Thursday, 20 October 2016

Vintage Caravan Makeover

We've always loved camping and outdoor living and have long hankered after buying a camper van. So, a few years ago we bought a VW Transporter with plans to convert it into a camper van, complete with a pop up roof, kitchen and folding seats for beds. However, we soon discovered that the cost of doing this work was prohibitive - up to £5000 for the roof conversion alone! 
So we had to think again.... and the idea of a caravan came to me. Not any old bland, beige caravan though, like the ones that you see by the acre at caravan parks. What I wanted was a caravan with the character, beauty and quirkiness of a vintage camper van. These sort of caravans didn't exist as far as I knew, but a 'quick look at' aka 'several days poring over' Pinterest confirmed that these type of caravans DID exist, as long as you're prepared to create them yourself.

Image from Pinterest
 I absolutely love interior design, vintage vehicles and, as mentioned before, outdoor living, so the idea of finding and doing up a vintage caravan ticked every box for me!
So the search for a caravan began! I quickly decided not to go for classic, iconic caravan, such as a Cheltenham or Carlight, as I'd be obliged to restore it sympathetically. I wanted to be able to 'go to town' on a caravan without compromising or ruining any classic features.

Cheltenham Fawn  - Image from Pinterest.
My only rule was that it had to be dry and with a solid chassis.
After a few dead ends, we found a 1978 A Line Crown - it has been parked under a tree on a friends neighbours drive for 30 years! It hadn't been towed in all that time and had just (been used for storage. We hitched it up (the towing lights still worked perfectly) and towed it home. Absolutely everyone, including my husband, thought I was mad! 
What the hell had I bought?!
And I was inclined to agree! The caravan was a shrine to 70s bad taste. Brown, with brown carpet, brown kitchen units, fake beige cork tiled walls, brown upholstery and brown curtains. There was definitely a theme going on and it wasn't pretty! It also reeked and it was full of spiders!  Also at this point, my husband, understandably, decided he wanted nothing to do with the caravan. Undeterred by these obstacles, I started cleaning the caravan up by jet washing the outside.
Marginally better.
I then scrubbed the whole of the inside with sugar soap before embarking on an epic painting job, painting every wall and cupboard inside the caravan with 'Difficult Surface' primer.
Faux teak veneer hell.

I should have bought shares in melamine primer.
I then moved on the outside of the caravan while the weather was dry. I started off by sanding the whole caravan and removing all of the old sealant. This took absolutely flipping ages. Then, using a small foam roller and and carefully sanding down between coats, I painted the brown sections of the caravan with two coats of trade exterior undercoat. 

This preparation and technique achieved a very smooth surface. I then applied two coats of trade exterior gloss, mixed up to match the 'Stone Blue' colour of our VW Transporter, and achieved this result.

I was pleased with the finish, considering that it wasn't a spray job!
As the weather turned autumnal, I turned my attention back to the inside of the caravan. The original foam seat cushions were still fine apart from the colour!

So I had and had them recovered in a Clarke and Clarke fabric grey polka dot fabric, brilliantly made to measure by The Sewing Angel.

I really wanted to copy the wallpapered caravan doors I'd seen on Pinterest but my wallpapering skills were not up to it. So instead I sent off for a load of Pip Studios wallpaper samples and pasted them on the door in a patchwork style. I am still to this day ridiculously pleased with the result and I think it was my favourite part of the caravan! 

Finally, we put a new vinyl floor down - Rhino Artwood in Bleached Wood. 

In total, the caravan took about 4 months to do up but on a very much part time basis. My lovely dad helped me too with some of the structural work which included removing the old bathroom and repairing some damage caused by the leaking bathroom window.

What I loved about the caravan the most was it's ability to multipurpose. It spent most of its time in the front garden and it was a real talking point with passers by! My kids loved playing in it, I had friends over for a cuppa in it and I used it too for a bit of peace and quiet. We also used it for family weekends away.

Mostly  though it was used as a glamping accessories shop at street fairs and festivals.

In total, the caravan cost £700 to buy and do up which I think was a total bargain, considering how much could be done with it. I loved it and enjoyed every second of doing it up. George Clarke declared it 'very cool' when I tweeted him a picture of it and it was featured on 'Kirsty Allsopp's Best of Both Worlds'!

'Very Cool'  - actual George Clarke tweet to yours truly!
Sadly though, we sold the caravan last year. It was just too small for the five of us to holiday in and it turned out to be such hard work towing it to festivals, setting up, running the shop and packing it all away again. It taught me a lot though - especially that I enjoyed the interior design and styling of the shop more than the actual selling of goods - and I would do it all over again, if I was allowed! 

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  1. Bittersweet! Sorry you couldn't have just kept it for fun use at home!

  2. Ah I know Marylynne! I'd have loved that but my husband wanted it off the drive! 😞😞😂

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