This Airstream Renovation Is a Delight for Its Delaware Owners

A pandemic-era project—refurbishing a vintage Airstream—turned out to be life-changing for this Wilmington family.

Not many people have a gleaming aluminum Airstream in their driveway, and when it’s your “passion project,” as one Airstream owner, Shannon Stevens, describes it, you learn to live with the continual and delighted attention of passersby. “I’ve made a lot of friends in the neighborhood, from people walking by when I’m working on it,” he says. “They are so curious. …They just want to see what’s inside.”

Even in a compact space, Stevens, who did most of the labor himself, found places to create vignettes, as with this interior porthole placed above a leather bench. The Airstream sleeps five, including a single bed and bunk beds, all of which rest above storage units.
Even in a compact space, Stevens, who did most of the labor himself, found places to create vignettes, as with this interior porthole placed above a leather bench. The Airstream sleeps five, including a single bed and bunk beds, all of which rest above storage units.

Stevens’ camper, which is happily parked beside the family’s five-bedroom Mission Revival home, perfectly encapsulates how people stayed sane during the COVID-19 quarantine. The serial entrepreneur—he’s currently the chief creative officer at an advertising company called Shiny and a partner in El Diablo Burritos—had longed for a vintage Airstream. They are not easy to come by, so Stevens kept his antennae up for years.

Stevens designed the interior with a (lightweight) sense of style: the deep blue kitchen cabinets and window treatments are accented with leather pulls. The dining banquette transforms into a double bed by lowering the table. Instead of finishing the rounded aluminum ceiling in a modern way, Stevens simply polished it up to preserve its reflective midcentury feel.
Stevens designed the interior with a (lightweight) sense of style: the deep blue kitchen cabinets and window treatments are accented with leather pulls. The dining banquette transforms into a double bed by lowering the table. Instead of finishing the rounded aluminum ceiling in a modern way, Stevens simply polished it up to preserve its reflective midcentury feel.

“This camper popped up on Facebook Marketplace,” he recalls, but the photo didn’t reveal much. “It looked like someone had licked the camera and shot it at night; all the badges were blurred, bleached out. It was so gray from oxidation that I couldn’t tell if it was a real Airstream.” But once he spoke to the owner and confirmed the pedigree, Stevens drove out to Aberdeen and bought it the same night—for $1,000, a steal, since a shell typically commands 10 times that price.

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Stevens was resigned to the fact that he was buying the Airstream solely for that coveted, iconic shell. The inside was a wreck—filled with snakeskin, beehives, and mouse and racoon droppings. But 2 1/2 years (and some $15,000) later, a treasure emerged. Other than a friend assisting with the electrical work, and paying someone to polish the shell, Stevens gutted the Airstream and completed the restoration virtually on his own. “During COVID, it actually saved my marriage [to wife Lisa], because I was out there all the time, probably 10 to 12 hours a day, and every weekend,” he jokes. “It kept us from being at each other’s throats.”

When Stevens (seen here enjoying the canopy with his daughter) purchased the Airstream, the interior had been wrecked by forest animals and the elements, and even the façade was dull and beaten up. But once it was polished, its shine hid most of the dents and dings.
When Stevens (seen here enjoying the canopy with his daughter) purchased the Airstream, the interior had been wrecked by forest animals and the elements, and even the façade was dull and beaten up. But once it was polished, its shine hid most of the dents and dings.

On the exterior, Stevens replaced some of the aluminum and rebuilt the door. Inside, he made economical use of the modest space. In the front of the Airstream, the table in the center of the wraparound dining banquette can be removed and lowered, and voilà! You now have a platform for a full-size bed. With three other single beds, the camper can sleep five. (Stevens and his wife have two children, but the rule is No Parties.)

He didn’t scrimp on style: The kitchen boasts a marble-look Formica countertop; real stone was a nonstarter, since lightweight materials are the way to go when you’re cruising the highway. The wood-look vinyl flooring, also lightweight, is in a rich herringbone pattern. The deep-blue cabinets and window dressings are accented with leather pulls inspired by the leather strap on the Bang & Olufsen speaker system. The divan is also real leather. Finally, Stevens notes that the Airstream is called a “land yacht,” and since he loves boats, he added an interior vintage porthole above the heater.

The Airstream is at rest, overlooking Rockford Tower. But Stevens takes the camper on more distant adventures, typically music festivals.
The Airstream is at rest, overlooking Rockford Tower. But Stevens takes the camper on more distant adventures, typically music festivals.

The camper isn’t just meant to be admired—it’s a home on wheels, and sometimes you want to hit the road. “The first thing that we ever wanted to do, and the impetus for this project, was to be able to camp out at Firefly,” he says. “Firefly was a festival in Dover. It no longer exists, but it was the largest camping music festival in the country.” But there are other music festivals to welcome the Airstream: In fact, a solo drive is in his future. “I’m going down to a music festival in Tampa, a reggae festival, so I’ll be making my way down there for a couple weeks, just myself, and then my wife is going to fly down and then drive back up with me.”

Related: This Greenville Home Pairs Modernism With Traditional Touches

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