Design

“It’s only original once” — Shasta trailer gets a facelift

They named her Pearl, a reference to her gleaming cream-and-white shell. But this cute 1959 Shasta travel trailer wasn’t looking quite so polished when she rolled up the driveway in May 2018 after a two-hour journey from Kingston. The cream paint was flaking off, the rust was creeping in, and it lacked the signature fins and Shasta logo — in short, the little camper was a definite fixer-upper.

And so Katie Cleary and her partner, Brent Schouten, set to work, returning Pearl to her original splendour in just three weeks so that their family could hit the road before Ottawa’s all too brief summer came to an end. They resealed the roof, replaced water-damaged ceiling panels, and put in new vinyl flooring. For Cleary’s birthday, Schouten bought her paint for the exterior.

“I was so excited, I actually spent my entire birthday painting,” she says with a laugh. Another Shasta-themed present came from her mom — a pair of replica fins, just as jaunty as the originals.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Cleary’s is a busy household. A stay-at-home mom to Bentley, 6, and Willa, 18 months, she runs a horse stable on her country property and teaches riding lessons. That meant sandwiching in frantic refurbishing sessions while Bentley was at school and Willa was napping. Luckily, the trailer’s interior was in relatively good shape: the original wood cabinetry, Formica counters, and vinyl upholstery just needed a little TLC. Forays onto chat rooms for Shasta enthusiasts provided encouragement and advice. “They all said, ‘It’s only original once,’ so that helped me make the decision to change as little as possible.”

Left: the old suitcases were found at the  Great Glebe Garage Sale. Right: The camper retains its original birch cabinetry and Formica counter. Photos by Justin Van Leeuwen

By late summer, the family hit the road, camping at nearby provincial parks and road-tripping to Cleary’s mother’s house in Oxford Mills and setting up in her yard. Everywhere they went, the little trailer was an instant attraction. On rainy days at the campground, Cleary says, Bentley would show up with an assortment of random new friends, everyone piling in to colour and play card games.

Indeed, her son loved the trailer so much that when they returned home, she would park it at the far end of their farm property so that he could ride his bike over to “camp.”

                                 The owners use the interior of the original gas oven for storage, preferring to barbecue outside. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

The refurbishment was a lot of work, but when asked if she would do it all again, Cleary gives an emphatic yes. She would love to buy a second Shasta, fix it up, and tour it around to regional craft sales or farmers’ markets.

But even as she dreams of a second Shasta, Cleary is most focused on this summer’s family trips. “We have so much camping to do, so many memories to make. This really is our favourite place to be.”

Behind the Scenes: at the Katie Cleary photoshoot
with Justin Van Leeuwen

Anyone who has tried to shoot a family portrait knows it’s hard to get kids to sit still (and not ham it up) for the camera. If your crew includes horses, dogs, and chickens, it takes a the dexterity of a professional photographer who isn’t afraid to step in and get his hands dirty.

We asked photographer Justin Van Leeuwen about how he herded all those creatures into one frame to create the awesome photo, which was shot in September 2018 and appeared in our Real Estate 2019 issue.

“Spending a warm afternoon at a farm with animals (and children) running around everywhere definitely lists as one of my favourite experiences,” Justin says.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

“Wrangling all together at once can be a challenge, however, so we tend to break up the components of the photo into manageable bits. We first determine the frame and what the image will look like. Next, we place props and items that the children would normally use — then quickly put the kids into the photo to take their photo. Then, we build other elements — adding Katie, some animals, and finally throwing a few chickens on the roof.”

Back at his desk, Justin combines the images together in Photoshop to create one perfect composite image.

Photos by Justin Van Leeuwen

We’re proud of our work with local photographers and we love sharing behind the scenes pics and  — as well as the backstory on how the fantastic images in our print edition came to be. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more.