Friday, October 16, 2009

'Caravan Chic' A Teen's Renovation Project

My 14 year old daughter (about to turn 15) once said to me that she would like to one day have her own 'cottage' on our property. She never expected this dream to be fulfilled so soon but with our seventh baby due in December and bedrooms in short supply, we started to discuss as a family, extra accommodation options. Adding on another room or building a cabin were out of the question and then my husband suggested the old caravan. We had purchased this icon, that you see in every Aussie caravan park, a number of years ago with the intention of 'doing it up'. This never came to pass but in the meantime it served as 'rustic' sleeping quarters and 'Lego shack' for our son when we were building our home extension and guest accommodation for granddad on his visits from New Zealand.

It was already in a sorry state but parked in a damp location under the car port, it deteriorated even further until it was basically unlivable. Here are some shots of what it used to look like - the before photos!

We had already moved the caravan to a sunnier, drier position, a short walk from the house and painted the brown Formica units white to lighten the interior but they were rather dilapidated! As was the paneling on the walls. Cracks were starting to become craters!

We were not intending to take the caravan on the road so the stove and sink served no useful purpose. Initially, I was aghast at my husband's suggestion to rescue the caravan and to turn it into a bedroom. I thought it was 'too far gone'! My daughter thought otherwise and said she would love to renovate it and turn it into her new room. When she agreed to use her wages from her dairying job to fund the project, we gave her the go ahead. Later that day the sounds of banging, crashing and ripping were heard reverberating through the bush. I went up to investigate and half expected to see Scott Cam (presenter of Australia's Renovation Rescue TV show) pop his head out of the caravan! Not a skip or TV crew in sight - just one teenage girl with hammer in hand! She looked as if she was enjoying her demolition day!

There were other experts in demolition waiting to be assigned a job!

And no shortage of supervisors!

Having seen her motivation for this project go into top gear, we decided to make it more of a challenge. My husband who has considerable experience and talent in home building and renovation said he would be there to assist but he wanted his daughter to be the project manager and chief designer. She would draw up plans, provide measurements and a budget for every aspect of the job from relining the walls, to choosing flooring, cabinets and shelving for a room that was to function as a bedroom, private retreat and study quarters. Essentially, it became a wonderful home education project giving our daughter lots of opportunities to practically apply important skills in different subject areas such as mathematics - measurement caused her some frustration at times, as her dad kept sending her back to remeasure walls! Estimation and calculation - how many packs of floorboards would be required? And budgeting - where could savings be made? Would it be cheaper to sew cushions for seating or purchase ready made upholstery? She did not have to worry about labour costs - her dad offered his services for free! He also gave her lots of friendly advice and made practical suggestions.

The caravan was relined with timber which was painted - dad helped with carpentry but not the painting! Insulation was installed in the ceiling, using the sides and lids of polystyrene veggie boxes which would otherwise go to landfill and obtained for free from our local wholefoods store. We found an insulation product for the walls made from recycled materials manufactured by a firm that usually makes pillows. It was ultra soft and safe to handle - a much nicer alternative to fibreglass. Our daughter considered her options for flooring and decided that wooden veneer floorboards would offer the best value for money, they were easy to install and maintain and were a stylish contrast to all the white paintwork.

She had already decided that all her furniture was to be built in and her requirements included a bed, a dressing table and wardrobe and a spacious bookshelf - she is an avid reader and needed enough shelving for her favourite novels, her textbooks and her collection of Donna Hay cooking magazines!

My husband removed most of the traditional caravan louvre windows and replaced them with clear panes. The caravan is not intended to be a mode of transport - it is firmly anchored to the ground and will not be towed again so this light enhancing measure could be taken. If the caravan ever needed to be mobile again the windows would need to be converted back.

A kitchenette was not being reinstalled - this allowed for another wish to be granted - a corner window seat. With all the major construction finished, my daughter was able to move onto the next stage and the one she was looking forward to most - the interior design. She had clear preferences and a colour scheme in mind. She spent lots of time on the web and put together a portfolio showcasing her intended style for bedlinen, soft furnishings, lighting and accessories.
These are just a few of the images from her design folder.

The colour purple and shades of mulberry and silver swirls and scrolls were a recurring theme. She wanted her fabrics to be satin or silk and accessories to evoke glamour and sophistication. Lots of roses were not acceptable but butterflies were just fine.

She just loves this mirror but it is not within her budget!

This lamp is on her birthday wish list. It is from Freedom.

And now for the after shots. Are you ready for the reveal? Let's take a tour! Starting at the front door, as you can see it really is a caravan! She is seriously thinking of painting the exterior silver and swapping the orange panels for purple! The exterior renovation will be her next project!

A close-up shot of her bedlinen. She wanted to buy a quilt off Ebay but I convinced her that you had to feel quality. I spotted this quilt on sale in a bedlinen store and knew she would love it. All the previous quilts I had pointed out were rejected and we had lots of debates about vintage style which my daughter calls 'grandma style'.

Her dressing table is next to her bed. She is still searching for the right mirror and hopes to find the perfect jewelery boxes. I think she also needs a glamorous stool to add to the boudoir feel!

She loves her bling and the photo frame will co ordinate with her lamp. Perfume bottles with silver tops sit in a row on a purple tray. Two are 'designer copies' - the ' if you like ....' variety, chosen more for their looks but they don't actually smell too bad but her favourite to wear is 'Intimately Beckham' by David Beckham. I love it too but will have to buy my own bottle!

A wardrobe with sufficient space for hanging clothes adjoins the dressing table and separates the dressing table from the desk at the other end of the caravan. She still needs some more storage for clothes and will search for deep baskets to go under her bed or window seat - somewhere to store her 'farm clothes' - it is somehow hard to believe that this girl milks cows, she wears pink gumboots with purple tread! Just in case she needs to check her appearance in the morning before she heads off to round up the girls (the cows!) there are two mirrors on the inside doors of her wardrobe!

