Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

Happy (Home) Camper

Campers are popping up as additional living spaces in the backyards of American homes. While it may not be uncommon to see a recreational vehicle or travel trailer "dry-docked" on private property, the digital age has ushered in a modern non-traveling twist that utilizes the space to add square footage to a homeowner's property for a guest bedroom, home office or man cave, says Jay Cullis, spokesman for Airstream, based in Jackson Center, Ohio.

"We're finding that people who buy Airstream trailers are finding all kinds of uses for them, beyond going on vacation," Cullis says. "As long as people have a Wi-Fi connection and the creature comforts of home, folks are exercising their freedom to use their Airstreams in unique ways."

The iconic Airstream trailer -- with its streamlined riveted aluminum exterior -- has been touted as a home for the road since 1931, and has become emblematic of American-style travel. With trailers that are efficiently outfitted with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, owners can use these spaces as getaways without traveling anywhere.

When not on the road, campers and trailers are pulling double duty and being used as:

-- A home office, creating a space that is both productive and professional, including easy commutes to and from the backyard.

-- A man or mom cave, which can serve as either a place for social interactions or a space to work on projects in solitude.

-- A teen hangout, which creates a drama-free scene in your home by allowing a special space for young adults to watch movies, play computer or video games and stay during sleepovers.

-- A guest suite is sweet for visiting friends and family, with enough space and privacy to accommodate loved ones.

"This generation is trading stuff for experiences, and silver bullet Airstreams attract those who appreciate midcentury modernism," Cullis says. "In an era of digital nomadic jobs, it's less about where your office is and more about how you office."

Kris Kircus owns nearly two acres of land surrounding her home, located outside Austin, Texas. Two years ago, Kircus bought an Airstream trailer, which she has nicknamed "Vie," the French word for "life." When not on the road, Vie is parked in the Kircus' backyard and is easily accessed by traversing a stone walkway from her home.

"I am a full-time teleworker, and while one of the advantages of working from home is that you don't have to get out of your yoga clothes, there are about 10,000 interruptions a day inside my house," she says. "Now, I walk the stone path from my backdoor to Vie and can focus on my work."

Kircus enjoys a change of scenery, whether she's traveling in Vie or it's parked on a crushed granite pad in her backyard. "Having Vie is a part of my lifestyle, and I love having the extra space without having to get building permits to remodel my home," she says. "The beauty is that I can hitch up Vie and drive to a state park for a long weekend, and still seamlessly have both work and play without missing a beat."

While an Airstream trailer ranges in price from about $37,000 to $150,000, it's important to check local codes within a municipality and/or homeowner's association before making plans to semipermanently park one in the backyard.

A trailer needs to be parked on a level and relatively dry spot, where rainwater won't collect. Also, an Airstream needs either 30- or 50-amp electrical service and both water and septic hookups to fully pitch camp, Cullis says.

Kircus has power, water and septic hookups in place for Vie, with a Wi-Fi extender in her home to boost the signal to her trailer for work and her son's video gaming activities with friends. "Visiting family and friends request to stay in Vie," Kircus says. "The trailer is also known by our neighbors as 'The Shiny Bar,' and it's become a place where people gather to socialize."

Amber Ehrlich of Phoenix, Arizona, has transformed her 2017 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer -- dubbed "Zoe" -- into a short-term rental unit. Parked in the backyard of Ehrlich's 1935 bungalow in Phoenix's Coronado Historic District, the "Zoe" experience features amenities both inside and outside the trailer.

Surrounded by a private backyard oasis with a fire pit and pool, Zoe houses a queen-size bed, working kitchen with dinette seating, bathroom and shower.

"Most of the properties in our neighborhood have guest houses," Ehrlich, a professional organizer, says. "Instead of building a structure in our backyard, Zoe can roll in and roll out."

Ehrlich has dedicated power, water and septic hookups for her trailer, which is especially important, since it is used regularly as a rental. Maintaining positive relationships with neighbors is essential to the success of Ehrlich's enterprise.

"There's something about the romance of camping in the backyard, and Zoe transforms the experience into 'glamping,' (glamour camping)," Ehrlich says. "I believe buying this trailer was a smart investment, as Airstreams tend to hold their value."

There are clubs and online forums dedicated to rehabbing old campers and trailers, Cullis says. "It's part nostalgia, but some might also think it's American enterprise," he says. "Not only do people have a sense of adventure when they buy an Airstream for the road, they also embrace its different uses when it's off-road."

Ehrlich says her dream is to someday live in her Airstream and rent out her house. "As decluttering is part of my career and lifestyle, you realize you don't need much to live a life full of joy," she says. "Having Zoe is part of a lifestyle that is very freeing and fun."

Park It

For more information on Airstream trailers, visit Airstream.com or call 877-596-6111.

To rent Ehrlich's "Zoe," contact her through TheTidyBungalow.com or Facebook message at Bungalow35.