12 August 2016

vintage caravan renovation project (part 2) completion!

So, do you remember the vintage caravan we bought about a month and a half ago? It seems like years ago! We were so excited to renovate this Thomson Mini Glen (manufactured in Falkirk, Scotland) and use it for primarily our Rust Jewellery wedding/events and vintage shop and also for a little bit of adventuring too ; ) 
It took us longer than we wanted, firstly, we weren't allowed to work on it at the barn storage where we were going to keep it. So we had to find another place to use temporarily. Luckily my brother pointed us in the right direction, and we found a man who lent us some space in his cow shed come boat workshop. He was really helpful with advice and tea.
Then, obviously we have a three year old and a two month old baby (now four months old) and a business to run, so it was a little bit tricky juggling everything. It was like a relay race. We barely ever worked on the caravan together.
Anyhows, I like to think it is now finished, although there are always a few 'bits and bobs' that still need work. These photos are from different phones and cameras, and I hope they are in order (sort of).

So these were taken by the previous owner (we won it on ebay), and below is when we collected it from Southampton and took it back home to the Isle of Wight.

The caravan is from 1977, our VW camper van is from 1978, (I am also from 1978, but lets not dwell on that).

Back in the day, brown was THE colour. It was actually quite overwhelming at first until your eyes adjusted to the brown.

Literally everything was just disintegrating and anything plastic was brittle and snapped (like all of the door catches). The 'baby poo' coloured shag pile carpet and orange brown curtains were turning to dust, as were the seat cushions.

There were a couple of small areas of rot, we suspect due to a slightly ill fitting front door. Unfortunatly the fridge cupboard and 'mini bar' had to be ripped out (we never had the fridge, but everything else was still present).

The body is made of aluminium panels attached to a wooden frame with a sort of fiberboard on the inside (with is coated with pale brown vinyl wall paper).
The aluminium window frames and door frame were badly corroded (which is to be expected I should say) and it was hard to sand off.

These are the rotted areas which we had to patch up. Also the lower half of the front door panel.

Back in the day, using gas to power everything in a tiny unventilated box was absolutely fine! We didn't fancy the idea, so we removed the Carver heater and gas light above the dining table (we'll use a portable electric heater if we ever camp in the winter with hook up).

We kept all of the other units, including the gas hob/grill and kitchen and bathroom sink (yes there is even a tiny washroom)...

(sink in the washroom)...actually I quite like that curtain fabric!

The taps do work (although, even after sterilising, I still won't be drinking from them), They operate with a small foot pump under the kitchen sink which also has an electric motor! I think we will stick to the foot method.

So I set about painting the cupboard doors and wc sink, I used a special paint for Laminte surface, called cupboard paint. It is super sticky and very expensive, so for the cupboards I just used it as undercoat and used a good quality 'Diamond Hard' Trade paint top coat.

Underneath the carpet and two layers of shiny lino we discovered quite fine wood floorboards! So we decided to paint them, I used the left overs from when we renovated our Rust Yarmouth shop

Nao worked on the exterior, lots of rubbing down, and then a zinc primer for the aluminium...

...and the another rub down and a top coat. Nao used a car paint which he had colour matched. He had all kinds of problems with this paint, and eventually had to ask our friend to spray it on instead as it was going patchy of matte and shiny, annoying!

This is the barn where we worked...

I painted the window frames in white to match the door (the roof part is pale grey) and I painted on the name.

...Storm Petrel...one of my favourite birds. I love all the mythology surrounding this small dark seabird. 
So many things in common that we thought it was perfect for our caravan.

So this is the final product of all our hardwork (actually only one or two days a week to be honest ; )
We took it first of all to our fave campsite on the Isle of Wight, Compton Farm I love the stunning valley with cows, and view of the white cliff and the sea! 
I should point out that strictly speaking, caravans are not allowed in the tent field, but they said it was okay for the purpose of my blog only ; )

I also painted the name and bird on the other side too, but a bit bigger...

