See How a Designer Transforms an Outdated RV Into a Hip Family Home

Tour the boho Airstream that designer Melanie Raver transformed into a charming family home that oozes vintage character and retro charm.

August 25, 2020

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Stacy Keck

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Photo By: Melanie Raver

Meet Melanie Raver

Meet Melanie Raver, a Seattle-born interior designer with an effortless eye for color. The mother of three is well-versed in property redevelopment, design and staging, and never backs down from even the most out-of-the-box design challenges. Her latest project? Turning an Airstream from the 1970s into what may be the most enviable camper on the road.

Classic Camper Charm

The 1973 Airstream Argosy is definitely a head-turner. According to Melanie, it was the two-toned, orange-and-white vintage appeal that initially got her husband’s attention and reminded him of a vintage VW bus.

A Breath of Fresh Air

On the inside, the 24-foot camper looks like a work of art. With bright white walls, dark woods and premium, handpicked finishes throughout, the space feels like a breath of fresh air. The Raver family could not be happier with the final result of all their hard work, but are quick to admit just how much work it took.

Vintage Storage Solutions

Though the exterior of the trailer looked fantastic as it was, the interior took a lot more time, effort and money to reach stunning status. The original interior was in decent condition but wasn’t quite in line with Melanie’s vision for the space. “With a family of five including three young girls, we knew we needed LOTS of accessible storage,” says Melanie. “The existing cabinetry was very similar to an airplane.”

Total Gut Job

Melanie saw the Airstream’s small space challenges and storage issues as an opportunity to grow as a designer and develop her already well-honed talents. “This ultimately led us to take on a full renovation. Plus, I’m always down for a challenging design project!” she says. She and her husband set about gutting the interior.

Diligent Design Decisions

Demolishing the interior turned out to be completely worthwhile, giving Melanie the blank slate necessary to put her talent as a designer on display. Before she was able to experiment with finishes and visuals, it was necessary to frame the trailer’s interior infrastructure, keeping smart storage in mind every step of the way.

Intertwined Interior Design

What's the difference between designing a home and designing a camper? "When working, you need to be mindful and knowledgeable about the entire scope of the project,” Melanie says. The Airstream’s tiny footprint was so intertwined with plumbing, electrical and other necessary utilities, it was nearly impossible to isolate individual areas in the design process.

Fun Finishes

Once the trailer’s layout was established, Melanie was able to imagine the finishes. “I knew I wanted a fun fabric on these cushions,” says Melanie regarding the fabric she chose for the cushions at the front of the trailer. Every style decision she made for the trailer works seamlessly and represents her taste and personality perfectly.

Pint-Sized Style

Melanie and her husband worked from back to front, so the bathroom was the first area of focus. The humble room packs a stylish punch for its size. The Ravers were able to lay the space out in a way that amplified the storage and usability of the room.

Camping Conundrums

On your right, as you enter the bathroom, you find floor-to-ceiling cabinetry sitting adjacent to actual counter space, a rarity in the vintage camper world. Because Melanie chose a small vessel sink, she maximized the counter space available and made the bathroom feel much more open.

Custom and Curated

The sink itself is a beautiful, light cement vessel. A gold waterfall faucet sits boldly behind the sink and offers a textural juxtaposition. The expertly curated finishes make it easy to forget you’re in a 1973 Airstream trailer.

Mobile Tile Magic

The left of the bathroom opens up to a gorgeous custom shower. Melanie’s choice of penny tile curves gracefully along the natural shape of the trailer and oozes vintage charm. Penny tile was also a brilliant choice for the trailer due to its small size. Whereas large-format tiles may be more likely to crack, penny tiles are far more reliable in this application. The couple chose to apply the tile over a waterproof crack isolation membrane and use specific grout that resists cracking. “So far no cracks in the tiling!” Melanie adds happily.

Perfect Little Pocket Door

Outside the bathroom is Melanie’s pride and joy: the pocket door. She handmade the door herself and, through trial and error, eventually settled on the gorgeous distressed finish it has today. “The door was one of those things that ended up taking way more time and effort than [we] expected, but it’s honestly one of my favorite pieces in the trailer,” says Melanie.

Before: Dark and Dingy

Though the Airstream’s original bunks offered plenty of character, they felt cramped, a little drab and lacked the storage drawers that Melanie knew the space needed. The window-blocking top bunk combined with the dark, wood-paneled walls caused the space to feel small and claustrophobic.

