A while back, I had a modest collection going: a couple of old Airstreams and a Serro Scotty. My dream is to build one from scratch, sort of like a modern update of the classic canned-ham silhouette. I’m not sure if it’s the design I fell in love with or the lifestyle they promise. I find myself fantasizing a lot about living in one while I build a house, or buying a small, remote piece of land in upstate New York and visiting on the weekends with my camper in tow.
I’ve had one here for about a year that’s been waiting for my full attention. It’s a purely custom trailer (pictured here) that was built by a guy in Lambertville, New Jersey, who I’ve come to hold in great regard. The shape is reminiscent of a small Airstream camper, but he made it from the quarter-inch ribs and the top of a 1940s Trenton city bus, which he welded to a frame of his own design. So it’s a bit wider and taller than your standard trailer from the fifties.
He planted it on footings, which is how it stood for the next eight years, while he and his wife lived in it and built their house next door, and then for the better part of the next six decades after that. When I found it, it was almost totally dent-free.
This trailer embodies everything I love about design, especially how even the most utilitarian elements can become sophisticated under a craftsman’s meticulous attention. The countertops, for example, are hand-formed aluminum. The walls and ceiling are paneled with single-veneered pieces of douglas fir plywood, not a single knot in sight. Even the curtains are original. I salvaged their sewing machine with the trailer and had it restored. I’m asking my mom to sew a new set—because I may be a furniture maker, but I’m all thumbs with thread.
There’s this expectation, I realize, in calling myself a modern designer that I’m always going to try something new. But sometimes, restoration is enough. This trailer’s everything I’d want for my own, and it was built almost 70 years ago. He may not have thought of himself a modern designer, if he thought of himself at all, but he was well ahead of his time. I’ve been slow in getting around to it because I’ve been busy. But there’s a part of me that’s worried since I brought it here about destroying such a beautiful thing. Even if it’s in the course of restoring it to its rightful state.