Exploring Hot Trends, How-Tos and Local Options for Stunning Decor
Apr 1, 2013
Modern Mansion To Go
After years of searching for a vintage trailer to rehab, Randy Alexander of the Alexander Company found a rough (squirrels and other critters had chewed inside), but structurally sound, vintage trailer to update and take on the road. Since purchasing, the Alexanders have truly made their 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion (RM) feel like a second home, adding not only updated comforts, such as a roomier bathroom, efficient kitchen and surround sound system, but also an interior that reflects 1950’s design.
You can tour the Spartan Royal Mansion – along with a luxe downtown condo also designed by the Alexander Company, and other modern homes – during the April 6 Madison Modern Home Tour. Use the promotional code "MMOCA" when buying tickets to receive a $5 discount and have $5 of your purchase donated to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
I caught up with the Alexander Company to get the scoop on the trailer and its renovation.
First, can you tell me a little about the Spartan Royal Mansion?
The Spartans were precursors to the Airstream trailers that are so popular now. Unlike the Airstream, the Spartans were originally designed to be towed someplace and parked for good. Nonetheless, we wanted to take ours on road trips. This would require a fair amount of configuring and jiggering and reconfiguring and rejiggering and then some. By the time we'd made it road-worthy, it would have been cheaper to buy a brand new Airstream—and a brand new yacht, too—but we loved the look of the Spartan, and we loved the challenge of adapting it to our needs. It's thoroughly livable.
Photo by Randy Alexander
What attracted you to the RM?
Its unique fuselage style and Atomic-Era design. Originally, the Royal Mansion was never meant to be a camper/travel-trailer, but rather a home with the option of mobility. The challenge in its restoration was to make it operate without permanent hook-ups and increase its mobility to make it much like today’s campers or RVs.
Your RM is featured on this week’s Madison Modern Homes Tour. What makes it unique and an appropriate fit for the show?
These homes are very rare and have a singular modern midcentury style. It is built of high quality aluminum, which was accomplished using aircraft construction techniques. By using this material, the Royal Mansion is lightweight, which allows for economical towing.
What makes it stand apart is the interior design: soft colored textured upholstery fabrics and beach wood paneling present a warm and modern look that is juxtaposed with polished aluminum and acrylic. It is an adaptation of a vintage midcentury modern home – a reflection of the modern sensibility of moving away from grandiose over-built houses and getting back to what’s essential for living, all while providing a sense of luxury. The name pretty much sums it up.
Photo by Suzanne Alexander
Do you have plans for other changes?
We returned from our first trip with a short list of things that needed altering. For example, the water pump was loud and it was embarrassing to park next to other trailers that were quiet. When we washed dishes or brushed our teeth, we were the loudest trailer in the park. So when we got home, we installed a quieter pump and had it insulated. That'll make us better neighbors when we travel. As for other changes, we'll see how our next trip goes.
What reactions do you get when you take it on the road?
Last fall, the RM made its virgin voyage. We traveled out west and everywhere we stopped people wanted to see inside and take photos of the RM, as if it were a monument itself. People loved it. For some, it was nostalgic. For others, inspiration. And of course there were others who had no idea what it was and were simply curious.
Have you seen other trailers like your Spartan Royal Mansion?
There are other RMs out there that have been refurbished, but we haven't seen one reconfigured in this way to be road-worthy.
What is your favorite thing about your RM?
It doesn't matter where you are. It feels like home.
Photo by Suzanne Alexander with Tyler Farner