Summer 2022

On the Road—Or Off

Airstream

Words by Laura Spencer  |  Photos by Brynn Burns

In original condition or repurposed, the iconic aluminum trailer known as the Airstream has been a hot commodity for almost a century.

Airstream founder Wally Byam wanted to take his first wife, Marion James, camping—but she didn’t like sleeping on the ground.

In 1929, Wally created a travel trailer, a tent-like contraption on a Ford Model T chassis. The next iteration featured a teardrop-shaped shelter on the car’s frame, with a sleeping space, a stove and an ice chest.

And it was easy to tow.

Due to growing demand, in 1931 Wally opened a small factory in California to build more of these “Airstreams,” described as moving along the road “like a stream of air.” The demand hasn’t stopped since, continuing today with a new era of comfort and technology.

When Buffalo Mane Barber Shop owners Krystal and Phil Leitner purchased a 1968 Airstream in 2019, the trailer had already been gutted and renovated as a barbershop, so they just needed to make it their own.

“I’ve always wanted an Airstream,” Krystal, a hair stylist, says. “And we had this idea to, you know, put a barbershop inside of one. It’s a shop on wheels.”

Phil, a metal artist who runs Wheat & Waves, also designed the interiors for Buffalo Mane’s brick-and-mortar boutique barbershops, one in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and two in Lenexa, Kansas.

The Airstream was envisioned as an additional Buffalo Mane location. But in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold.

For now, the trailer stays parked on the couple’s seven-acre property in Spring Hill, Kansas—something their three kids (aged 11, 8 and almost 5) enjoy.

“Our youngest, especially, likes to bring her dolls in there,” says Krystal, “and pretend like she’s running the shop.”

There are plans to share the Airstream with other people, to market it as a location for photo shoots and commercials or to offer it as a mobile hair salon.

“It’s an extension of our company,” Krystal says. “So even if you don’t rent me out (as a stylist) for the day for hair and makeup, you can rent my trailer.”

In the future, she hopes they’ll be able to staff it as a hair salon and find the right place to park it.

Their 10-month-old son crawling in the mud at a campsite first inspired Lisa and Chuck Schmitz to purchase a sleek Airstream trailer. That was some 20 years ago.

“My husband loves anything old and vintage, and I’ve always just loved the Airstream,” says Lisa. “Being a designer, I’m a little particular about campers. And the Airstream has just always been appealing with its very classic design.”

Lisa is the founder of Lisa Schmitz Interior Design. Chuck, a contractor, works closely with her on projects–and plays the banjo in a band.

Their 1959 Airstream trailer, with its curved aluminum exterior, she says, fits their aesthetic. The couple refinished the original mahogany cabinets and refreshed the upholstery in shades of turquoise and teal.

 

The Airstream, measuring only 14 feet by seven feet inside, does offer a few essential amenities, such as a refrigerator and a gas stove and oven. But there’s often no cell service during extended family summer vacations.

“We all just end up being more creative,” says Lisa, “We do a lot of painting. The boys fly fish. We do a lot of hiking. My daughter and I knit and crochet. We do tons of reading.”

She adds, “This is our cabin. It just happens to be on wheels.”

Airstream

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