The winter project that was completed before winter even began. We promised ourselves to take it slow, and do it bit by bit. It's safe to say the excitement of our visions coming to life, bit by bit, was enough to motivate us and push this renovation to be completed sooner. Since ripping everything out of our caravan back in March, we have at times regretted doing it as we've missed being on the road and having our freedom on the weekends to just up and go as we please. But now that the renovation is complete and our visions are better than ever expected, we are so glad we decided to do the full demo now after having two horrible water leaks and an ants nest! It hasn't been an easy renovation, we have certainly had our moments while doing it. I think its safe to say this renovation was far more stressful than our kitchen renovation haha!
Once we had pulled out the old interior, we measured up our internal floor space to know what dimensions we had to work with. We drew up many floor plans based around our preferences we found we'd rather while away in Byron Bay. If there's any positive to take from having to redo the interior, it is that we had traveled in it previously and knew how it could best work for us. We knew we wanted the kids in the back end of the caravan so we aren't disturbing them when we need to use the fridge, kitchen or go to bed at night. Coming up with a floor plan to accommodate for 6 people at times was tricky! We wanted to have enough beds, a dining area, a kitchen, a pantry, storage, wardrobe, so considering all these into such a small space was hard. But we got it there in the end! We knew we wanted to insulate all our walls and the ceiling, but deciding on what to use for the walls was the hard part. Using gyprock is not an option when doing walls of a caravan as you have to be mindful of movement that happens inside a caravan when on the road. You will just end up with cracks. We wanted something light weight, but trying to find something lightweight with a quality thickness is tricky. We took to some great caravan facebook groups and asked the question, "What should we use for our walls, what has everyone else done." We got quite a few answers which was good, but in the end, we decided on marine ply in 6mm thickness as marine ply is water resistant - so incase (touch wood) we do get another awful water leak, the wood wont just rot away. Then the next part to figure out was how to join them together as a wall without having gaps everywhere. We used joiners to achieve this. Finding them in the right thickness for our wall sheets was a mission, but after searching many Bunnings stores, we ended up with more than enough! Hubby had the fun job of installing all our walls with some help here and there from me. I am no handy woman, but I will have a go where I can. I think for me, that was the hardest part was having to sit back and watch it be done as all I was good for was painting and styling haha! The curved roof was such a joy for Mannie to cut, though with some determination and a habit of perfection, he got it all there in the end. After our walls went in and were sealed, primed and painted, we did the roof. For the roof it had to be something light weight and flexible due to the vintage curved roof. Again, we took to the caravan facebook groups and were told about a polyurethane ply, which is ply on one side and white polyurethane on the other - perfect and ready to to install. We had to special order this through a company called Gunnerson. It was freighted to us but with this one, all was not so easy as initially thought. We were told we could have it freighted to our door, though when the depots got a hold of it, they refused due to the size of their truck getting up our street. So we had to collect it from a local manufacturing company that Gunnerson supply stock to. Installing the roof was BY FAR the worst part. THE WORST. A member of the facebook group told us to glue it on with sikaflex and it would stay. That was not happening, no chance, what so ever. It took three men to hold these sheets up while Mann secured them up on the roof battens. And me being me, I wanted a seamless finish with no ugly screw heads showing, and polyurethane ply is not something you would puty and paint over. So hubby really loved me that day haha! While doing the roof, we also decided to close in our skylights. We had two and they didn't open up how they originally should. They were all sealed up from the previous owner and all they were doing was making the caravan ridiculously hot during summer. We could have got some block out blinds but decided to just cover them up completely as we wouldn't use them so much anyway.
For our colour scheme, I've always used the 3 rules of dominant, secondary and accent. So with our caravan this rule applied, so when installing everything, it all needed to be well thought out as our walls are grey, but the roof quad is white. To save taping up any areas, we painted almost everything before it went in the caravan. The bunk beds, kitchen, quad, trimmings, cabinet doors. Everything but the walls.
We kept the original dining table which is able to pop down to a double bed, that is going to come handy when we travel with Mannie's eldest two kids as they can sleep head to toe on that but we can still have the option to use the dining table as needed. We did cut the length down by 200mm though to gain extra walking space between the beds. We had our cushions and covers altered to the new size also.
We did a bunk bed on the opposite side the dining table for the boys. We purchased foam mattresses from Clark Rubber for the bunk beds and our bed. We went for this option as they are light weight and perfect camping sizes ready to purchase off the shelf. I did buy quilt covers for their beds but then later decided to do linen sleeping bags to still give that fun camping feel. I picked up these from Target and they came with pillows as well for $39 each! Underneath we've kept the area open and this is where the boys suitcases can slide under, along with their new caravan only toy boxes. I've put two storage crates under for things that will stay in the caravan while we are home. They've got things in there like matchbox cars, decks of cards, pencils, paper, books, glow sticks, a vintage train set we found on ebay, balls, torches, all their camping bits and pieces that will keep them occupied while away and with the purpose of having them permanently stored in the caravan, it will have the boys looking forward to playing in these toy boxes when away as it's different stuff to their usual toys in their rooms.
Where the fridge space is, this was a decision that had a whole lot of procrastination to it. Do we do a wardrobe here, or do the fridge space/pantry. While we were away in Byron Bay, having such a little pantry area wasn't ideal and it was just a mess trying to fit everything in. So the pantry won this one. We decided we are happy to be without a wardrobe as we have our vintage suitcases we have specifically bought for our vintage caravan and I'll still be able to hang a few dresses up on hooks if need be - which will just add to the gypsy style I adore. I was super proud of my husband building this part as it was the first part of cabinetry put in and he perfected it! He made all the doors which I'm so in love with. We found beautiful vintage look brass handles on ebay as well as a stunning vintage latch to keep the door shut while travelling.
