For two people who spend their lives together traveling, Nate and Amanda of The Shalom Imaginative have found a creative way to root themselves in the idea of home while on the road. As photographers who specialize in weddings and families, the couple aims to catch the authentic beauty in everyday life. And yet, they seem to capture that beauty for their own everyday lives as well. While they travel most of the year, the couple wanted a space that would allow them to step away from their busy schedules and into a space that could feel like home. A home, based in Los Angeles, that could perhaps be as mobile as they are.
And what better home for that way of life than an old-school RV? Nate and Amanda taught themselves how to gut, remodel, and redesign the 18-foot long camper from the ground up. The result: a dreamy, creative space filled with momentos from the adventures of their travels. And while they aren’t calling it home, it can be a unique home away from home for guests on Airbnb.
First off, you spend your lives traveling for your photography work capturing important family moments. So, for you, what is the meaning of home?
AMANDA: We just smiled at each other when you asked that, because it’s one of the big things we focus on with our photography, when we’re documenting families in their homes. We always start by asking them, “What does home mean to you?” It can be a hard question and our answer may sound cheesy, but home is when we are together, and wherever we can feel inspired to create or just slow down. So home could be nature, in the woods, where we’re able to feel creative and can take a deep breath. The camper is all of those things. It’s not really our home in the traditional sense, as we are constantly on the road. For us, it’s been a great way to figure out what those senses of “home” mean and how we can create them wherever we go.
NATE: We just recently finished remodeling the RV so we have only take one trip so far—up the California coast to Big Sur and Yosemite. Our life and our business are so intertwined, so an RV can really be a great space to step away from it all. It is the most relaxing way to get away and unplug. Camping is great, but having a space where we can be creative while being in nature is really inspiring.
What inspired you to take on the project of buying an RV and turning it into a home?
AMANDA: We’re photographers, so we’re behind computers a lot when we’re editing. It allowed us to get out from behind a desk and do something productive with our hands. We love creating aesthetically inspiring spaces no matter the format. We’d always wanted to have a space that we could host in, and share with other artists for the same reason we wanted it for ourselves: to inspire and find a sense of calm.
NATE: I agree with Amanda. The crazy thing is that we just saw it when we were driving to a movie theater. We saw the RV on the corner and how cheap it was. Basically, we talked to them, and within 24 hours, we owned the thing.
Did you have any experience remodeling homes before taking on this project?
NATE: Never on a vehicle, no. I had done some construction and woodworking before, so I felt confident there. But we didn’t know anything about plumbing and electricity, so there was a lot of Googling and YouTubing the answers and learning from other handyman sources as we went along. We thought it would take maybe two weeks to complete, and of course that was not true. The more you get into it, the more you realize how much you have to do. We took it down to the studs. There was a lot of water damage. It was six months total, spread out over our free time between travels. But, here we are. It’s done!
How would you describe the aesthetic you’ve created in the camper?
AMANDA: Bohemian, but also very minimalist. Since it’s so small, we wanted to keep it feeling bright and white and open. We have sheepskin on the two seats up front. We painted all the walls white and left the wood exposed. We actually put down water sealant on the floor and it was supposed to be clear, but turned out bright red. So we had to rip it out and put wood back down. We have some small Moroccan rugs that help add some color.
And where did you gather the items for your home?
AMANDA: Mostly local boutique shops, some flea markets, and some family heirlooms. It’s a great mix of unique things.
What are your favorite parts of the RV? Or pieces in there that tell a story?
AMANDA: This sounds weird, but the toilet! Being able to throw away the gross old one and add a nice new one felt great. As far as pieces, we’ve collected so many along the way. We wanted to fill the space with plants, and we wanted them to be from all the places we traveled to. So we got a cactus just outside of Yosemite. We collected things from random shops along the way. Somehow, there ended up being a subtle fish theme and a rainbow thing going on in here. They are just things we fell in love with along the way. Now they all feel like they’ve come together as part of the story of this camper.
Why did you decide to start hosting on Airbnb with your new camper-home?
NATE: This is a space to step away from our busy schedule, but we just love the idea of meeting other travelers and artists and offering them a space that we enjoy so much. As we travel, we love staying in Airbnbs and in any kind of space that isn’t just a cookie-cutter room with stock photos in bad frames on the walls. And going back to that earlier definition of home: it’s not just a soft bed to us. We’ve dreamed for a while of having a few properties that we can live in between as we travel. And obviously, we would want to share those homes with other artists and travelers. That, to us, is the meaning of home.
All photography credit to The Shalom Imaginative.
Learn more or book a stay in Nate and Amanda’s creative camper in Los Angeles, CA.
Follow Shalom Imaginative on Instagram @TheImaginative and follow their adventures at #HowardTravelJournal and #ToTellTheStoryofBeauty.