After: Bright, Built-In Beauty

The three custom bunks are located in the same spot as the original Airstream bunks but are fully customized replacements that offer far more storage and perfectly suits the family’s needs. Removing the unnecessary top bunk on one side flooded the space with natural light that bounces off the bright, white walls.

Dreamy Storage Nook

The remaining top bunk on the right side of the girls’ area benefits from its own window as well as an adorable storage nook. The built-in shelving highlights the curvature of the trailer and contrasts the stark white walls with warm wood accents.

Open Concept on the Road

As you exit the bunk area, you enter the main living area and kitchen. This is where Melanie’s eye for color really comes into play. From the gorgeous walnut countertops to the bold fabric on the cushions in the sitting area, the area is filled with fabulous finishes that are a testament to her design genius.

Custom Wood Tops

“I knew I wanted the wood countertops and loved the look of the walnut with the white walls and cabinetry. I started sourcing out custom countertop options which I found were very pricey!” says Melanie. Her solution? She sourced raw walnut from a local lumberyard and chose the exact boards she wanted.

Bespoke on a Budget

“At the lumberyard, we were introduced to a local woodworker who loved our project and agreed to take on the task of making our countertops,” Melanie adds. By taking this clever route, she was able to get bespoke countertops made to her exact specifications for a fraction of the price. She chose to show the wood's face grain rather than the more durable end grain, in order to highlight the blond streaks she loves so much. The best feature, however, may be the removable cutting board that turns the sink into usable counter space.

The Unicorn Fridge

Melanie proudly refers to herself as a “research girl” when asked about the difficulties in finding appliances for the vintage RV. Her research skills allowed her to find a “unicorn of a fridge” that was both tall and skinny. Though it required the kitchen area to be redesigned, it gave the family much more usable space both inside and outside of the fridge. “I love when I have to switch design gears, and it ends up being a better product in the end,” says Melanie.

Top-Tier Design Touches

Opposite the fridge sits the oven integrated into the lower cabinets. The beautiful range would fit right into any modern home and looks elegant surrounded by the custom walnut tops and penny tile backsplash. The range hood is tied into the space with walnut trim and the whole area benefits from splashes of gold, a signature touch of Melanie’s design.

Splashes of Personality

Like the gold hardware and finishes that fill the space, touches of Melanie’s personality are featured throughout the camper. From endearing sayings to fun, ornamental storage like this walnut floating shelf tucked in the corner of the kitchen, Melanie has done a fantastic job making the space feel refreshing and thoughtfully styled.

Going the Extra Mile

The updated Airstream kitchen looks nothing like the original and proves how rewarding a little extra mental effort can be when designing a space. The intelligent design means that it works perfectly for the family of five and gives them the space and storage they require.

Sit Back and Relax

The last stop in the Airstream trailer is the sitting area located at the front. This space, because of its openness, feels very reminiscent of the trailer’s original interior. The walls rolling into the ceiling above the wraparound window exude 70s charm and highlight Melanie’s bold design choices. Most notable are the gorgeous custom cushions that Melanie worked tirelessly to create.

Fun Fabric Feature

Melanie sourced the fun, boho fabric online and fell in love with its “retro vibe.” The orange hues tie in well with the white walls to play nicely off the trailer’s exterior. However, the real design magic of these cushions is the way she laid out the fabric to line up seamlessly as it wraps around the benches. “I made a pattern for the upholstery from butcher paper so that each piece would fit together perfectly, just so, like a puzzle,” says Melanie.

A Space to Stargaze

The sitting space is a go-to spot for the family and Melanie is clearly smitten with the space’s fantastic features. “The overhead wood door. The fun boho upholstery. The sexy gold lights. And the amazing wraparound windows that let us stargaze at night,” Melanie enthuses about the space.

From Dream to Reality

“I honestly didn’t hold back budget-wise on this project. This has been a lifetime dream of mine, to own an Airstream and to renovate the interior. Because we would be living tiny on the road, I wanted it to feel like a home, NOT a trailer,” Melanie says. It’s clear that she and the family have accomplished just what they set out to do with the Airstream and we can’t help falling in love with the finished product.

Life on the Road

Melanie and the rest of the Raver family are currently living it up in the Airstream and documenting life on the road via their Instagram page @ourtinywander. Follow along to see more photos of the Airstream and witness their grand adventure.

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