How to style a caravan
Once you have renovated the inside and outside of your van, the hard graft is done and your dream home on wheels is almost complete. Now it’s time to have fun and become an interior designer, putting the finishing touches to style your van.
The floor is your first opportunity to start putting your creative stamp on the van. If the floor tiles are in reasonable condition, you could lay something over the top of them. Otherwise pull them up and take the van back to bare wood. You can buy inexpensive timber-look vinyl flooring from Bunnings. The sheets are easy to install and can be cut to size with a utility knife. There is a large range of wood effects depending on the look you want to create.
To really bring the outside paint job to life, silver spray paint is needed on the windows and caravan edging. This is a fiddly job but well worth it. Tape up the windows and the metal edging all the way around the van. It may take a couple of hours to do the whole van and you’ll need a few newspapers and rolls of tape. With even spraying from around six inches away, cover all of the edges and the window frames. The silver contrast with the rest of the colour scheme takes the van to the next level.
Add silver trims where your two different colours meet in the middle of the van. It’s really hard with either the spray or roller approaches to get perfect lines, and by adding some silver trims you can cover any imperfections but also add some extra style. I use the silver ripple trim strips used for edging carpet as they fit perfectly to the van’s contours. Cut them to size with a hacksaw and then screw in place. Caravan bling!
A splashback above the new kitchen benchtop will help complete your kitchen. There are two approaches that I take here. One is to get coloured acrylic sheets cut to size and then glue and screw in place. Bright colours can really lift a kitchen. The alternative is to tile the splashback area. Normal lightweight kitchen tiles with mesh backing are best, which you can cement on and grout for a classy look. It’ll depend on the style of van and the look you’re going for, but both give a great finish.
Timber panels and trims are another way to give the van a classy finish. You can buy cheap wood panels that are very lightweight and normally used for cladding. By painting these lightly with white undercoat and sanding back, you get a vintage effect. If a ceiling is very rough with imperfections then these wood panels are a great way to cover faults and create a new feature. The back of seating can also become a real talking point. You can buy L-shaped wood edging fairly cheaply to finish off cupboards or areas where the caravan is slightly worn. Not only does it cover blemishes, it also gives a wonderful finish.
The first two caravans I renovated had curtains; and for certain vans this is the way to go. If you want a 50s rock and roll look, then nothing beats red and white gingham. The problem with curtains is that you need to buy the material and get them made to fit by someone with sewing skills. You also need to fit curtain rods and hooks. It’s a long and fiddly process. More recently I’ve used blinds and for roughly the same price, you get a more modern effect and you can do the whole van in less than two hours. Bunnings do a great range of inexpensive blinds in sizes to fit most vans.
Try to retain the van’s original lights, but it can also be good to add some new lighting as a feature. A hanging light above the table in the living area looks really stylish. One other neat little touch is to add LED strips inside of cupboards to create a soothing effect at night, or to add stick on LED touch lights under kitchen cupboards as a cheap form of down lighting. There’s no limit on your creativity here, just your budget and imagination.
Hopefully your van will have an original table that folds down to form an extra double bed. But if not, it is fairly easy to fashion one. In the same wood you used for kitchen work benches, get a piece of pine cut to size at Bunnings. You can then get screw in legs for less than $10 each to attach to the bottom with plates. This is such an easy and intuitive set up – unscrew the legs and stow away at night to make the bed (it’s a three-minute job). Then reattach the legs in the morning for breakfast.
The van is almost complete. But one additional important touch is to replace cupboard door and drawer handles. Bunnings offers a huge range of shapes and materials depending on the look you want, and these come in multi-packs to cut costs. If you can selvedge the old handles then it’s good to have some original fixtures, but otherwise have a play with different styles.
Finally it’s time to dress the van and your styling skills can really go wild. Raffia baskets, plants, mirrors… just add whatever you like to finish your van. Bunnings has great accessories for storage and styling. And don’t stop inside – get a small outside fire pit and a couple of stylish deckchairs to complete your home away from home.
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