Overhauling a Dilapidated Camper Became a Balm for a Newcastle Seamstress’s Broken Heart
Decked out with her hand-stitched goods, it’s now a sweet showroom.
TEXT BY VIRGINIA M. WRIGHT
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TARA RICE
Five years ago, Katrina Kelley bought a derelict 1968 FAN Coach Company trailer with the idea of turning it into a mobile boutique for Amphitrite Studio, her line of hand-sewn linen goods. She was prepared for the moldy interior walls, rotted beams, and insulation soiled with mouse droppings. She didn’t expect that ripping them out would become her therapy for grief.
Silver with a teal racing stripe, the trailer had been sitting, rarely used, in a southern Maine campground for 45 years when Katrina found it listed for $450 on Craigslist. The man who acquired it after the owner died had stripped out its appliances. Katrina’s husband, Jeff, a builder, was skeptical that it could be restored, but her enthusiasm won out, and they hauled the camper home to Newcastle. Katrina named it Fancy.
ABOVE Newcastle’s Katrina Kelley made all the fabric goods (except the rugs) in her freshly painted and polished vintage-camper-turned-mobile-boutique. Her husband, Jeff, framed the windows and door with trim milled from pine trees on their property.
She was a few months into gutting Fancy when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “She moved in with us, and I became her nurse,” Katrina says. Over the next two years, Katrina found respite in Fancy, sometimes working with a vengeance, sometimes sitting in quiet reflection. “I was losing my mom, and I threw my grief and anger into building something pretty, something she would have been proud of.”
Her mother died early in the pandemic, just as Amphitrite Studio was taking off. Katrina’s life had changed, and time had changed her vision for the camper. Forget the store shelves and racks. She’d rebuild Fancy’s living quarters and furnish it for contemporary tastes, spreading her tablecloths on the table, hanging her aprons in the kitchenette, and tossing her throws and pillows on the sleeper sofa.
Jeff framed the interior, installed drywall, built a maple kitchen cabinet, and made the camper road ready. Katrina painted the exterior, whitewashed the interior walls, applied a peel-and-stick “marble” backsplash and topper on the yellowed-linoleum table, the only original fixture, and replaced dining benches with sleek faux-leather chairs. Delicate clear-glass pendants with Edison bulbs illuminate surfaces and a scalloped pedestal sink occupies a corner between curtained windows.
Fancy’s first open house in Newcastle this summer will be a pivotal moment for both Amphitrite Studio and Katrina. “Finishing this has helped me move to something more joyous,” she says.