Introducing our 1998 25 foot Airstream Safari. We purchased her in May of 2011, spent almost a full year renovating the interior and polishing the exterior, and then made it our full-time home in June of 2012. Since then we have made many more changes and updates. All the renovations are documented below along with the corresponding blog posts.
2011 - 2012
It also appeared that the clear coat issue was only going to worsen, and since stripping and polishing an airstream is a huge undertaking we figured it was now or never. So in mid-May of 2012, only a month before the closing on our house, we took the plunge.
Here she is on the first day we owned her parked in the driveway of our former home in Vermont. The lighting in this picture hides it well, but much of the clear coat on the top half of the airstream was peeling off, and in some spots, the aluminum had oxidized to an ugly grey-brown. At first, we thought it was something we could live with, but after spending so much time renovating the inside we couldn’t bear to leave the exterior in such a state of disarray.
Without going into detail about the process, let’s just say that it was a LOT of work. And it was totally worth it. We got rid of the ugly blue stripe (along with the map that some previous owners had stuck to the side), we buffed out the oxidation, and after about two weeks of polishing her true beauty began to shine through.
The other change we made to the exterior was to replace the old ceiling vents with two Maxx Air Fans. These amazing fans allow air in while keeping the rain out. They also have nifty remote controls for when you just can’t get out of bed to turn the fan off.
*Update: These fans are crap. We’ve had numerous issues with both the fans, the mechanism that raises and lowers the cover, and the remote controls. They are also very loud! We do not recommend this brand.
The inside of the Airstream received an almost complete redo. The first order of business was to strip nearly everything out, leaving behind only the refrigerator and shower. The ugly, stained baby blue carpeting had to go and and a new dark brown laminate floor was installed.
The hideous, outdated couch came apart in sections and was taken into the house for a complete overhaul. We replaced the old foam and crafted a brand new cover using a durable fabric in a neutral gray color.
The plastic-like accordion style curtains also had to go. Using the existing metal rails and plastic clips we fashioned and hung a new set of green curtains. Completing the lounge area are new pillows in fun & bright patterns.
The other change in the living room was a new chocolate brown countertop for our corner cabinet. The old one was an ugly off-white with oak trim. Also, note the shiny aluminum wall above the cabinet. We don’t have a picture of the old wall but it was covered with the same fabric as the couch- yuck!
The kitchen also received a new countertop and aluminum backsplash. All the original appliances were in great shape so we kept them. We did make a few other changes in the kitchen, including painting the stove fan hood black to match the stove color, replacing the sink faucet with one that had a built-in sprayer head, and installing an under sink soap dispenser. We also ripped out the old kitchen window curtain and replaced it with a custom made roller shade using some cool airstream themed fabric.
The bathroom was treated to a new countertop, aluminum backsplash, sink, and faucet. We also replaced the toilet with a porcelain bowl.
The bedroom went through the biggest structural change. This model Airstream originally had twin beds in the bedroom. The previous owners had converted the two beds into one by covering them with wooden slats and throwing a futon on top. A great solution for weekend trips, but for full-time living, we wanted something a bit more functional. It was important to both of us that we had space to walk around the bed (climbing over each other in the night is such a drag), some sort of nightstand, and under the bed storage. As you can see the old bedroom didn’t offer any of this.
Tim ripped everything out and started from scratch. First, he built a custom bed frame with lots of storage. The area on the far right is accessed through the outside hatch, and the area on the far left is under a door in the bed platform. Here we store things we don’t anticipate using often (at least for now), like one pair of nice shoes each and our winter coats. The large compartment in the middle is where we store our laundry basket. To get to it you just open the doors and slide it out.
The kitchen got a new backsplash! Tim replaced the original with a piece of aluminum before we moved in. It looked great at first, but over time the bare aluminum began to tarnish and develop water spots and scratches. The only way to clean it was with aluminum polish – a messy and impractical solution.
So we changed it again. This time we used stick on tiles with a thin metal finish. They were easy to install and the end result looks great!
The bathroom was feeling left out so we gave it a new backsplash as well. Just like in the kitchen, the sheet of aluminum had become tarnished and stained with water spots that no amount of cleaning could remove.
The simple solution was to cover it with another peel and stick backsplash. This time we used a popular product called Smartiles. Installation was easy and after giving the bathroom a fresh coat of paint we had a whole new look.
