04 June 2011
It’s Open House Day here at Alumapalooza, so in the spirit of sharing I’ve created a digital version of the 1337stream tour for those of you following along at home. We’ve got a lot to see, so please leave your shoes at the door & come on in:
We have a 2007, 27-foot Airstream International FB (front bedroom) trailer whose original interior was called Cilantro, designed by Christopher Deam.
Just to get your bearings, let’s take a quick walk around the outside of the trailer first. The “curbside” of the trailer (the side facing the curb when being towed, natch) is where the only door is located, near the rear bumper. It’s also the side of the trailer with a patio awning for hanging out in the shade in our matching ZipDee chairs.
The opposite side, or “streetside”, is where all the utilities attach: fresh water, 30-amp electrical service, sewer, cable TV (where available), and landline phone (haha!).
The door opens between the dinette and galley kitchen. Both of these spaces have large storage lockers with sliding doors along the ceiling that provide our primary storage space (and with the special benefit of being out-of-reach to nosy two-year-olds). In the roof locker above the kitchen counter, we store our melamine dinnerware, kitchen utensils, breakable pantry goods, and breads. In the roof locker above the dinette, we have individual boxes for: vitamins/medicine, cleaning supplies, bug spray/insect repellant, first aid, as well as napkins & other table-setting supplies.
The dinette is a table that seats four, but folds down to the height of the seats to be used as a bed or lounging area.
One of the biggest changes we’ve made to our trailer was reupholstering the cushions. The original interior was decent, a tasteful brown & green combo, but our taste ultimately dictated something more modern, simple & gray. Jessa used Sunbrella’s UV-resistant fabrics in Meridian Charcoal and Flagship Black to fundamentally improve the overall feel of our trailer.
Giving up our plants was one of the tougher transitions from stationary-to-mobile, so to add a touch of green, we installed a flower pot just inside the entryway. For now, we’re going with fake plastic grass, but we may try growing a hardy plant or two in the near future. The planter is actually a “cutlery caddy” from IKEA, available for just $6 and easily attached to an existing rivet hole.
There was also the problem of where to put our keys, wallet, pocket knife, etc, as I tend to empty my pockets when entering the trailer. For the first several weeks, this stuff just ended up on the kitchen counter, inevitably getting soaked by sink overspray. To solve this problem, we found the lovely Umbra Magnetter, which features three magnetized zones for holding keys and, serendipitously, my pocket knife and AppleTV remote. The panel, whose finish almost exactly matches our trailer’s Wenge laminate interior, bends near the top providing a place to stick a wallet or any other pocket cruft. Love this.
The kitchen has most of the expected fixtures: a large, deep sink; three-burner gas stove; gas oven; an adequately-large refrigerator/freezer; and tons of pantry space. We’ve supplemented the space with tons of IKEA hooks for oven mitts, measuring cups, and washcloths. We’ve also installed The Wallee, an iPad wall-mounting solution that we adore. In the kitchen we use it with a digital wall clock/weather app (Nightstand Central, pictured) and for following recipes. In the bedroom, we use it to watch movies and as an alarm clock.
On the door of the upper pantry, we’ve installed an IKEA spice rack and, also from IKEA, an aluminum foil dispenser. There seems to be room for another such dispenser, so I think we’ll soon squeeze one in for plastic wrap as well. The spice rack features our most-used spices, arranged chromatically: chili powder, cinnamon, yellow curry, cumin, basil, and sea salt.
Notably missing from the kitchen appliance list is a microwave. Our trailer actually came with a dedicated microwave drawer, but after our first month on-the-road we’d only used it once. A better use for that space, we’d decided, would be for our pots & pans. My dad whipped together a drawer for us sometime last week, then I painted and polyurethaned it. I think it turned out great, and doubt we’ll miss the microwave. (Though if we should, it’ll be an easy swap.)
Across from the kitchen counter is a galley bench that runs from the dinette to the refrigerator. It also converts into a large sleeping area and the storage area underneath has become Jack’s toy box. The wall at the end of the bench holds a 26” LG LED TV that weighs just a couple pounds and uses a fraction of the electricity of the TV it replaced. The trailer also came with a huge articulating VESA mount, but we couldn’t imagine needing that functionality so replaced it with a super low-profile mount (so low-profile, in fact, that I had to space it away from the wall with a 1/2” spacer so I could make the TV’s rear connections). These & these 90° connectors came in handy, too.
The Apple TV is mounted here, too, but is due for a relocation since its IR-receiver is not in a convenient spot. I think I’ll look into IR replication solutions, and place the AppleTV somewhere completely out of sight.
Separating the bathroom from, first, the kitchen, and later, the bedroom, were a pair of camel-colored accordion-style room dividers. They were musty, unattractive, and non-trivial to deploy. Jessa replaced both with some gray velvety curtains that we had used in Jack’s bedroom, and they solve all three problems simultaneously, taking just a flick of the wrist to open and close.
Jessa also made some new tie-backs from gray felt, which is quickly becoming a design motif in this trailer.
The space between these two curtains includes a lavatory (sink + toilet) behind a closed door, a shower, and a two-door wardrobe. All are adequately-sized, but needed (&/or still need) some adjustment to make them fully functional.
In the lavatory, we removed the single towel bar and replaced it with a series of IKEA wall hooks (we also use IKEA towels that have hangers sewn right onto them).
We’ve also added a few more hooks to the aluminum backsplash for wash clothes, and may eventually go ahead and replace the whole row of rivets with additional hooks; we’ll see. The standard faucet has been replaced with a much taller one, that’s less prone to messes and easier to get a drink out of. Finally, we’ve added a Simple Human soap dispenser filled with EO Peppermint & Tea Tree hand soap, both of which I’d recommended.
