This couple tackled an rv renovation while living in it architectural digest arkansas gas association

We though renovating a two-story house while you’re living in it was the ultimate challenge. Then we picked up the new book Tin Can Homestead ($25, Running Press). Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw write about what it took to gut-renovate their 200-square-foot Airstream—and live in it for months without things like a real bed or running water. Living in that small of space is difficult when its fully finished and furnished, let alone when it’s a construction zone, but the couple doesn’t regret the project one bit. "Renovating the Airstream was such a crazy job to take on, with so much money and time invested in it. But completing it affirmed our mutual desire to take risks and taught us to trust our ability as a couple to handle tough challenges," Natasha writes. How exactly did they get through the renovation with their sanity intact? We spoke to Natasha and got all the nitty-gritty details.

Natasha: We moved into the Airstream as soon as we had power. At that time, we didn’t even have running water, covered walls, or any built-in furniture yet. We slept on a platform I slapped together and stuck a mattress on, and we wore clothes out of a suitcase. We lived and worked in the Airstream for about a year-and-a-half. The big stuff was done within six months, but honestly, we were working on the Airstream until the day we handed it over to the new owners. There’s always more to do!

Natasha: It was definitely a tough process. It was important to us not to overextend our finances, so we would do a little evaluation every payday of what we were going to put money towards, and then we would do a little more. It was hard waiting, and it was hard living in disorder. It was difficult for me because I crave order and feel really unhinged sometimes if things around me aren’t aesthetically the way I would like them to be. Brett is so much more easygoing, so really the hardest part for him was probably dealing with me, ha. We were used to living in a small space together, having just completed a six month trip in a Volkswagen van, so the close quarters didn’t bother us, but running across the parking lot to use the bathroom in the middle of the night got old pretty quickly. Of course we argued sometimes—being in close quarters means being in each other’s space constantly. But it also means that there’s nowhere to hide when you have a fight, so you’d better work it out quickly. It also definitely helps to really like the person you’re married to.

Natasha: It definitely helped that we kept most of the things we owned in storage until we were further along. It made for less clutter. The RV park where we lived had shower facilities, so we were covered there, and for meals we ate very simply when we were at home and otherwise we ate out quite a bit. We were regulars at the Mexican and Vietnamese takeout places close to us.

Natasha: The hardest part was getting the Airstream into the RV park. When we towed it in, it was completely empty. We installed roller blinds over the windows and just prayed for the best. That part was super stressful; they hesitated about letting us in because of how rough it looked on the outside, but gave in when Brett said we had plans to shine up the exterior. It’s really hard to find a place to park an Airstream in Seattle, so it was really our only chance because I’d literally called every single place within 60 miles of the city. If I did it again, I’d make sure we had a place before we purchased the Airstream. I talk a lot about this in our book because it’s one of the most consistent things we get questions about.

Natasha: Once we were actually renovating it, we made a point of cleaning up behind ourselves very thoroughly, only using power tools during reasonable hours, and being very friendly to anyone who was interested in what we were doing. We had a lot more people who were curious about what we were doing; we never actually got a complaint, now that I think about it. Though I did have the maintenance guy one time say something to the effect of, "I assume you got permission to work on this, and we haven’t had any complaints, but make sure you keep cleaning up after yourselves." I just smiled and said we would. I’m a big believer in the notion that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.