Before and After: A $5,000 Redo Makes This Rotted 1962 Caravan a Vibrant Retro Retreat
While you might not have the guts to hit the open road and live in a mobile home (or a job that’ll allow it), you can still certainly take inspiration from renovated RVs, trailers, campers, and more. Because they’re meant to be taken on the road, homes on wheels often aren’t much wider than one lane of an interstate, meaning their inhabitants, much like small apartment dwellers, have to get creative when it comes to storage, sleeping, and simply existing in tight quarters.
Patsy Daley’s (@driving_mrs_marlie) 1962 Millard Caravan is 13 feet long and about 8 feet wide, so it’s one of those small-but-stylish spaces AT readers know and love. When Patsy and her husband, Rob, bought it, it had a solid outside but was unfortunately rotten inside; their mission was to gut it and make it functional for life on the road.
Patsy’s advice, given that scenario: “Get a proper inspection on any caravan, old or new, as they are notorious for having leaks throughout,” she says. “Don’t hesitate in looking beyond and under things. We now know where to look, in retrospect. We are fortunate that we had the skills to tackle such a huge job ourselves instead of sourcing it out.”
Patsy says they could see the potential when they first toured, disrepair aside. “When we stepped inside, she immediately made us feel like we needed to take her home; she couldn’t be left to eventually go to landfill,” Patsy says of the camper. What the couple didn’t realize was just how much TLC the thing required due to the rot. In total, fixing up the entire caravan took about a year.
“Undeterred, we set about fixing her and bringing her back to life,” Patsy says. “We started with demolishing everything that was beyond repair and kept anything that could be recycled.”
The features original to the caravan are the overhead cabinets, the base of the bed, and a cabinet that they moved to the bathroom area. All of the walls and windows were repaired and replaced. “Insulation was a priority, especially in a van,” Patsy says. She and Rob also replaced the overhead hatch with a modern screened hatch and updated the electrical and plumbing.“We installed a shower, a heater for the water, a sink, and kitchen benches (all lightweight) and a porta potty,” Patsy says. They also built a fold-up table for hanging out inside.
For outdoor dining, Rob made a pull-out compartment that slides under the bed when not in use. He also made an awning with leftover material from the shower “to not only afford us some privacy but to make the van even more adorable,” Patsy says. In the kitchen, Rob installed and painted a pressed tin backsplash. Patsy and Rob also painted much of the interior and exterior pink with freehanded flamingos here and there.
As for decor, Patsy created the lights out of leftover vegetable cans. Her neighbor, Marjorie, sewed curtains, and Patsy made macrame ties for them. For much of the decor and furnishings, “local tips, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay were our best friends,” Patsy says.
Throughout, “the biggest challenge has been to keep everything we do ‘light’ but efficient and usable,” Patsy says. “Many things have double usage for this reason. We had to think out of the box a lot to achieve this.”
Her favorite part of the “after” is just how colorful and vibrant it is. “She now shines outward,” Patsy says. “And her interior is both whimsical, quirk, and funky but also pretty and so colorful.” The paint color for the camper is Dulux’s Scampi.
“She makes people smile, and we love that about her,” Patsy adds. “She’s practical and so comfortable. I lie in her bed and look around and feel so happy we adopted her and saved her, for us.”
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