Her desk awaits a laptop computer but it has to be purple or maybe pink or she could even opt for silver. She is saving for this. She would also like a desk chair but it has to be purple and chrome - not that easy to find. She was able to locate purple desk accessories from a discount store - even a purple mobile phone holder!

The window seat is so comfortable, a wonderful place to stretch out and read. The cushions came from the most unlikely of places - the Reject Shop. I buy birthday cards, candles and glass jars for preserves from here but never thought this is where we would find the perfect cushions in the perfect shades to match the bedlinen. They are actually very well made, quite sturdy and firm, they also have a little pearl beading detail in each corner of the quilted squares. I could never sew anything like this. The seat cushions cost $15 each and the smaller chair pads were $6 each. We bought out the entire stock in this colour range from two regional stores! It was probably one of her biggest outlays but she agrees it was worth it. Window coverings can wait for now but we will continue to debate - the shutters versus the curtains in an opulent fabric- guess who wants the curtains and 'hates' shutters!

And finally, the bookcase and hi-fi unit. Somewhere for her book collection and to display her ice skating badges. In one concession to vintage, she purchased a pair of vintage 1930's ice skates off Ebay but they have not been put on display yet- they are not suitable to skate in - no ankle support. Perhaps she could hang them on the front door! She is happy to showcase her badges - her other passion is ice skating. I will not be surprised if a poster of Torvill and Dean appears on the wall - if she chooses one of them skating 'Bolero' it will coordinate with the caravan - remember the purple outfits! Hey, I might even suggest that to my daughter!

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the caravan of 'chic'. It may have even given you an idea of what to do with your own shabby caravan if you happen to own one that is need of a makeover. This project has ignited a passion for interior design for my daughter - who knows where this could lead in the future. Right now she is enjoying her special retreat. We do coax her out for dinner - actually we did attach some conditions, no extended periods of time in the caravan, no access to the internet (always a wise move when computers are in bedrooms) and when she leaves home she hands over the caravan to her mother who thinks it will be the perfect sewing and craft room/guest accommodation! 'I'm taking it with me' was her response to this suggestion!

The next project she will work on together with her father, will be an outdoor living space - a deck is being considered, a cafe style outdoor table setting, a hammock between the trees and even a garden - with purple flowers of course!

With love and joy,


Fruitful Harvest said...

So cool~Ann
What a clever idea!
Does it have heat? Does she have far to go for the bathroom?
We have a camper we use for our spare room when guest come to the summer the kiddos use it for a club house! It is stocked with board games! The older kiddos love getting away to play with out the babies messing up their game!
How many bedrooms does your house have?


Niki said...

Absolutely amazing. Well done to your daughter. I love her color scheme. Clever girl. Such a beautiful place for her to hang out. We had a similar set up as teens. Mum bought us a baby monitor for the evenings so she could hear us out there at night(she was a nervous Nelly) but it worked & if we were unwell we could just call for her, and she'd coming running Dressing Gown flying behind her. Don'tcha love Mama's.


Chookie said...

She has done a great job on the caravan and I'm sure you are very proud! Looking forward to the garden instalment! Perhaps there is a salvia in the right shade for her garden.

Chris said...

I'm having DIY envy - in a good way, LOL. :)

Great work and a very inspirational project for a young lady to throw herself into. I always dreamed of building my own cubby house at home, but this caravan make-over must be nearly every teenagers dream come true!

I'm very chuffed with how it all turned out for you all. :)

SF said...

Wow, how very very exciting!!! I think every almost 15 year old would consider this the perfect dream. :) She is blessed!
Saminda xo

Renata said...

What a creative daughter you have- looks fabulous! I have a sister who loves all things purple & bling - she'd love this kinda look. Those cushoins are great - I was thinking wow you put in a lot of sewing, but to find them ready made - even better!

Beth said...

That is so incredible! We have just purchased a little camper ourselves and some days I want to move out there to it! IN fact, one day last week, I just needed a break and decided to have a night away all by myself and camped out alone! It was about 45degrees but it was ok...I had plenty of blankets! My husband just didn't understand and surely thought I had lost my mind. (I originally went out there to retrieve something I had left there and decided that it was just too cozy to leave!)

My oldest daughter would LOVE for us to give it to her to live in but our neighborhood covenants are forcing us to take it to my brother's farm until we go camping again.
Also, our area has very strong winds and tornados so it is not safe for her to actually live in it. My brother's camper was flipped over during such a wind storm!
It is so cool to see what your young daughter has done with it! VERY exciting!!
Lovely!! Please tell her well done for me!
Blessings, Beth

Blue Cotton Memory said...

How exciting! What an opportunity for independence with training wheels (literally) - designing something in her "style," financing the venture, and the opportunity for feeling like you're living on your own but not really.

Do you have one of those for our teenager boys?
BTW - how did you set it up for the electricity?

Lotta said...

Simply Amazing - Much kudos to you and your family for teaching your daughter some serious life skills and allowing her the freedom with which to express herself.

And the caravan...... wow. Seriously stunning, I think its wonderful you are so resourceful and write so well about your life.

Thankyou for sharing.


DestinyByVera said...

OMG, what a talented girl you have.. I love this so much. May do it myself

Anonymous said...

Your daughter is officially my hero for the day!!!

To your daughter;

Gee! Well done! Very impressive. You have great taste that reflects natural creativity. Treasure your natural talents and use them. By the the way your folks supported you.


Sharon said...

Fantastic caravan reno!

M.S. Watson said...

Congratulations on your amazing project. Just one question: How much is it to renovate like that altogether? I've been meaning to do it for years. I'm still trying to track one down.


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