Glamping in an Airstream

A bit of break from our usual programming: at only 180 sq feet this Airstream is certainly no loft, but probably the best you can get on the road!

About 50,000 Burners, as attendees of the annual Burning Man festival are called, were expected to journey to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada this week for days of revelry in a makeshift city where art is everywhere but showers can be hard to come by. The festival, which began on Monday and runs through Monday, sold out in advance for the first time in its 25-year history.

Among those attending this year are neophytes Rachel Horn, a Los Angeles interior designer, and Justin Kreizel, her husband and business partner, who gutted and renovated a 180-square-foot 1969 Airstream trailer for the trip. The trailer, which they found on Craigslist for $5,000, has a working kitchen and a full bathroom, a living room, a bedroom and plenty of storage space. (Their budget for the entire project, including the trailer itself, was $20,000; as of this writing, what they actually spent had not been determined, but Ms. Horn said they had “gone way, way over budget.”)

The couple splits their time between Los Angeles, where they have an interior design firm and a showroom for Rachel Horn Home, their furniture and accessories line, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where Ms. Horn grew up, and where they have another office and a retail store. Ms. Horn recently spoke with a reporter as she and Mr. Kreizel rushed to complete the interior design for the Airstream in California, for its maiden voyage to the festival.

How does it feel to go to Burning Man for the first time?

It’s definitely a big trip, especially if you’re a person like me who’s never even been camping. That’s part of the reason I’m providing myself with such a comfortable cocoon.

Why haven’t you ever been camping?

My parents were not campers — they were expatriate hippies who were living in New York and moved to Mexico, and had this very bohemian lifestyle. They just took us on trips in their tricked-out Volkswagen van. My dad put a Porsche engine in the van so it would go quite a bit faster than the normal 1972 VW van would, and so that it would run an air-conditioning system and an awesome stereo.

Then you have been car camping.

Well, we never slept in the car. Maybe it’s just that we didn’t have time to actually camp. We were always picking up and moving.

Have you done this kind of gut renovation to a home of your own before?

Top to bottom, in terms of gutting the space and starting over? Yes. But we have redone every single house we’ve ever leased, and we tend to move a lot because I like to be in different houses and do more projects. I get bored in a space when it’s done.

What was your vision for the Airstream interior?

It’s this beautiful, serene, elephant gray environment that has all these nomadic touches, and it’s really comfy and inviting.

What do you mean by nomadic touches?

The big thing is the Moorish influence — we have Moorish arches that separate the spaces. I’ve chosen Moorish-inspired fabrics, and then we have some wonderful lanterns and other accessories that are Turkish- or Persian-inspired.

So the design elements are meant to evoke nomadic cultures, as opposed to “We got this couch because the fabric is durable and we’re going to be tromping around in muddy boots”?

Actually, I have one bucket outside for muddy boots, and one bucket that you rinse your feet in before you come in. So yes, nomadic is about bringing in all the different cultures that were at some point or another, or still are, nomadic. But it isn’t really built to withstand a serious nomadic living situation. It’s luxe-nomadic.

Are the buckets part of the design?

They are. They’re galvanized buckets. They have to travel inside and then just be pulled out.

Most of the work you do is for clients with large homes. This must have been a big change for you.

Yes, that’s one reason this Airstream has been such a challenge. Most of our houses are over 10,000 square feet. That’s not to say we wouldn’t take projects that are smaller, because we do everything, but somehow we end up mostly doing very big homes. The average size of a master suite bathroom is the size of this Airstream. It’s made me really have to think differently about what’s going in.

I picked this gorgeous bamboo floor that I was just in love with. Well, we get the sample, and just one small piece of it was incredibly heavy. I loved it, I was so excited about it, I was all ready to order it. And Justin said, “It’s gorgeous, but we can’t use it. I can tell right now that by the square foot it’s going to be too heavy. You can’t add 500 pounds to this thing, the whole thing only weighs a few thousand.”

Do you have air-conditioning?

Oh, yes. We installed a fabulous, heavy-duty recirculating air-conditioner — it recirculates the air from the inside, and doesn’t bring in any air from the outside. That was something we specifically did for Burning Man.

For someone who has never been camping, Burning Man seems like a pretty extreme experience. What made you decide to go?

Justin has always wanted to go to Burning Man, and we have friends who go every year. There just has never been the right time — we either had too much work, or we were traveling. We have the time right now, and so he said, “Let’s do it.” And that’s the whole reason for the Airstream. I can definitely go be in the desert for the whole week, but I can’t just go and be in a tent. I definitely need a little something to hide in. Well, not hide — but a place to call home.

What are you going to do with the trailer after Burning Man?

I’m excited to go camping more. My husband calls it “glamping.”

What exactly does that entail?

I think having a bed, a shower and a cappuccino machine are requirements for glamping.


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