Ever since our first conversations about it, we’ve been looking forward to starting work on our new mobile pop-up shop. We spent a month developing the concept and working out the details of the design, and now that our PanAmerica trailer had arrived in Los Angeles and was sitting outside our office window we could hardly wait to get things rolling. But bringing this project to reality was going to take a lot more than eager excitement. This was going to be a long haul, and by the end we found we had a new appreciation for the expression, “the devil’s in the details”.
After jumping through a few hoops to get the trailer registered (the DMV really doesn’t like it when you buy things from out-of-state), we brought the now street-legal Airstream to Rod at C&G Trailer to have the interior gutted. Rod has been working with Airstreams since 1964 and has a deep regard for the quality craftsmanship that goes into each of their trailers. So when we explained we wanted to gut it entirely he was a bit, perplexed. “You want to do what? Take it all out? What, like, all of it?” We sensed we were wading into somewhat sacrilegious water, but after showing him Thierry’s concept art and explaining our overall intentions for the trailer, he started to warm up to the idea. Which is not to say he ever fully condoned what we were doing.
With the insides now removed, we took the Airstream to Joel at Final Touch Coach Work to get some new paint. Joel and his team specialize in RV paint work, but mostly for Winnebagos and tour buses. This was going to be his first Airstream and he too seemed a little shocked that we wanted to alter the pristine aluminum exterior. Nevertheless his team expertly applied a beautiful matte black finish and then rolled the whole thing into their hanger-size paint oven called “The Booth” to bake in the final coat.
Next on the list was replacing the floor, which thankfully everybody agreed was awful. We wanted the space to have an unpolished rustic feel, something reminiscent of an old wood shop, so we decided to go with some reclaimed oak from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. These wood planks came straight off the side of an abandon barn in North Carolina and had all sorts of knots, twists, and cracks. We had them finished with just a touch of oil, but for the most part left the wood just as perfectly imperfect as it came.
With most of the major overhauls done, we turned to our good-friends Eric Dobkin of Dobkin Construction and Patrick Kerze to begin building out the interior. Up to this point things had been relatively straightforward, but now we were heading into uncharted territory. The rest of the build would require an assortment of specially designed pieces and uniquely obscure props, which, surprisingly, slowed the whole process down considerably. The first items to arrive were our custom designed center table and leather couch from Environment. Then, after a lengthy battle with US customs, we received our hanging fireplace from Focus, which apparently looked very threatening to Homeland Security. We also started work on a series of panels, initially out of wood then later out of aluminum with Paul from Metal Worx. We were installing pieces as quickly as they arrived, but since almost every component had to be custom made progress was slow and sporadic.
But after a couple of months, and a lot of patience, things were starting to take shape. The table and couch were installed, the fireplace was being fitted, and the panels were being placed. Around that time we also received a large wooden crate covered in French markings. Back in Paris, our designer Thierry had been busy purchasing an assortment of props from the famed Paris Flea Market. When we opened the crate we discovered a treasure trove of vintage lamps, cabinets, crates and much more. It was like a Parisian Christmas, circa 1950.
With many of our props ready to be installed, the last detail was the panel imagery. Finding a company that could print 9′x5′ adhesive posters was difficult, but finding somebody who could also install on site was quite a challenge. Thankfully Sign-a-Rama of Santa Monica was able to set us up.
With the launch date of October 8th approaching fast, we kicked things into overdrive. Even now, while everything major has been set, we’re still picking up cool props and interesting gear to incorporate into the space. But part of the beauty of this pop-up is that it will never be “complete” in the traditional sense. It was designed to be modular and it will continue to evolve over time. New product and gear will be added, panels will be rearranged, furniture replaced, the layout with change. In a lot of ways the completion of the project is really just the beginning of much longer journey, one that will involve the countless unforeseen challenges of being out on the road. But as with any kind of adventure, not knowing what’s coming next is half the fun of it.