- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Several years ago, a friend told Minneapolis furniture designer Bert Taylor he should look up “teardrop campers” on the Internet.

It changed his life.

“This was a scale I could work with,” Taylor, 63, said. “These were basically the size of large pieces of furniture.”

Today, Taylor and a small staff build sleek, compact, retro-style camper trailers from a workshop in Minneapolis’ warehouse district.

His 3-year-old enterprise, Vistabule, is modest but growing; he built 12 campers last year and this year, his goal is 36.

Vistabule is a portmanteau word combining vista - drawn from the signature gaping window that affords its occupants ample views - and vestibule, suggestive of the cozy confines of the 5-foot-by-10-foot trailers.

“I wanted to take the cave on wheels and turn it into an observatory on wheels,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/V3oqup ) while showing a reporter around his workshop.

The place smells of a woodworking shop - sawdust from the blonde-hued Baltic birch that forms the interior paneling of the campers. The workforce on this day consists of his brother Dave, 67, and friend and partner Don Grandbois, 77. The average age is reduced by Bert Taylor’s daughter Lilly, 26, who works the computer.

The atmosphere is relaxed and joking. Two containers of Franzia boxed wine are perched on a cabinet, ready for dispensing. Among Taylor’s numerous endeavors over the years, he’s also taking a stab at growing vineyards.

“I started this venture late in life,” he chuckled. “I didn’t really realize how much effort this would take, mentally and physically, but I feel lucky to be doing it. And I love solving design problems.”

Originally, Taylor had been interested in campers for two reasons. He wanted to buy one because he appreciated the design of vintage models like Airstream and he figured as he aged he’d appreciate a camper more than a tent. The second was that he wanted inspiration for designing furniture.

When that friend told him to research teardrop campers - small trailers that offer a place to sleep out of the elements but don’t attempt to offer living rooms, showers and other amenities of full-size recreational vehicles_- it inspired him to try to build one himself. For fun. “We don’t see ourselves as RVers, but as campers.”

He purchased plans and started to build one, but his propensity for design improvement got in the way.

“I realized this was the work of an amateur,” he said. “It might have been good for the trailer he wanted, but not for the one I wanted. It was claustrophobic. I knew I could do better.”

The creation he eventually built in 2011 was a head-turner. When asked to described the genre, he uses word like “iconic,” ”from the 1930s and ‘40s,” ”nautical” and “vintage UFO.”

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