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At a site outside of Sedalia, Kerri Cole and Patrick Neely enjoy their rehabbed 1969 Airstream. Photo by Paul Miller

Fixer Uppers

How a Denver couple took a 1969 Airstream travel trailer from rodent motel to boutique hotel on wheels—and launched a new business venture in the process.

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When husband and wife Patrick Neely and Kerri Cole first stepped inside the 21-foot-long aluminum-clad trailer that would become “Bonnie,” the new empty nesters were just looking for their next fix-and-flip project. Neely, a jack-of-all-trades who has rehabbed everything from houses to vintage cars, had started fixing up unconventional spaces—shipping containers, a RoadRunner camper—when the Denver market got too hot for flipping houses, and Cole, a professional stylist for national advertising clients and local magazines (including this one), was happy to lend her skills to his endeavors. But once she saw this 1969 Airstream Globetrotter cleared of its rodent residents (it had been sitting unused near Fairplay for more than a decade), she knew this was one fixer-upper she couldn’t bear to sell.

Luckily, the tiny trailer offers just the right amount of room for the couple. Less than 140 square feet might not sound like much, but thanks to Cole and Neely’s combined prowess, the remodeled space is as functional for road trips as it is for backyard cocktail parties. The duo’s decision to forego the usual overhead cupboards makes the interior feel open and bright; slide-out IKEA cabinetry below the counters makes up for lost storage. A full-size memory-foam bed and dining banquette conceal even more stowaway space, and a pantry holds luxuries like a microwave and an espresso machine.

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All this function meets its match in the Airstream’s style: Cole aimed for the sophisticated look of a guest room in a boutique hotel, choosing luxurious finishes (think: Ann Sacks subway tile and rich walnut countertops), tribal-patterned fabrics, and stylish accessories in a bold black-and-white palette. “In such a small space, sticking to a formula (black plus white plus wood) ensures it’s streamlined and really flows,” she says.

The couple was so pleased with their work that by the time they took “Bonnie” on her maiden voyage last fall, a sticker on the back pointed admirers to their new portable-dwelling design company, Colorado Caravan (Cole and Neely are currently renovating a larger Airstream named “Betsy,” and are open to commercial and residential queries). “We’re thinking we might like to be the next Chip and Joanna,” Cole says, “but with Airstreams.”

Get The Look

Three budget-friendly ways stylist Kerri Cole brought home-worthy design to her tiny house on wheels.

Roadworthy Plants
Faux succulents from Target and World Market add a zero-maintenance, organic touch that will never need replacing (or watering!).

Handmade Curtains
When she discovered how pricey mini blinds were, Cole designed and sewed chic fabric curtains (using Robert Allen @Home’s Handcut Shapes in charcoal) that can be rolled up and secured with a leather strap or snapped down over the windows.

DIY Backsplash
Diminutive subway tile from Ann Sacks—affixed to the wall above IKEA cabinetry (from the company’s new line made of reclaimed wood and recycled plastic bottles)—adds a little luxury to the kitchenette.

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