Argosy Dream: Liesl Petersen’s Groovy, Little Capsule Of Comfort

It’s a tale as old as the mountain town itself —outdoor junkie falls in love with town, inflated housing market blows it out, costs jump, and the colourful locals that make up the community tapestry are forced to scramble, or get crafty.

 

Home Sweet Rolling Home. Photo: Thomas Burden

words: Brian Peech

Sandwiched between a booming Vancouver real estate market and Canada’s marquee mountain playground, Squamish‘s rental pricing has been steadily skyrocketing and housing availability is scarcer than ever.

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While that would be enough to push anyone into the tiny home movement, it was a friend in need that inspried Liesl Petersen, a local painter and muralist, to jump headfi rst into her 1976 Airstream Argosy.

“She was a friend who had nowhere to go, so I was like, ‘You can move into my apartment tonight; I’m going into the Airstream.'”

 

Photo: Thomas Burden

Having just returned from a climbing trip with her then 8-year-old daughter, Liesl pulled up her sleeves and got to work. “By the time we got home, my daughter and I were acclimatized to van life,” she says. “So we just said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s rip this thing apart.’ I gutted it down to the bare hull, the exterior skin, and then stood there for a moment going, ‘Oh shit, what did I just do?’ But it became a blank canvas.”

“We just said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s rip this thing apart.’ I gutted it down to the bare hull, the exterior skin, and then stood there for a moment going, ‘Oh shit, what did I just do?’ But it became a blank canvas.”

Today, the 24-foot, unassuming bullet is replete with in-floor heating (“If you’re going to have a tiled shower floor, it might as well be heated.”), wood stove, and a live-edge maple countertop.

 

Photo: Thomas Burden

There’s also a high-efficiency, washing machine that washes and dries clothing in a single cycle, a dishwasher, and a queen size bed that stashes neatly under the dinette.

As a painter, Liesl had been exposed to construction trades, but had never tackled a job like this. With help from friends, and through the expected trial and error any DIYer encounters, she set out to rivet and repair the sheet metal, install the hot water tank, do the plumbing and frame the interior.

 

Photo: Thomas Burden

“I had a plumber stand me up, so I ended up being on my own,” she says. “It was actually really fun, and once I got the hang of it, it’s not as terrifying as I originally expected.”

The colourful floor of the Argosy covers the entire spectrum of the rainbow, beginning with red and ending in a purple shag carpet in her daughter’s room, where Liesl gave carte blanche for her to create her very own dream space.

In fact, there was very little Liesl didn’t do on her own — something she hopes will have a lasting impact on her daughter. “Now she understands how much work, effort and planning goes into a construction project,” Liesl says. “As well as just knowing that even if you’re completely homeless and living in your van, it’s possible to be comfortable and happy.”

 

A family moment in a handmade home. Photo: Helen Burt

The colourful floor of the Argosy covers the entire spectrum of the rainbow, beginning with red and ending in a purple shag carpet in her daughter’s room, where Liesl gave carte blanche for her to create her very own dream space.

“She had a lot of hand in the creative process,” Liesl says. “She’s quite artistic and creative herself. It was fun to give her free run in her own bedroom, just to see what she came up with.”

 

Photo: Thomas Burden

With decorative textiles and recessed lighting, the Argosy is truly a bright and cheery piece d’art. But the biggest reward for Liesl is that she’s been able to continue living in the town she loves.

“I was able to narrowly escape a crazy housing crunch that would have definitely harmed me,” she says. “People are starting to leave town because they’re having a hard time finding a place to live. But so many people don’t realize how comfortable living simply and tiny can be.”

 

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