Editor’s Note: The following is a story published by the Wall Street Journal on Airstream Inc.’s Land Yacht prototype, designed by Mauro Micheli, and the use of luxury, cutting-edge appointments in the travel trailer segment.
Mauro Micheli has earned international renown over the last two decades as a designer of multimillion-dollar superyachts. His elegant designs for the Italian Riva line have reinvigorated a brand that has catered to celebrities such as George Clooney and Sean Connery.
One of his latest projects applies his spare, modernist aesthetic and taste for luxurious materials to a more prosaic pleasure craft: the camper trailer.
The U.S. recreational vehicle industry is bouncing back after being hammered by the recession, in part due to a bump in demand for live-aboard vehicles with high-design interiors.
As in many industries, it’s the luxury end of the RV world that is driving the recovery, industry executives and analysts say. But beyond the rarefied realm of six- and seven-figure bus-like motor coaches, the high-design strategy has also begun to infiltrate the market for more moderately priced tow-along trailers. Micheli’s design for the posh, 28-foot “Land Yacht” trailer, unveiled at the end of 2012, was commissioned by Airstream, one of the oldest names in the RV business, which is aggressively repositioning its line of signature aluminum trailers to appeal to affluent, style-conscious adventurers.
The Land Yacht’s floors are covered in contrasting bands of teak and white wood, an understated pattern seen in some Riva yachts. Expanses of blond-wood cabinetry, with a bare minimum of hardware and accented by dots of LED lighting, create a spare, elegant look.
Many interior elements can be elegantly hidden away: The sink and stove can be covered by a folding counter, a two-way mirror hides the television and a table in the front of the trailer rests on a telescoping pedestal that drops down to allow for more seating or sleeping space.
Bruce Bannister, Airstream’s vice president for product development, says the Land Yacht concept grew out of discussions with dealers about a new, top-of-the line model. “References to yachts kept coming up,” he says.
Airstream won’t say if it is ready to build the new Land Yacht. But in 2011, the company started showing a prototype design for a model called the Sterling, the latest in a series of Airstreams with interiors designed by Sausalito, Calif., industrial designer and architect Christopher C. Deam, a design-industry luminary who has worked with companies such as furniture maker Herman Miller and retailers Design Within Reach and Target.
The Sterling went into production last year with bright aluminum walls on the inside (traditional Airstreams have floor-to-ceiling paneling), stainless-steel appliances and brightly colored flooring in either “Arctic Dijon” green or “obsidian violet.” Big windows in the front offer a wide view of the outdoors, a feature seen in Deam’s house designs.
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