Q&A WITH THE RENOVATORS OF ALOHA THE CARAVAN

Meet Anna and Matt, the renovators of Aloha the Caravan. This couple did not muck around when they purchased their old 1980s caravan and transformed it from a tired old Viscount into a beautiful haven for their family to enjoy within 3 months. Read about their hurdles and their budget friendly tips and tricks in our Q and A with them.

BEFORE

AFTER

Q. What are your top 3 tips for anyone about to start a caravan renovation?

  • Make sure you are thorough when checking for water damage. Check all around the windows, hatches, and door for discolouration, warped or splitting walls or water staining. If it has a damp and mouldy smell, that, my friend, is a good indicator of water damage.
  • Do the outside first. We did not do this, but I think we would have saved ourselves a lot of tears if we had. By doing the exterior first you can concentrate on getting the caravan watertight. If it is not watertight all your hard work inside could be for nothing and you will have to redo it all.
  • Do not throw anything away until you have finished your renovation! This is especially important if you are replacing any of the interior walls like we did. Take your time when you remove it as you can use this as a template for your new walls. Also, you do not know what bits and bobs you could reuse which will save you some money.

Q. What made you guys buy a caravan to renovate?

Any family knows how expensive a family holiday can be! For this reason, we would go on one a year if that. But I wanted to be able to take the kids away more, explore and see more of this beautiful country we live in without spending a fortune on accommodation.  So, when I saw an image of a renovated caravan on Pinterest I was like “That’s it!”. The next day I put up a wanted ad on gumtree and by the end of the week we had bought our first caravan. My partner Matt just went along with it, he knows what I am like, once I get an idea into my head there is no stopping me ha-ha.

Q. Had you done a caravan renovation or any renovations before?

I have always loved caravans, for me, they make me feel like I am a kid again playing in my little cubby house. As a child I used to have an old caravan up the back of our block which I would play in for hours and pretend it was my house. It was my little sanctuary which I could decorate and make my own however I chose. So, if that counts as a caravan renovation then yes? Ha-ha No we had not done a caravan renovation before, but I have done renovations before and I am an interior decorator. Anyone that knows me knows that I am always doing some project around the house. I think that comes from my parents. They were always building or renovating most of my childhood.

Q. How long did the renovation take to complete?

It took us 12 weeks from the very start of buying our caravan to having her finished to go away on our first trip. That being said the first 4 weeks we did not really do much. It was such a spur of the moment purchase I think we needed the time to plan, get our vision for Aloha clear and most importantly learn the ins and outs of caravan renovations, let me tell you they are not built like a house!  We had no idea that caravans are built from the inside out so our first initial ideas of just removing a cupboard turned into replacing that and the wall behind it. Anyone who has done this will know what I am talking about! There were some setbacks and learning curves about the correct way of doing things took a bit of time.

Q. Did you guys enjoy the process?

I 100% loved every minute of it. It is literally all I talked about for 3 months. Nobody could talk to me about anything else other than Caravans ha-ha. Matt enjoyed it but definitely wasn’t as enthusiastic about the project as I was, he would of liked to have a break here and there maybe, but I was always saying “come one, let’s work on the caravan”. I just fell in love with caravan renovations, for me it is as satisfying as completing a house renovation but on a much more small, manageable scale. By that I mean when you finish a part of the renovation, such as getting the floors down or getting the painting inside done it transforms the space completely and you do a little happy dance because it’s getting closer to how you imagine it. It’s manageable because you aren’t living in it during the process, it’s just confined to your garage so you can do a bit at a time.

Q. What are your top 3 luxe for less buys for Aloha?

1. Op Shop finds
I love all the little op shop finds I found for her particularly when it came to kitchenware. I found some beautiful glasses which were all different tones of browns and oranges as well as the cool picnic basket for only $5!

2. The handles we bought off eBay
We paid $10.50 for 12 which was a total bargain! eBay has so many affordable handle options to choose from too ranging from vintage looking handles to more modern alternatives. If you want to keep the original viscount clip handles you can also find these on eBay as well for replacements.

3. The curtains I made myself using Kmart tablecloths.
Yes, you read that correctly. I purchased two of the $9 Extra Large White Rectangle Tablecloths and taught myself how to sew curtains watching YouTube videos ha-ha. We used the existing curtain rods which were springs that attached to eye hooks. And voila we had curtains that let light in but are not sheer enough that people can see in!

Q. What were some of the hurdles you had to overcome during the reno process?

There definitely were a few but the biggest was the water damage. When we bought the caravan, we were told by the seller that the stains we saw on the ceiling were from an old leak and the problem was all fixed. After we started removing things from her like the old bed and curtains, we soon found out that was not the only leak she had. Both rear corners were completely rotted as well as around 3 of the windows. So, half of the interior walls needed replacing which was not our intention when we purchased her. We thought we could paint everything white and make her look pretty. Yeah right! So, we replaced half of the interior walls and sealed up where we though the leak was coming from. We were so happy with ourselves that we did that without having ever done caravan walls before. I started painting, luckily only the undercoat and that week it rained. It rained and the caravan leaked. In all the same spots. So, we had to take out the windows that were leaking and scrape the old (enter what it called) away and reseal the windows using (enter the stuff). We then went along all the joins of the exterior and the j-moulds making sure every little bit was sealed up good! This was a long and tedious process, just when we thought we had it done it would rain again and one spot would still leak. We persisted and finally found the leak around a pop rivet.

Q. What are some things you did to save money during your reno?

Just about everything! Every part of the renovation process was how can we do this without spending a fortune. That is just me though, I’m a bargain hunter and always have been super thrifty.

When it came to the upholstery, we used a material from spotlight which was super cheap but still was going to look luxe and achieve the look we were going for.

All the cupboards in Aloha are the originals we just gave them a lacquer of paint in the colour princess bling, so that saved us money straight away as we weren’t have to build new cupboards from scratch. Most cupboards were in great condition but we did give the front face of the kitchen a facelift so to speak by covering it with a new piece of ply as there were quite a lot of chips and dents. BY doing this it looked like we had replaced the whole thing but without the cost!

We also reused anything we could. We reused the slats for the bunks were from the original double bed. We did a DIY hack on the original mirror by putting some of the leftover plastic joining strip around the arched mirror which we had spray painted gold. We used off cuts from the kitchen benchtop to make a little shelf. Anywhere we could save some money we did it. We also sold some of the items that we did not want to keep such as the original oven, the sink and the bedhead. You would be surprised what people will buy; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Q. Have you ever considered selling Aloha? If not, what stopped you?

This was our first of many caravan renovations to come I am sure. Perhaps maybe in the future I will think about selling Aloha, but only if I had another little beauty to renovate. I know a lot of people who hire their caravans out as a side business which could be on the cards for Aloha one day but I would need to store her at a Mammoth Storage unit if this was the case as I would not have the room for a caravan renovation project and Aloha in our front yard.

Q. Where is the first place you will be going away to in Aloha when the restrictions are lifted?

ANYWHERE! Ha-ha We were talking about going to Byron Bay maybe before the restrictions were put in place so perhaps there. But it will probably be the middle of winter by then so maybe a snow trip is in order?