Similarly, in the shower, we’ve added a dual Simple Human shampoo dispenser (Nioxin & Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap). In hindsight, we probably should have gone with the triple dispenser, but may replace the Nioxin with some 2-in-1 shampoo + conditioner, or buy one of these nifty soap graters and buy Dr. Bronner’s in bar form. Did I remember to warn you that this tour takes a long, boring turn somewhere near the shower? Moving on…
Across from the bathroom, but conveniently located within the closable dividers is our wardrobe. Jessa & I share this space, and after repeatedly dividing our clothes collections in half, we’ve finally approached a comfortable place where our clothes not only fit, but we aren’t wanting for more space. The real key to making this work is the cascading huggable hangers from Joy Mangano. These hangers are not only super thin, but the metal hooks fit into the grooves on our closet rail, keeping them from sliding around and bunching up at one end of the closet. The cascading hooks allow you to transfer some of the horizontal space downward, taking up more vertical space instead. From a single hook on the rail, we can get a total of 3 or 4 hangers, which makes it convenient to group clothing (pants, jackets) and looks much more attractive than a crowded rail full of hangers.
I also like to use the cascade as a bit of a game, always placing laundered or new clothes at the bottom of a set, and moving empty hangers to the bottom as I wear clothes. This results in the least-frequently-worn clothes ending up on top, which either serves as a reminder to wear them, or as a suggestion to donate them to Goodwill.
As in the kitchen and bathroom, we’ve also installed another handful of these fantastic IKEA hooks along the outside of the wardrobe and on either side of the shower for all sorts of miscellaneous hanging needs: towels, purse, camera, jackets, etc.
Most of our effort in preparing 1337stream for full-time living has gone into the bedroom (twss!). The trailer was originally a twin-bed model, meaning it had two twin beds on either side of a hallway, but we’ve now replaced one of those beds with a dedicated computer desk, and installed a pair of bunk beds. The leftover space at the front of the trailer has become our “reading nook”, which doubles as an extra sleeping spot.
The other twin bed remains, but we’ve widened it by about 6” and replaced the standard mattress with a custom memory foam model from the good guys at Rocky Mountain Mattress Company. We think it’ll sleep two just fine, but only time will tell.
I pieced the desk together myself from a pair of IKEA drawer pedestals and a desktop that I made from baltic birch plywood and a sheet of aluminum. The chair is from–guess where!–IKEA and is a full-size desk chair with casters. It’s held in place by a strip of gray wool felt that snaps to the underside of the desk when we’re traveling. But the main attraction here, of course, is the 27” iMac mounted with the Bretford MobilePro. While the mount adjusts in nearly every dimension, we keep it stationary most of the time, and tuck a couple of pillows behind it to keep it from bouncing around too much as we travel.
I also built a couple of recessed pockets into the desktop to hold pens, pencils, markers, scissors, and other desk supplies, and they’re deep enough we don’t have to worry about stowing those items before we travel.
Another nifty thing I built into the desk is an integrated headphone jack, right on the front edge of the desk. I’m always listening to music while I work, but with such tight quarters, I often have to keep the music to myself, so this seemed like an easy way to avoid constantly draping a headphone cord across the desk all of the time. Just grab my headphones from the drawer and plug in.
Just adjacent to the desk is another small wardrobe which pulls double-duty as both a clothes closet and a media closet. There’s a small cubby built-in where I’ve installed almost the complete-sum of our electrical needs, all centered around this unique power strip with individual on/off switches for each outlet (Huge thumbs up for this one). It’s also home to our Cradlepoint router & 3G mobile broadband card, which distributes internet to all of our networked devices, including the aforementioned AppleTV.
The AppleTV is largely fed content from our Drobo, which I’ve isolated inside the wardrobe, surrounded by layers of memory foam to dampen vibrations as we travel (it’s full of 8 TB of standard hard drives, which themselves are full of thousands of priceless movies and photos. Unfortunately the Drobo produces a lot of heat, as you might expect, and being shoved into a closet is not exactly the best idea. So finally, I’ve installed one of this guy’s cabinet fans, with adjustable speed settings, and it’s done an incredible job of keeping the cabinet cool with almost no noticeable noise. Looks & works just great, no complaints.
The bunk beds were actually built & installed by Timeless Travel Trailers in Denver, Colorado. Our experience there warrants its own blog post, and in the meantime I’d prefer to neither recommend nor discourage people from working with them. We had seen some work they’d done in partnership with Eddie Bauer, to build a custom Airstream for the FirstAscent team. We asked them to build us essentially the same thing: a pair of aluminum trimmed bunk beds that would look as original as possible. We’re certainly optimistic that they’ll work for us long-term, but we’ll need to have both kids on the road for a few months before we make the final call on that.
The real trick in installing the bunk beds was removing the old roof locker and replacing it with new aluminum end caps and a modified roof locker. Retaining some of the storage space was really important to us, and this small roof locker is what Timeless came up with. It integrates the forward speakers, some recessed lighting, and a pair of doors that open onto what we’re using as our library & game cabinet.
Even the bottom of the bunk beds are beautiful. Timeless did a fantastic job with the wood work, matching the stain on their new wardrobes incredibly well. We love the bottoms of these bunks.
And with that, we’ll wrap up this official tour. We skipped over several things, mostly in the interest of time, but I may come back and update this to be more comprehensive sometime soon. Anyone who’s still here, please exit through the gift shop.