Before and After: This Vintage Travel Trailer Got a $500 Facelift

Before and After: This Vintage Travel Trailer Got a $500 Facelift

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Tess Wilson
Nov 3, 2018
(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

This "disastrous" 1970s trailer is about to become a highly inviting guest room, parked on a lake and packed with vintage charm. And all it took was $500—and a lot of hard work.

A 50(ish)-year-old trailer is bound to have a backstory, and this one definitely does:

This trailer has a lot of history, and by the time we decided to start this project, it had definitely seen better days. A Prowler brand travel trailer, it originally belonged to my Grandpa's fishing buddy. In its original state, the interior was decked out in classic 1970s finishes: faux wood paneling, cornflower yellow appliances, patterned laminate flooring and the ugliest plaid print fabric you could imagine.

My parents bought it in 2004 (for a steal of only $400!), and used it for several years as their vacation "home" at our family's lakeside property in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Over these years, they did some pretty major upgrades to the trailer, including building a wraparound deck complete with outdoor kitchen and a rooftop structure around the trailer, and taking out the seating area and part of the kitchen inside the trailer so it became more or less a bedroom. Despite all these changes to the layout, one thing they never bothered to upgrade was any of the aesthetic elements of the interior.

A year ago, my now-retired parents upgraded to a much larger and more modern 5th wheel that they placed right next door. They decided to keep the original trailer where it was to serve as a place for their guests to sleep. While functionally the trailer worked great, the interior looked seriously dated, dark and dingy after so many years. Given that my partner and I also stay in the trailer when we are at the lake, we wanted to transform it by giving it a modern facelift. That way guests (including ourselves) would feel more comfortable, and as if they are on a glamping getaway. My parents agreed to give me full creative liberty with the transformation as long as we would foot the bill and help with the work.

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

This is such a far cry from the dark, closed-in feeling of the original interior. The freshly painted white walls are so fresh and clean and visually disappear, unlike plastic wood paneling, which is impossible to ignore. The new plywood bed, headboard, and shelf refresh the space with an organic, rustic beauty. Overall, Maxine Blennerhassett somehow managed to imbue this trailer with all of the best bits of '70s (and earlier) decor, without the "faux wood paneling, cornflower yellow appliances, patterned laminate flooring, and the ugliest plaid print fabric you could imagine."

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

This is the foot of the bed, with the countertop in the center and a glimpse of the refrigerator on the left (and a closer look at the intense "wood" grain of the paneling):

From start to finish, the whole project took about eight months to complete. The major challenge was that we live five hours away from our lake property, so we really only had weekends to do the work. Fortunately, my dad is both retired and a talented carpenter so he did most of the legwork between our visits by gutting the old structures, painting and finishing, adding the flooring and the sanded plywood finishes, while I looked after the design, styling, and purchasing of the materials. The biggest thing we wanted to achieve with this makeover was making it feel spacious and modern. To do this, we got rid of the remaining remnants of the kitchen, including the fridge and countertop that had become completely non-functioning.

Very smart move, as it sounds like this trailer is purely a guest room with no need for a kitchen. If desired, a mini fridge and/or coffee pot could probably be added someday.

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

And this is basically the corner opposite the bed, across from the foot of it. The door with the mirror was the bathroom door, with the refrigerator on the right.

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

And now all of that space has been opened up. Let's find out how:

We also removed the door to the bathroom and converted that space into a built-in shelving unit that could be used for luggage storage for guests. We also painted the entire interior white, replaced the flooring with faux-wood laminate and finished the platform of the bed in sanded plywood sheets.

The whole project only cost approximately $500 for materials, the majority of which went towards flooring, plywood sheets and new electrical fixtures. With the exception of a couple of small purchases, the majority of the decor items were actually pieces that my parents had collected over the years. The property has been in our family for over 60 years and it used to be part of a large cattle ranch, so there were lots of antiques to choose from.

I love that Maxine filled the space with heirlooms; they add such rich personality and help welcome new guests to a decades-long family tradition. And the fact that they were selected from 60 years worth of items means that new pieces can be added without wrecking a particular vintage style.

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

Here we can see that the patterned laminate has been replaced with beautiful actual wood. The wood floor, platform bed, and storage bench anchor the room, allowing the white walls and curtains to float dreamily above. This seriously looks twice as big as that first original photo.

After all those months of work, it's nice to hear that Maxine loves the results:

I couldn't be happier with the end result of this project. Consider the disastrous state of the before, we knew we couldn't really go wrong because anything would be an improvement. The transformative power of white paint worked wonders and removing the kitchen fixtures immediately made it feel much larger. While our goal was to bring this '70s classic into the modern ages, we still wanted to maintain that "rustic feel" both to pay homage to the history of the property and also so it didn't become too fancy and impractical for its actual purpose—it is "glamping" after all, not a five-star hotel room! In the end, I think we were able to strike the perfect balance between the two. My parents were in disbelief with the end result and they kept saying how they had wished they did this project sooner!

(Image credit: Maxine Blennerhassett)

Here's what Maxine learned during this renovation, and I think it's good advice for almost any home improvement project, large or small:

In any project, it's always key to consider the primary use of the space, above all else. My parents had the right idea when they stripped the interior of the trailer to become a bedroom, because at the end of the day, that's what it was being used as.

My other piece of advice is that it doesn't take a lot to make a big impact in a space, as long as you are creative. For so many years, my parents never did anything to the interior because they were concerned about cost, time and work. But this project is proof that with a little white paint, and a creative reimagining of items we already had around—you can make a huge transformation.

Thank you, Maxine Blennerhassett!

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