Living Large

Mobile Streaming


Three-year-old Ava Carman enjoys hanging out in her parents’ restored vintage Airstream trailer as much as they do. “It’s sort of like a fort for grown-ups,” Aaron Carman says.

Aaron Carman likens owning a vintage Airstream trailer to owning a classic car, both for the wow factor on the open road and the ongoing maintenance issues. He and wife Amy found the 1971 Airstream about five years ago on eBay — it was in a barn in Eau Claire — and have been restoring it ever since.

Aaron, a cabinet maker turned project manager for a commercial design-build firm, and Amy, owner of Amy Carman Design, gutted the trailer to the metal skeleton, purging the avocado green appliances and dark walnut paneling, and redid the interior into a fresh, bright and functional space.

“As a designer, I’m always intrigued by small spaces,” Amy Carman says. “It forces you to be creative and resourceful and make the most of every inch.”

“There is not a straight line anywhere,” Aaron Carman says of the Airstream interior. “It’s the kind of project that takes 10 times longer than you’d expect. It’s a challenge from a design standpoint but also from an engineering standpoint. How are we going to make this work?”

They’ve included all the modern conveniences — flat-screen TV, Corian counters and updated appliances — and added lots of storage for camping trips with daughter Ava, 3.

Amy Carman punctuated the neutral interior with orange bursts of color. “It lent itself to something really modern and really creative. It was a chance to do some things we can’t get away with in our own home,” Amy Carman says.

“The biggest challenge was dealing with stuff we weren’t so well-versed in,” Aaron Carman says. “Plumbing is an ongoing battle with a 40-year-old vintage trailer.”

The luxe interior is nearly overshadowed by the shiny aluminum of the trailer’s exterior. The Wauwatosa couple decided they weren’t up for the polishing, which took a couple of months by a craftsman in Illinois. “It takes about eight hours to do one lineal foot,” Aaron Carman says of the labor-intensive process.

They’ve become quite the attraction on the road and at campgrounds by fellow trailer enthusiasts. “There is a whole subculture of people you can connect with if you want to. We didn’t know we were buying into it when we got it,” Aaron Carman says. “We are pretty low-key people, so it sort of doesn’t fit with our personalities,” Amy Carman says, but she and Aaron say they are enjoying the hospitality of other campers and the new world into which their Airstream has brought them.

Interior designer Amy Carman says the interior has a peaceful and fun feel to it with its soothing sage green color scheme accented by lively orange.

A former cabinet maker, Aaron Carman negotiated the Airstream’s curves in restoring the interior. He used lightweight Paulownia wood to craft a sculptural wall inside the trailer.

A Simpler Life

For many years, the stone structure on North Green Bay Road in the town of Cedarburg was nothing more than the shell of the building. Paul Rasmussen Construction completed the restoration in 2010.

The old stone house restored by Paul Rasmussen Construction near the intersection of Pioneer and Green Bay roads is deceptively roomy — and modern. And not just modern in the obvious ways like indoor plumbing and electricity. Inside the nearly 2-foot-thick fieldstone walls that have stood since the 1860s when the former general store was a pit stop for Civil War troops heading north, there is now in-floor heat, central vacuum and a reverse osmosis water system.

In restoring the historic structure — many will remember the shell it was for decades — Paul Rasmussen took great care in preserving its character: the wood plank floors, beamed ceilings, rosehead nails. “If these things aren’t preserved there isn’t going to be any of this old history for future generations,” Rasmussen says.

The property changed hands several times in the last few decades — Rasmussen even thought about buying it many years ago — but none of the owners made very much headway. “In the past everyone put their hands on that place but it wasn’t completed. Now it’s completed and it needs someone to live in it, to appreciate it. It needs an owner,” he says.

Rasmussen bought it from the bank after the couple who hired him to restore it went bankrupt during the project. He completed the restoration in 2010 and received the 2011 Residential Preservation Award from the town of Cedarburg.

Though he talks about selling it, he hasn’t ruled out living there himself. “I was sitting over there the other night having a glass of wine with a friend of mine imagining what it was like 100 or 150 years ago and seeing everything in black and white.”
The restored 1860s stone house is 1,600 square feet with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and dining room.

The kitchen boasts many modern conveniences, including a downdraft cooktop, dishwasher, garbage disposal and hot water on demand.

Small-Space Secrets
Want to know the secrets of living large in a small space? Interior designer Linden Laurent with Peabody’s Interiors, staged this small space and offers some tips.

• Smaller things create a feeling of clutter. Use large pieces but not as many pieces in a small space. It keeps it clean and creates a lot of punch.

• Use things that do double duty. A small chest instead of a side table adds storage space; a dining room table provides a large work surface.

• Keep a feeling of openness in a small room with versatile pieces: a drop-leaf table in the kitchen folds down when the meal is over; a secretary desk adds storage and folds up when not in use.

• A tall floor mirror will reflect light and provide a feeling of depth.

• Using concentrated color on a wall adds drama to a small space and makes it feel bigger.

— Janet Raasch