Of all the vacations a person can take in their lifetime, a road trip across America is perhaps one of the most iconic. After all, thousands of miles of highways stripe the country, giving you access to every city and town from behind the wheel of your vehicle.
And if one’s vision of road-tripping comes with camping along the way, then there’s no better way to do it than with a trailer in tow. Some are over-the-top extravagant trailers with all of the bells and whistles of home, while others provide the bare minimum to let you sleep comfortably and safely.
To say that the trailer which Mandi Gubler found fell into the latter category would be an understatement. But the 1973 Bell Travel Trailer she bought in disrepair wouldn’t stay that way for long. You see, with her own two hands, she made the perfect companion for her own road trips across the country.
For Gubler, though, taking the helm of a seemingly impossible makeover project was nothing out of the ordinary. She runs a website called Vintage Revivals, where she blogs about her many forays into DIY-ing and interior design and provides her readers with tips for projects of their own.
And, as it turns out, buying a trailer had been a dream of Gubler’s for a long time. In a 2014 blog post, just after finding the camper that she would eventually renovate, she wrote, “For some reason or another I just couldn’t find one… for the better part of two years.”
But a casual Saturday morning browse of Craigslist’s antique section left Gubler stunned. You see, there on the site she found a listing for a small vintage camper, just as adorable as the one she had envisioned. “I just had to see it,” she confessed in the same post.
The DIY blogger also knew that the vehicle built four decades prior would not be in perfect condition when she arrived. “When you are shopping for a vintage trailer, there are a few things to keep in mind,” she wrote. “They are ALL damaged. All of them.”
Gubler therefore thought there may have been deterioration caused by water leakage or cracks in the exterior siding or frame. There could even have been electrical issues or tires unfit for the road. Yes, problems extending beyond the cosmetic could have been plentiful and could have stopped her from buying the trailer.
And when Gubler finally saw the trailer in person, she did, indeed, find that it was imperfect. For instance, the then-owner had previous trouble with the electrical system, and the trailer had consequently required new brake lights. There was also only a mere strip of aluminum tape holding the trailer’s exterior siding together.
What’s more, mom-of-two Gubler noted that although the trailer’s interior was functional, it was, as she put it, also very “teensy.” Indeed, the space seemed rather limited, with a small kitchen table dropping down to lay the base for a double bed. But despite the small proportions, four people could sleep inside when a further upper bunk was pulled out.
Happily, the miniature kitchen across from the sleeping and dining area was usable, too. Yes, Gubler could work with the gas range, sink, propane heater and ice-block fridge, which worked more like a cooler than a built-in refrigerator. And the DIYer also noted that, for its size, the trailer had lots of space to store things.
Moreover, despite its aged exterior, the trailer did have good bones. All in all, then, the pleased interior designer felt that “it was a pretty great little find for $1,000.” And after a bit more research, Gubler decided to purchase the 1973 Bell Travel Trailer, which she affectionately renamed “The Nugget.”
“The best part about these little trailers is that they are supposed to be fun and whimsical,” Gubler wrote, as she revealed her design inspiration to readers. Indeed, the creative designer envisioned a “retro desert vibe,” with pops of bright color amid a muted palette because of the space’s small size.
Remarkably, it took Gubler only four months to turn that vision into a beautiful reality. And her hard work took the trailer from the 1970s into the new millennium with the brightly colored flair she imagined. Yes, the Nugget – noted for its extra-small size – now feels spacious and airy thanks to her design expertise.
“After all the changes that we made inside like taking out the top bunk and cupboard, it felt so much bigger!” Gubler wrote. Repainting the dark wood in a bright white had an effect, too, since light colors tend to make spaces appear larger than they are.
And Gubler added the promised pops of color with a bright yellow wall. But while this stand-out facade appears to be wallpapered, it actually features a design that Gubler drew by hand with a paint pen. On top of that, she hung photography prints and a whimsical painting of her very own dogs.
Gubler even found a way to bring greenery into the space so that planters wouldn’t fall over and spill soil everywhere: a new shelf with individual holes securely held each leafy green that hung over the kitchen table.
The kitchen, too, got a kiss of color, though it stayed simpler than the dining and sleeping area. Gubler told Country Living that the contrast reflects her signature style. “You see everything the second you walk in, so make sure it’s not a rainbow fest,” she said. “Pick a couple of accent colors and stick to neutrals for the rest.”
Upon completing the trailer’s interior and exterior renovation, Gubler reflected on the long journey that she’d had. “This has hands down been the hardest project that I have ever done,” she said. “There were so many new skills that we had to learn and so many projects that went awry.”
“Is the Nugget everything I pictured? Yes and No,” she continued. “No, because it isn’t where I thought the design would end up, but that detail is completely trumped by the fact that [it] is in fact 1000x better than I thought it would be! I am SO proud of how this little guy turned out,” she wrote. “It is hands down the coolest project we’ve ever done.”