After that part was done it was onto the kitchen. We wanted our kitchen to be slimline so we could maximize our walkway space between where our bed would go and where the kitchen is. I still don't know exactly how the idea came to me, but one night I was on Gumtree and I searched "timber buffet" and the next thing I knew, I'd organised to pick it up first thing in the morning for a bargain $75 and use it as the kitchen cupboards! We gave it a fresh new look with a coat of paint and new handles, extended one end to allow for a sink and plumbing - which again Mann built it all! The buffet matches perfectly with the paneling we are doing in the caravan and it has that beautiful vintage look which I wanted to base our styling around to suit our caravan. We took the top of the buffet off and put on a timber bench top from Bunnings. We gave it four coats of sealant to protect it against water with a sand in between coats. My husband extended the tiled splash back which we didn't remove as we had just done those, so extending them was easy as we had plenty of spares from before!
For over head storage, again we procrastinated at what we should do. It was either open shelving or doors. If we did doors, it would have been bulky cabniets which would impose on the space and be right at your head as our kitchen is slimline. So we made a shelf up our selves, made it deep enough so things cant fall out while travelling and gave it a beautiful vintage look with trimming to match our end storage boxes.
We put hidden locks on the inside of all our doors so while we are travelling, the doors cant open, and there's no ugly locks to be seen. We got these from Bunnings in the child proofing isle!
Another decision we couldn't decided on was, do we put in a gas cook top or not. We already have a convention oven we take away with us that was absolutely love. We also have the thermomix, two portable gas stoves and a BBQ, which we agreed was adequate cooking options. If we were to put in a gas cook top, we would be sacrificing bench space and when we would want to use the thermomix or convection oven, we would have little to no prep space. So we decided to keep it all portable in the kitchen so we can swap and change appliances as we please. We still have our gas line there for in case one day we decide we'd like to put in a gas cook top.
One thing Mann was bursting to do was our bed, as we had planned to design our bed so that underneath was storage. The top of our bed is able to lift and we can then store our camping supplies all under the bed neatly. A minor thing, but something I was so happy I could do again, was the buntings above our bed. I absolutely loved that touch in the previous space, and having that again just makes it feel like old times. We made our bed slightly higher than standard so we could maximize our storage space underneath and used our signature paneling to frame it all up. I did originally want to put posts on the end of the bed and hang sheer lace around it to make it look like a dreamy gypsy daybed, but once everything was in, I decided having posts would really close in the space and I'd prefer to keep it more open. Totally bummed I couldn't do it but sometimes we can't always get what we want, right.
Once the bed was done it was time to have all the downlights and switches installed. We had all our wiring ran to the correct places before we put all our walls and roofing on so it was just a matter of drilling out the cavaties and hooking it all up thanks to Mann's brother. We had bought four downlights for the caravan, but once we seen how bright it was with two, we decided to leave it at that, so our positioning is a little off centre now haha! But it would have been far too bright for such a small space. These are just some of the things you learn along the way! We had the other wires that were ran for the lights we now won't be using BP'd off so there is no electricity running to them to make it all safe.
When we finally had light and power again in the caravan, it made it feel like we are there. We have done it. We have succesfully completed the renovation. All it left was a few tidy up jobs, like putting in some skirting and quad, running some silicone in the kitchen, venting the fridge externally and plumbing the sink.
All those odd jobs were completed in half a day! Which then 100% completed our caravan renovation! We are still laughing at ourselves and our non existent control to slowly work at this project over winter. I will say it wasn't as expensive to do than we initially thought, coming in well under budget of just under $3000!
With all the odd jobs done and the caravan completely loaded with all our camping gear, we took the caravan to our local weigh bridge and had our weight certificate redone to make sure we had distributed all our weight evenly and hadn't made the van too heavy to tow. We amazingly only added an extra 20kg compared to our last interior, and still leaving us with 300kg to play with! All our weight was distributed evenly and our tow ball weight was spot on the mark!
With the styling, I wanted it to reflect on our old van feel and still remain a vintage Gypsy van. I reused a lot of what was in the caravan previously but also added in some brass touches I found in Kmart and antique brass hooks, knobs and hangers from eBay.
We ripped out the interior on March 17th, and completed it on May 26th 2017. An Autumn project instead of a winter project haha! While renovating our caravan, I remember we didn't open the doors for a whole two weeks as we needed to focus on work and having some sort of a life as well. We have said it would of been interesting to keep a log of the hours it took to complete the renovation, as thought we did it just over two months, collectively it would have been a matter of weeks.
I am beyond proud of my husband and his skills. For "just some guy in the backyard cutting his fingers off", he has impressed me with what he is capable of doing when he puts his mind to it. We had a design and a vision in our heads of what we wanted to do with our old girl, and he has truly bought it to life for our whole family to experience. I'm thrilled to have pulled off a vintage, gypsy, french provincial styled caravan, as I wanted to keep her true to her bones though she'd be given a completely new build. We upcycled where we could, added touches of brass to give that vintage gypsy feel, used paneling to give the french provincial look. I thought the old Tenalach was incredible, yes she was. But this, this is my wildest dreams come true. This is everything I feel, breathe and love. This is us.
Words & Pictures by Connie Sharpe