Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The True Colors of a Tin Can

The simple things have always appealed to me.  The decision to give up tent camping (though not entirely) and switch to a camper included a conscious decision to keep it simple.  The Tin Can spoke to my reminiscence of days gone by, and I swore I would never change her.  For 10 years, I enjoyed living, for bits and pieces of time, in the Tin Can, with few improvements and satisfied with a simple shelter.

I guess I didn't count on getting older.

For the last few years, I have held this idea in the back of my mind to update the Tin Can, make her my own.  It wasn't that I wanted something fancier, though having plumbing that works is a bonus, I just wanted her to be a place of refuge, I wanted the Tin Can to reflect me.  The project began last year, when my husband generously sent the 1970 Airstream to the restoration Guru, Tony Secreto, for updating of the systems.  When I finally got her back, she had all new plumbing, heat, a hot water heater, original Airstream propane tanks, and a new hitch, plus countless other minor updates.  This summer, my husband and I began restoring the interior ourselves, and it has been so much fun!

BEFORE: Preparation Time!
I started by taking everything I could out of the Tin Can.  Cupboard doors came off, yucky carpet ripped out, furniture gone, drawers emptied.  Having formerly been a cleaning lady, I found myself disgusted by the 40+ years of filth I uncovered.  I thought I kept the camper spotlessly clean, I could not have been more wrong.  But before I could begin cleaning, I wanted to sand down all the wood.

BEFORE: Roof Vent

BEFORE: Filthy Closet

BEFORE: The sanding begins
Anticipating a challenge with old wood, I was pleased to find that the sanding was easier and quicker than I feared.  Down to bare wood, the camper was covered in dust and grime.  Two days of cleaning every nook and cranny made my heart lighter but left my hands bleeding and sore.  Just a quick tip:  The cleaning product, TSP, doesn't just eat through rubber gloves, it eats through flesh as well.  Then my hands turned purple and swelled up like little water balloons, but I didn't care so much because the Tin Can was clean!  The really fun part was yet to come.

I chose a stain for the wood called "cabernet", and it was exactly what I wanted.  Once the first coat of stain was on, a light sanding was required.  I asked my husband to help me with that, because my hands were clenched into semi-permanent fists from the flesh-eating cleaning solvent, but while I went into the house for a half hour to make dinner, the husband took control of my project.  As soon as I stepped back into the Tin Can, it occurred to me that the oven, stove, and sink were missing.  Hubby decided new ones were necessary, as well as a new counter.  Okay, then.  Add more time, more money, and more appreciation for my mate on this project.

BEFORE: But I was only gone a half hour!

BEFORE:  The old kitchen

The removal of said appliances and structures revealed the last of the grime, but I found Simple Green worked just as well as TSP.  Also, I now had the opportunity to stain the wood behind the counter and inside the cupboards.

BEFORE:  Refrigerator…GONE!
It should have come as no surprise - but it did - when my husband also tore the refrigerator out.  We probably should have done some research first.  There are no longer any RV refrigerators made that will fit in the space provided in the 1970 Airstream.  Creative thinking on my husband's part led us to cap off the propane option, tear out the venting system, and install a Best Buy fridge with a freezer on top.

I took the Tin Can to Kitchen Supply in Vandercook, Michigan for a new countertop.  The owner, who fears getting a reputation for creative design in an RV, not only made me a beautiful new countertop, but he built a cabinet under the new range top to replace the discarded oven (don't need it), and built a walled enclosure and bracket system for the new refrigerator and microwave to keep them from moving while traveling.  Once that was complete, I had additional staining to do, then on to the paint.

AFTER: New countertop

I had consulted with my good friend Debbie on the colors for the interior.  I showed her lots of examples on Pinterest of other Airstreams that I liked, and we took ideas from all of them to create my own design.  Debbie is full of ideas, at any given moment, for how to design a beautiful living space and she helped me define exactly what I wanted.  Once I started painting the walls, my excitement level grew.  I could begin to see the picture in my mind taking shape, and the result was beyond my dream.

I needed help with the curtains, but thanks to the combined efforts of my talented sister (thanks, Tracy, for dropping everything while mom and dad's living room was on fire to come to the scary fabric store during my time of need) and Nora, of D'Nora's Tailoring in Jackson, Michigan, I got my new curtains in time for my first-ever trip to Michigan's U.P.

Then my dad bought a piece of bird's eye maple, my favorite wood, and built me a new side-shelf for the couch.  I am so grateful to have a piece of my dad in my Airstream.  My son, Max, laid the new carpet (well, most of it, but he's 19 and had "plans" so I had to finish it) and my girls gave me encouragement, helping by doing laundry and preparing meals so I could keep working.  It warms my heart to know that my family and dearest friend wanted this project for me as much as I wanted it for myself.  I could not have done it without any of them.


A few personal touches here and there, and the Tin Can is ready for unveiling!  

Dragonfly Windchime
Flowers from Local Farmer's Market

Dream Catcher

I still have a couple of minor things to do.  My nephew Gary searched long and hard to find original parts to build a table that tucks away when not in use, and I am anxiously waiting for his fine craftsmanship to complete my dining area.  I need to make doors or curtains for the four cubby holes under the couch and buy an old dining room chair, recover the seat cushion, for additional seating.  My sister is making some throw pillows out of the sentimental choice of dragonfly fabric, then the Tin Can is finished until next year.  The summer of 2013 will see a polished exterior and new custom awning, with sides.

Are you ready?  Here it comes…
BEFORE: Living Room

AFTER: Living Room

AFTER: New refrigerator and wall

BEFORE: Kitchen

BEFORE: Bedroom

BEFORE: Bedroom

AFTER: Bedroom

AFTER: Bedroom

The Tin Can was simple, basic, and marginally functional for years, but now her true colors are showing.  She has become my other home, filled with the colors of me and the work of many hands which are near to my heart.  The Tin Can's true colors are warmth and love, peace, happiness, and dreams that come true.  She's mine now, but also my family's, my friends', and she even belongs to a few strangers we will meet along the way, people who, like me, seek her embrace and shelter from the storm. Isn't she beautiful? And CLEAN!
AFTER: Closet
AFTER: Polished Roof Vent