Living with Style, People, Places & Spaces


Traveling in Style: the New and Improved Land Yacht

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Those of you who know me are probably raising an eyebrow at the mere mention of trailer (or Land Yacht). But I must say that since I visited Patrick Dempsey’s (“McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy) Malibu garden in 2011 with his petite Airstream cozied in as a guest house, I’ve had a whole new outlook on this mode of transportation.

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Of course, I also have an hysterical satirist friend who years ago gave up her Atlanta belle life, married and moved to Wyoming (or was it Montana?) and penned a book titled From Debutante to Doublewide… but that’s a story for another day.

Our story for today is of another talented  friend, Wooley Dutton, right over the Bay in Jamestown, who announced one day last summer that she and her husband were driving out to the midwest to pick up their old/new Airstream trailer… named “Runaround Sue” (after the song that was famous in 1961, the year she was manufactured).  Indeed they did; as a matter of fact, I was sitting inside “Sue” late New Year’s day, sharing a rose’ Champagne (and hibiscus blossom garnish) with Wooley and her guests. Very nice party space!

Airstream Trailer

But “Sue” really comes into her own as a stylish “sleep-around.” Imagine driving your suburban, with “Sue” in tow,  and stopping wherever you wish in this beautiful country (I see an Instagram campaign in the making). Like in Anna Maria, Florida, where she is right now (our cold Newport spring was just too much) serving as a guest house for visitors to the Dutton cottage. Unfurl the attached roll-up awning, string some lights, pull out those colorful pillows, light the lanterns and let the party begin! Jimmy Buffett could be very happy here.

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Photo Credit: Hillary Dutton – Styling: Judy Selednik

We couldn’t resist this take on Airstream’s original logo (especially since Wooley has such a nice collection of vintage scooters). Don’t you love that it’s referred to as a “land yacht”?!

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Photo Credit: Judy Selednik
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Photo Credit: Judy Selednik

The makings for s’mores…designer marshmallows ready to roast over the barbecue grill.

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Photo Credit: Hillary Dutton Styling: Judy Selednik

The goal of renovators New Prairie Construction (in Champaign-Urbana, Indiana) when they started this restoration project in 2009 was to include as many environmentally-friendly features as possible. The list is too long and comprehensive  to include, but suffice it to say that “Sue” is probably greener than most of our homes.

As the ad on the company’s website stated, “Sue” is”22 feet of rambling Americana” (are you still with me?) After the disclaimer that expresses the obvious — don’t expect a project like this to be cheaper than buying a new trailer — we get to what attracted my friend Wooley: renovating allows you to create a space tailored to your  needs and tastes while celebrating and preserving a piece of Americana. OK!

There’s a lot packed into these 22 feet — The Highlights:

  • New aluminum cladding, buffed to a mirror-like shine, replaced the original fiberglass and plastic exterior skin. This same polished aluminum cladding also details certain areas of the interior, whose finished impression brings new meaning to the term “mid-century modern.”
Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction
  • The entire interior was gutted and all wiring and plumbing was replaced.
  • Reclaimed and sustainable materials on the interiors include aspen or white pine framing, the flooring of Marmoleum, countertops of reclaimed redwood and cabinets constructed from “Plyboo” (plywood made of bamboo).
Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction
  • New Prairie also meticulously handcrafted all of the furniture, cupboards, doors, and trim, creating as many creature comforts as possible. The goal? Assets and features that would suit the majority of us to a “T”and make eco-nomads happy, too.
Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction
  • Maximum storage is tucked into every nook and cranny — there is a dresser and closet, kitchen cabinet and drawers, storage under and over the couch area, and room for trailer equipment in the dining benches.  Best of all? “Sue” sleeps 3-4; both the couch….
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Photo Credit: Wooley Dutton – Styling: Judy Selednik

…and redwood tabletop can be converted into comfy beds.

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Photo Credit: Judy Selednik
  • The bathroom packs a lot into a small space: composting toilet (because you don’t have to get the tank pumped, boondocking time is increased), redwood bench and counter, movable mirror, and an electrical outlet on the underside of the little cabinet.
Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction

A towel ring, and shower stall. Nifty, yes?!

Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction
  • The kitchenette features a sink with a lift-up cover and brushed nickel hardware…
Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction

…a stove top with two propane and one electric burners, an extra flip-up counter top…

Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction

…and a fridge topped with reclaimed redwood.

Airstream Trailer
Photo Credit: New Prairie Construction
  • Lastly, solar panels power most of “Sue’s” needs, with deep-cycle batteries in place when power is needed over a longer period of time.

VOILA! Finished and ready to roll.

Happy trails to you!

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Photo Credit: Judy Selednik

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Hillary Dutton – Styling by Judy Selednik

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

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