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MMonet had lily pads. Warhol had soup cans. Thiebaud has pies. Lotus-based jeweler and interior designer Kristiana Spaulding?
She has Airstream trailers.
While it may seem odd that hulking, metallic, toasters-on-wheels would provide such enduring inspiration, artists often find the bellows for their creative fires in unusual places, and Spaulding is no exception; she has found her calling renovating and remodeling vintage Airstreams, as well as designing a jewelry line exalting life on the road called, of course, Silver Trailer.
“I love to travel. I love community and I love to nest,” Spaulding says. “And I think with Airstreaming, you have all of that in one.”
It’s an ethos that Spaulding, who bears more than just a passing resemblance to Friday Night Lights actress Connie Britton, has made into a burgeoning career. Over the past few years, she has become known as the go-to person for those needing a perfectly polished mid-century-modern camper. Her space-age trailers (she currently owns eight of them)—usually staged as signifiers for roaming freedom and self-sufficiency, or timeless emblems of Americana—have recently been featured in commercial shoots for brands such as Sperry Top-Sider, Pendleton and Title Nine, and on television in ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and TLC’s Making Over America with Trinny & Susannah.
And as summer is the perfect season for outdoor exploration and Airstreaming, Spaulding appears with one of her burnished babies in the August edition of French Marie Claire; the fashion magazine recently photographed her and a friend with Spaulding’s vehicle, backdropped by the rugged beauty of Big Sur, as part of a feature on women who love life on the road with their campers.
Meanwhile, Airstream, the Ohio-based company founded in the 1930s, has also become partial to her work, specifically her retro-hip silver charms, bracelets and necklaces that she designs in her Placerville studio. The jewelry, which showcases the bubbly beauty of the curved and contoured trailers, is available on Airstream’s official website as well as her own site, silvertrailer.com.
How Spaulding turned what she calls an “obsession” into a multifaceted business is an unusual tale of art, ingenuity and entrepreneurialism, which she shares on a recent summer morning, sitting on her tree-shaded deck overlooking the rushing South Fork of the American River, with her lab mix Osa—her faithful road companion—resting by her feet.
Her compact 1960s ranch house, which she shares with her husband Greg Didriksen—an outdoor sports sales representative who was living in Lotus (just outside of Coloma) nine years ago when Spaulding joined him there from San Francisco—exhibits the same look and feel of her rehabbed trailers: light, open and inviting with a humble and homey sophistication.
Spaulding has just returned from Jackson Center, Ohio, where she was part of the annual gathering of Airstreamers known as Alumapalooza. There, among her fellow enthusiasts, she sold her silver jewelry, organized a “yappy hour” for trailer owners and their dogs, and offered instruction on how to redesign cabin interiors.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Tarrytown, New York, a wooded enclave located on the Hudson River north of Manhattan, Spaulding says she caught “aluminum fever” at the age of 7, when her father, who worked for Scholastic, surprised her and her two older sisters with an impromptu cross-country summer road trip.
“He just pulled up in the driveway in a VW and said ‘We’re going to California,’ ” Spaulding says. “They loaded us up in the van and we were ultimately going to see my auntie in San Diego.”
It was in Yellowstone National Park where she spotted her first Airstream and became overcome by “the whole fascination that you can own a little house and still have your home at the same time,” she says. “It’s an amazing concept, this idea of minimal living. I’ve been keeping my eye on them ever since.”
She developed her love of “modern, streamlined style” as a child when visiting a now-defunct contemporary home décor store in White Plains that she describes as a “designer IKEA” with her mother. Her grandfather, a sailboater and avid woodworker, instilled in her an appreciation for space efficiency and a DIY mentality, which compelled Spaulding to take wood shop and jewelry-making classes in high school.
“I still don’t know how to cook and sew, but I can use a cordless drill and power tools,” she says with a laugh.