Michael and Melissa's 1985 Excella - Airlie

I follow Michael and Melissa (with traveling pups Vito and Chino) on Instagram; I've been so intrigued with their fun off-grid adventures that I asked if we could "peek inside" their renovated 1985 Airstream Excella. These two have not let excuses get in the way of living their dream and here they are to share their story.....


Michael was born and raised in Northampton, England where he lived until he was 18; he then moved to America to go to college at Harding University in Searcy, AR. Melissa was born in Dallas, raised in Cedar Hill, TX and she too went to Harding University. They met on Facebook - well, not quite, but kind of. They'd met a few years before at a coffeeshop while in school. They never saw each other again but somehow became friends on Facebook. Michael messaged Melissa one day to see how they'd become Facebook friends, and so it began. (Smooth move Michael!) They dated for about 18 months before Michael proposed and they were married 9 months later. Following their honeymoon on the Greek Island of Corfu, they came back to the Houston area, bought a house, adopted their two dogs and lived the suburban life. They commuted to work, furnished a big house, accumulated too many things, and got two weeks vacation a year. But it never really felt like that was what they were supposed to do. There was something missing. 

In July 2016, Michael's Aunt and Uncle came to visit; Michael and Melissa had been all over the world and expressed to them their desire to travel more but didn't feel they had time. Michael's Aunt and Uncle suggested they quit their jobs and travel for a year. With dogs and a budget, they decided that RV travel in the US and Canada made the most sense.  So in August 2016 they began dreaming and planning what this journey would look like. It would take budgeting, focus, work, planning and a lot of help from friends and family. But it would, if it panned out, be something so fun and exciting to do together before they had kids. So, they bought a 1985 Airstream Excella that needed a ton of work. But they're creating memories, right? They found their Airstream on Craigslist and purchased it from a private seller in Mississippi in November 2016. They spent 8 months renovating while working full time. They had never renovated anything in their lives and Melissa had never even spent the night in an RV.  It was definitely out of their comfort zone. They learned how to do everything from YouTube, other RV’ers, and friends willing to help on weekends. It was stressful at times but so rewarding when they finished; they turned an old abandoned (and smelly) Airstream into a cozy and comfortable home. Meet Airlie.


The first thing Michael and Melissa had to do was figure out what they wanted to keep in the Airstream. They say that was probably the easiest decision they had during the whole renovation because the answer was…drum roll please…nothing! They wanted almost nothing that was original to the Airstream apart from the cabinets – they were in good shape and are built to fit so there was no reason to get new ones.  So, they removed everything, repaired the subfloor and started rebuilding from the bottom up.

These "before" pictures show that Airlie definitely needed a little love.

These "before" pictures show that Airlie definitely needed a little love.

Now let's appreciate the amazing things Michael and Melissa did to transform this run down space into their new home. They made the kitchen counter, from scratch, out of red oak. It was $50 more expensive to make it rather than buy one but they thought, why not?! It’ll be fun! Right? Not so much. It was at first but then they felt it became tedious. It does look beautiful though and they have the pride of the accomplishment.


They tore out the dinette and replaced it with a seating bar area. It saves a lot of space with just two adults living in the Airstream and means they can look outside easier while eating. The bar top was actually an IKEA closet door that was on clearance due to damage but as they were cutting it down to size it worked and was a lot cheaper!


They built the bed frame from scratch so they could have a real queen and not an RV queen (which is definitely smaller). The bed frame was built to fit with storage around it as well as underneath. The headboard actually came from Home Depot and was on clearance for $6 – cha-ching. They utilized every last bit of space.


The floor is Nucore luxury Vinyl Wood Plank in the color Ashen Oak. 

Melissa's mom made all the curtains. She’s very crafty and talented. They’re actually shower curtains from Target that they bought in bulk and then she sewed them.  The wrap around windows in the front and back had the original hardware. For all the other windows they used 1/4 PEX and spray painted it black and used brackets for the PEX. In hindsight, they think it would have been better to use metal conduit instead because they've found the PEX bends a little. 


They didn't need to do anything major in the bathroom outside of cleaning and painting. They did tear out the counter top and made their own from pine. They spray painted the sink and the shower pan. The shower pans are pretty pricey so they cleaned it up and then used a waterproof paint. The toilet came with the Airstream and they kept the medicine cabinet and used chalk paint to match the sliding bathroom door.  


Once again, Melissa's mom came to the rescue. She made all the cushions for the couch. Michael built the couch frame and then they found the fabric. They used pillow forms that they bought on sale at Costco. They say their couch is super comfy. 


Chino and Vito love traveling and have been so much fun to have with them on this journey.

Some of their favorite places on this trip have been Glacier NP, Banff NP, Pismo Beach, Napa Valley, Joshua Tree and Death Valley, but they are also big city people and loved Portland, Vancouver, LA and San Francisco. There appreciated the many different cultures in the large west coast cities. After their Airstream adventures are complete, they plan to travel more internationally.

Michael and Melissa, thank you for letting us peek inside your beautiful home. I love seeing all the amazing places the two of you visit. Follow Michael and Melissa on Instagram @continentscollide or on their website https://continentscollide.com.