. It includes a full kitchen with a fridge, sink, and propane range; movable benches with integrated seating; a walnut folding table that matches the countertop; and upper shelving for dry food storage in mason jars.

"We thought about making every inch of space efficient, organized, and easy to access," Annie explains, noting that achieving a sense of airiness was important to the family. "We designed the Airstream regarding the possessions we had to put in, so everything has its dedicated place."

Large windows, smart storage solutions, and a minimalist aesthetic helped achieve the open and airy feeling the couple craved.

Large windows, smart storage solutions, and a minimalist aesthetic helped achieve the open and airy feeling the couple craved.

The kitchen features a Blanco Silgranit sink with a Lyty drinking water purifying faucet and a Hiendure built-in soap dispenser. The counter is made of walnut.

The kitchen features a Blanco Silgranit sink with a Lyty drinking water purifying faucet and a Hiendure built-in soap dispenser. The counter is made of walnut.

"To our surprise, the inside four corners of the walls, made of triangular painted panelling, took the longest to do," Annie says. "It took about  three to four weeks to complete them. At one point, we thought of changing the design, but persistence and patience brought it together and those corners are a piece of art in themselves!"

"To our surprise, the inside four corners of the walls, made of triangular painted panelling, took the longest to do," Annie says. "It took about  three to four weeks to complete them. At one point, we thought of changing the design, but persistence and patience brought it together and those corners are a piece of art in themselves!"

To comfortably fit five people into 200 square feet of space, Annie and Martin rearranged the existing layout and introduced an entirely new floor plan anchored on one end by the living spaces and on the other end by the master bedroom.

A view from the front of the Airstream towards the angled bathroom door in the rear. Note the small closet, perfect for hanging coats and boots, slotted between the door and the wood stove.

A view from the front of the Airstream towards the angled bathroom door in the rear. Note the small closet, perfect for hanging coats and boots, slotted between the door and the wood stove.

Surrounded by black slate panels, the stainless steel Kimberley wood stove provides extra warmth in addition to the propane heater.

Surrounded by black slate panels, the stainless steel Kimberley wood stove provides extra warmth in addition to the propane heater.

The couple incorporated space-saving tips gleaned from living on a sailboat for two years—including ample hidden storage and moveable furnishings. Custom furnishings, such as a foldout dining table and cabinetry that sits snug against the curved walls, were essential for maximizing space and achieving a streamlined look. The family also takes care to avoid overloading the shelves and cupboards to maintain an airy and spacious atmosphere.

The "kids' area" in the heart of the Airstream features three bunk beds fitted with twin-size IKEA foam mattresses, built-in storage, and  privacy curtains. The round cutouts reference the Airstream's rounded shape and the portholes in ships.

The "kids' area" in the heart of the Airstream features three bunk beds fitted with twin-size IKEA foam mattresses, built-in storage, and privacy curtains. The round cutouts reference the Airstream's rounded shape and the portholes in ships.

"The overall decor was pure white with dark grey for the kid’s area to make the area feel spacious," the couple says. "Dark wood was incorporated for a contrast accent."

"The overall decor was pure white with dark grey for the kid’s area to make the area feel spacious," the couple says. "Dark wood was incorporated for a contrast accent."

The bathroom, a work desk, and three beds—two bunk beds on one side and a single bed on the other—with integrated storage are located in the middle of the Airstream.

The laundry machine is strategically centered above the axles for optimal weight distribution.

The laundry machine is strategically centered above the axles for optimal weight distribution.

"‘Peanut’ is our first Airstream restoration," the couple says. "We are quite proud of the results and have bought two different Airstream trailers in the last week for restoration. We are so eager to start." 

A small office area provides storage space for paperwork, computers, and electronic devices—including control panels for the solar panels, water tank level, and electrical system.

A small office area provides storage space for paperwork, computers, and electronic devices—including control panels for the solar panels, water tank level, and electrical system.

Annie and Martin's bedroom in the rear is furnished with a double bed that leans towards the bathroom wall to provide full outside views when sitting.

Annie and Martin's bedroom in the rear is furnished with a double bed that leans towards the bathroom wall to provide full outside views when sitting.

The master bedroom is surrounded by plenty of storage—from under-bed storage to custom cabinets integrated with a long countertop that adds a sense of spaciousness.

The master bedroom is surrounded by plenty of storage—from under-bed storage to custom cabinets integrated with a long countertop that adds a sense of spaciousness.

The bathroom is outfitted with a Nature's Head composting toilet, stainless steel sink, and custom cabinets. The countertop and curved wall are built from cedar. The LED lighting strips add a modern touch.

The bathroom is outfitted with a Nature's Head composting toilet, stainless steel sink, and custom cabinets. The countertop and curved wall are built from cedar. The LED lighting strips add a modern touch.

The walls feature Quebec Hexagone Series Arctic White tiles, while the bathroom floors are lined with Hexagone Verona White. The cabinet is built from Baltic birch plywood.

The walls feature Quebec Hexagone Series Arctic White tiles, while the bathroom floors are lined with Hexagone Verona White. The cabinet is built from Baltic birch plywood.

The full shower, surrounded by ceramic tiles, is connected to an on-demand propane water heater.

The full shower, surrounded by ceramic tiles, is connected to an on-demand propane water heater.

The Airstream's original layout.  

The Airstream's original layout.  

The Airstream's new layout.

The Airstream's new layout.

Related Reading: Before & After: A Classic Airstream Becomes a Modern Airbnb 

Project Credits:

Design/Build: Sitka Concept / @sitkaconcept

Upholstery: Concept Genesys

Photography: Monica Jackson