A Vintage Airstream Trailer Is Now the Ultimate Live/Work Mobile

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By Laura Mauk
At just 80 square feet, The Kugelschiff is a renovated Airstream Bambi II that now serves as a tech entrepreneur’s tiny home and office.

The definitively modern, live/work space that Robert Edmonds of Edmonds + Lee Architects recently devised is at once flexible, technological, and mobile. 

Nicknamed The Kugelschiff (German for bullet ship), Edmonds’s design—shelled by a glistening vintage Airstream—began with the needs and ideas of his clients Jeff Kleck, a technology entrepreneur, and Kleck’s daughter Alaina, an industrial designer. 

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The Kugelschiff is a live/work Airstream trailer that can travel the landscape.

The Kugelschiff is a live/work Airstream trailer that can travel the landscape.

Since Jeff works from home and travels between projects, he wanted a mobile space where he could live and conduct business. "I needed space that would let me work from home, or anywhere I needed to be for meetings, and anywhere I wanted to be for inspiration," Jeff says. "I needed something high-tech with connectivity to the Internet and the Cloud, and big enough for a few people to gather some of the time." 

With the help of Alaina, Jeff concluded that a midcentury Airstream with modern interiors and contemporary technology would serve each of his needs. "Modern design environments have always been my preference as they’ve an atmosphere of optimism," he says. 

The kitchen and convertible desk area of the Kugelschiff display a luminous, white-painted ceiling and walls, and white ash cabinetry and flooring.

The kitchen and convertible desk area of the Kugelschiff display a luminous, white-painted ceiling and walls, and white ash cabinetry and flooring.

Jeff searched for a year and finally found an Airstream Bambi II, an iconic model built in 1964-65. He purchased the trailer and promptly enlisted Edmonds to redesign the interior to suit his needs. "I looked to aeronautical architecture, where there’s a tossing out of the traditional givens—edge, corner, and boundary—and instead looked at the space as a three-dimensional system that needs to be many things at once and still highly stylized," Edmonds says. 

Built by Sergey Shevchuk of Silver Bullet Trailer, Edmonds’s design features white-painted, aluminum interior wall panels; white ash flooring and cabinetry; and Corian countertops. "The glossy finish of the painted aluminum minimizes visual clutter and accentuates the play of light on the curved surface of the ceiling and walls," explains Edmonds, who also outfitted the Airstream with an Eero Saarinen-designed Tulip table,  Charles and Ray Eames-designed chairs, and built-in bench cushions upholstered with Maharam wool. 

The Airstream's meeting area is marked by an Eero Saarinen-designed Tulip table.

The Airstream's meeting area is marked by an Eero Saarinen-designed Tulip table.

The Kugelschiff’s understated aesthetic is as impressive as its functionality. "The kitchen is located at the center, and when not in use, the sink can be hidden with a removable panel and the refrigerator is concealed below the counter and behind the millwork," Edmonds says. The architect also mounted a desk on pistons that can be lowered to the height of an adjacent bench, allowing it to convert to a bed frame. 

Edmonds designed a desk set on pistons that converts to a bed.

Edmonds designed a desk set on pistons that converts to a bed.


The office-turned-sleeping nook.

The office-turned-sleeping nook.

"All the storage, as well as the extensive equipment needed for the Airstream to travel and function off-the-grid, are located within the kitchen cabinets and banquet seating, or concealed into the floors and walls," Edmonds says. 

 The puzzle-like design was a new and unusual task for Edmonds + Lee Architects. "It became an experiment to see if we could condense our broader ideas of space and architecture into 80 square feet," Edmonds says. "Seamless, multi-functional programmatic elements are something we’ve explored in all of our projects because they’re an honest response to how people live their lives, but in the constraints of this space, that needed to be coupled with incredibly precise detail that blends tight, interlocking programs together." 

The ability to travel to various settings provides perspective.

The ability to travel to various settings provides perspective.

Jeff drives Kugelschiff to the mountains, the desert, and the beach to work—and at the end of the day, he can shut everything down and unwind in the middle of nowhere. This ability speaks to the new way people, and Silicon Valley employees in particular, are working remotely with the support of NEST and Google, the two technology systems that complete the design.  

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The Airstream, with its curved aluminum exterior, is an iconic midcentury design.

The Airstream, with its curved aluminum exterior, is an iconic midcentury design.