This is the third set of pillows I’ve made for the Airstream couch. Three years, three sets of pillows — not bad. The old ones were flat in spots and lumpy in others. Also…I really like redecorating and pillows are a simple way to make a big impact.
Moose Brook State Park
During our initial round of renovations before moving into the Airstream I made new curtains for the bedroom. It was my first time making RV curtains and they were never quite right. Aside from some crooked seams, the fabric was not the greatest choice because it let in too much light.
It was time for a change. While parked in my brother’s driveway with access to a large table, I employed the help of my mom and we made a new set of gorgeous linen curtains lined with black out fabric.
We turned our hallway into a mini office with a removable desk. Our main space issue in the Airstream is that we only have one table that serves as both Tim’s office, the dining room, and the coffee table. Not much room left for me.
Tim came up with a genius solution to utilize the space in the hallway that leads to the bedroom. It was a simple project and using nothing but a laptop stand, a piece of wood and two metal shelf brackets I got myself an office!
Airstream Updates: New Curtains & A Hallway Mini Office
The first round of polishing took place in May of 2012. Fast forward to the winter of 2016 and we were in desperate need of another polish. Over the years the bare aluminum had begun to develop oxidation and water spots. We had also accumulated a hefty dose of scratches. From afar it still looked great, and in photos it looked even better, but up close it was in a pretty sad state.
So we set ourselves up in the desert with three tubes of polish, two different powered polishers, a generator to run them, and a selection of nearly every kind of polishing pad on the market.
In theory it should have been a pretty straight forward procedure. You put a scant amount of polish on a small section of the Airstream and polish until it’s gone. The reality was that we struggled with the amount of polish, the speed of the polisher, the polishing pads getting gummed up easily and then creating more scratches, the varying outside temperature affecting the polish, and most of all, our exception that after all this work the result should be nothing short of perfect. It took about a month of trail and error, polishing and re-polishing, until we finally got the whole thing done shined to perfection!
Airstream Update: Polished!
Oh hey look, another new set of pillows! There’s not a lot of decorating that goes on inside a 200 square foot home. If you want to mix it up and change things around about the only things in contention are the couch pillows, our one rug, and the curtains. Since the bedroom curtains got replaced last fall, and the rug is still in good shape, new pillows are usually just the thing to spice it up.
The blue & grey pillows on the couch naturally led to recovering the living room valances and making a new cover for the catalytic propane heater. The fabric was a $5 score at the fabric store and the two projects took only a few hours to complete.
Through the Carolinas and Into Florida
While renting a house for three months in the Florida Keys we took on several major Airstream renovation projects. First and foremost was ripping out the carpet walls and replacing them with a much nicer layer of foam-backed vinyl.
While the Airstream was empty of furniture and belongings, we took the opportunity to replace the floor…again. The dark brown laminate that we installed back in 2012 had not held up well. Turns out it was highly susceptible to dings, scratches, and scuffing. Simply looking at it the wrong way caused the finish to scratch, and as a result, we had a number of unsightly imperfections.
This time we choose a different brand and a lighter color. The installation was fairly easy and the result a brand new floor that will hopefully last a lot longer than the first one. *2018 update: More than a year later and we don’t have a single scratch or imperfection in this floor. Pergo brand for the win!
Next, we painted the upper cabinets in the bedroom. Covering up the dark, oak finish lightened up the room and made it feel like a whole new space.
Finally, we made some changes to the lounge area at the front of the Airstream so it would be more comfortable and functional for both of us. We lifted the couch to accommodate a sliding table for me, and lifted the counter so the large table had more room to move.
This renovation included many more updates such as new 12-volt outlets, a new rug, and some outside painting around the wheels and bumper. You can read all about in this post:
Airstream Updates: Replacing the Mouse Fur Walls & Much More
Two years after our month long polishing adventure, our Airstream was in desperate need of another round. The years of travel had resulted in water spots, scratches, and road grime stains. Not to mention all the scars from the layers of ground in dirt and bugs.
Neither of us were up for another round of polishing, so we took it to the professionals. It was a little bit of pain because we had to find another place to live for two weeks, but in the end we are very happy with the results.
We tackled another round of painting in the hallway. The intention was only to paint the bathroom door and two walls on either side. But as tends to happen, the project blew up until it consumed nearly one whole side of the Airstream. In the end, it took two full days of taping, painting, and living in close quarters with wet paint to complete the project. The change from drab brown to bright white made quite the impact!