EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Business

February 10, 2013

Trailer tribute: More mileage out of Airstreams

LOS ANGELES — What is it about Airstream design that continues to engender such passion more than 80 years after the trailer first appeared?

Is it the alluring, streamlined aluminum shell? The cozy interiors? The nostalgia for a simpler era?

“It’s a part of American culture that transcends time,” said architect Matthew Hofmann, 29, who last month opened an Airstream hotel consisting of four tricked-out trailers parked midtown at the Santa Barbara Auto Camp off De La Vina Street. “It symbolizes style and adventure. There is something very fundamental about getting in your car and driving across country. It’s in our blood.”

On a recent afternoon, curious pedestrians repeatedly interrupted Hofmann and business partner Neil Dipaola to ask if they could take a peek inside the trailers. Upon entering, they found renovated interiors with hotel upgrades perfectly suited for “glamping” (glamourous camping): mini-bars, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, air conditioning and 1,000-thread-count sheets, all for $150 per night.

According to Airstream, about 70 percent of all the trailers ever manufactured by the company are still in use, so it is not surprising that Hofmann, as well as other entrepreneurs, would think to use them as lodging. Singer Kate Pierson of the B-52’s opened her second vintage Airstream hotel — six trailers near Joshua Tree, Calif. — in November.

But unlike Pierson’s playful kitschy decor (think the B-52’s “Love Shack” video), Hofmann’s Airstreams stand out for their surprising elegance. The modern updates are no different than any home remodel, he said, and he viewed his trailers from the 1950s to 1970s as floor plans for small-space living.

How to create an open and airy feel in just 150 to 200 square feet? Cut the excess, Hofmann said.

“I tried to lighten them up and simplify them while maintaining their classicism,” he said.

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