Ever wondered what it would be like to revive an old camper van for your next family adventure?
Have you ever toyed with the idea of getting a caravan for your travels, doing one up or to buy new, to do extended travel or weekend getaways? Sometimes this can seem like a daunting and expensive option.
We chatted to Jade about how her and her hubby turned this little rundown $5000 campers into an uber chic space for her and her young family to see out lazy days by the ocean, traveling the coastline. You may be surprised to learn just how achievable this is for any family to create their own little abode on wheels, to up and go at your hearts desire.
Jade chats about how they swapped out some expensive quotes for do it yourself fixtures and fitting, what her kids thought of their very first trip, plans for the future and some quick and simple tips for how you can get started on your cool camper reno journey too.
What was the inspiration for buying an old van to do up?
I threw the idea around for at least six months before Patrick was finally persuaded that it was a good idea. I don't think it was until we were on our first trip that he was completely on board with it, but he admits to it being a good idea now! In Jan 2019 we ended up finding one locally on Marketplace. The previous owners brought it to travel from Mudgee to Adelaide, did the hard work, then decided it was easier to fly haha. We went & viewed it, with no expectations & it was perfect, Lucky us!
At the time of purchasing the van we were living rurally in a small Village called Millthorpe (near Orange NSW) with our 2 year old son Charlie. I was working in interior design and my partner Patrick a carpenter, we'd always rented our home so the van was a great creative outlet for us both. Vinnie gives us the freedom to hitch up the van and explore & create special memories for the kids without the burden of spending a holiday budget on accomodation.
How did you design the layout of the van to accommodate the kids?
We kept the original layout of the van. It has a double bed at one end & a table that collapses into a king single at the other. For now, with our kids being young it works as they can both fit comfortably on the king single. Once they're older we may consider removing the dining table & creating bunks in its place.
We added an annex which really doubled our space. It is surprisingly spacious, and so much storage.
What did the kids think of their adventure in the van?
We did our first long weekend in the van to the Big 4 at Soldiers point. Charlie (3 Years old) thought it was paradise, there is so much there for kids & was such a great family orientated park.
April (4 months old) slept the best she ever has! It was a really relaxing holiday for all of us, & so rewarding to be making memories in the van we had created.
Where did you draw inspiration from when planning the interior design and decor?
With it being so rare to find a vintage van like Vinnie in such great condition we decided to keep her original layout & just give her a much needed face lift.
Personally, the interior planning & styling was my favourite part of the renovation & right up my alley. Putting the finishing touches together to give Vinnie character was highly rewarding.
I wanted Vinnie to have a relaxed homely vibe, while being quite minimal as being so small she only needed a few key decor items... Linen, a few to many cushions & greenery obviously essential, right Pat?
I started with a blank canvas and painted the Interior white, HUGE & least favourite job. Vinnie still had her original colours on the exterior which featured a minty green lightning bolt. The lightening bolt had to go, but to restore some of her originality
I colour matched the green and brought it into the interior on the end walls & wardrobe. We also then used that colour to give her a two tone white/ green exterior.
The great thing about working with such a small space is that you can really splurge with finishes as you only need such a small amount, it's still affordable. We used penny round tiles on the dining table & splash back, Vinyl timber look floorboards. Removed the original fabric blind and installed aluminium blinds and linen curtains (thanks mum) I really enjoyed the challenge of working with existing features to retain Vinnie's sense of charm.
I must mention the insta community, it is a real thing. I didn't realise there was such a large number of families also on the journey with caravan renovations. It's been a great outlet for connecting with like minded families, sharing ideas & gaining inspiration.
What was the cost to purchase the van and construction costs to redo interior?
We purchased Vinnie for $5500, all the hard work had really been done. She was in immaculate condition, electrics & gas had all recently been redone & really it was all just cosmetic work. Which was perfect for us, because let's be honest, we knew nothing about caravans.
We didn't really keep tally on costs for the reno. Between buying the van & completing the reno we had relocated to the Central Coast & had our second child so it took longer than expected, we worked on it on and off for about a year and a half. If we were to estimate i'd say about $2500ish, but we did everything ourselves. I did get impatient and get quotes for certain tasks, plumbing / painting etc, but Patrick was adamant he could do it. So in the reno period he became a youtube taught plumber, electrician & painter!
For example, A quote for exterior to be professionally painted alone was $4000! We bought a semi decent paint gun from bunnings, White knight paint & completed it for under $600 & it looks PERFECT also a big saver for us was our awning, we couldn't go without one but it was towards the end of the reno & I just couldn't justify spending a lot of money on one. So with a little risk & outsourcing we made one, and it cost us $300 & it really just finished the van off, i'm obsessed with it!
What’s the plan for future adventures? Long term travel adventures?
We renovated with the intention to hire Vinnie out, this is an idea we are still tossing around with but for now we are just wanting to enjoy Vinnie for ourselves. Vinnie is really only suited for short term getaways. She's only 14ft long so with two little ones under three I feel the novelty of caravanning will wear off after a week or so. There are so many great caravanning locations within a few hours of the Central coast, so we have a few short trips planned while we find our feet.
What’s the best thing about this kind of travel as opposed to an international getaway?
I really can't make a comparison between the two.
Because I've never travelled internationally haha & I really don't see us travelling overseas with the kids in the near future. It really just comes down to affordability for us, holidaying this way as a family is really affordable. Caravan parks (ensuited & powered) average out around $50-$80/ night, to be able to have everything on hand to head off on the weekends & spend money on experiences rather than a small fortune on accomodation justifies it for us.
.... COVID, everything seems to come down to this at the moment, but finishing the reno couldn't have come at a better time.
Pointers for people interested in doing their own caravan renovations.
For anyone looking at renovating a vintage van I would definitely say if you have the know how, eager to learn or able to outsource to renovate, go for it!
Make it your own, have fun & ask 1000 questions, we found everyone was so eager to give advice because it was such a unique & interesting project. It was a learning process but so rewarding.
To follow Vinnie the Van you can check them out on Insta @vinnie_the_viscount