I had new foam cut to size and made new covers. The fabric I bought on ebay, I didn't have enough, so I used some stripy linen that I already had, for the underneath. I find velco much better for this type of cover than zips.

There is so much storage space in this tiny van, and under the seats is where you can store all the bedding and lanterns and such like. I couldn't wrench up the lino from the floor so I just cleaned it and lined it with some vintage wallpaper...Nao replaced the old cupboard with plywood...

The table is an exact replacement of the original laminate chipboard one, but we went for real pine instead. I used a clear coating to protect it (Rustoleum I think?).
I found some new wooden handles and knobs for the cupboard doors, and we put up some ikea spice rack things to put a few books on...

Nao replaced the front door panels with plywood and I coated them with same stuff as the table and the kitchen tops...

(I found the cushion covers from Etsy and ebay btw)

I love this tiny room the most! We removed the original plastic shelf under the mirror and the electric light which I replaced with a battery operated led motion sensor light, my new favourite invention.

(that is not toothpaste by the way, it's hand cream!)
Nao put a handy shelf under the sink for nappies and wipes etc...and the potty and wash tubs go underneath.

The wardrobe (who needs a wardrobe when camping?!) we turned into shelves instead.
and where the heater used to be, we fitted this little basket, as it is a handy spot when you are sitting at the table...

The gas hob is not actually working properly so we will get that checked by a qualified gas person at some point. We will use the portable one from our van temporarily.

I love that it came with the original hob lighter...

This is the foot pump for the taps...you get a good thigh workout when you do the washing up.

Where the cupboard was that we ripped out, is the wheel arch, so we had to do something with that. Nao built a box around it which I painted to match the walls. And a basket of toys, that goes without saying.

I had a lot of fun finding things for the caravan, mostly for the cooking area, and also this little rug which is also from ebay, and a new blanket from a local shop in Yarmouth.

Again the curtain fabric was from ebay, it is actually chambray shirt fabric. I replaced the gold plastic curtain track with curtain wire instead.

The skylight retainers had become brittle and one snapped off, sadly when we towed the caravan out of the barn, the top flew off and smashed on the road! We had to find a replacement which cost £45 and it is a fraction too small. But, I love watching the clouds and the stars through the roof!


So the table top slots down in-between the seats and the cushions lie flat to create a double bed! Not bad I say, unless you are 5ft 9 or above. I'm 5ft 1, so people must have been sorter in the 70s.

Oh I forget to mention, the wood trim all the way around the caravan...I sanded this down (a lot of work actually!) and put on a few coats of sealer, I'm quite pleased with how they came up so nice. And we gave the original name plate and hubcaps a bit of a buff up too!

Needless to say, I totally love this little box on wheels, mostly because I can sit in it and know that every single tiny thing was worked on by us (actually sit there tutting to myself that I 'missed a bit').
I will do another post next, about our first family camping trip in Storm Petrel, the first of many adventures and enterprises I hope!

Thank you for sticking with this post right to the end! x

p.s. you can read Part 1 here>


  1. I love every single corner of this caravan that you took back to life. It has now a fresh look boho style I would say! Well done. I'm so jealous!!

  2. ABSOLUTLY PERFECT!!!!!Enjoy your beautifull life you are so inspirative !
    Thank you!

  3. It is amazing beyond words! You guys have the best style, everything here is perfect...I want to move in! You've spurred me on to get mine finished.

  4. what a magical space- such vision

  5. Just beautiful. Well done.

  6. this is ah-MAY-zing! love love it. you're fam is so talented, thanks for sharing the inspiration!

  7. Such an amazing job! Well done, it's beautiful!!

  8. Simply wow... well done, it really looks great xx

  9. Wonderful, I love that the curtain fabric mimics the outside of the caravan....storm petrel. Great find and great finish.

  10. I'm amazed by all this work and the beautiful result!
    You're (both) very talented and resourceful (I never thought I could buy fabric on Ebay).

    Can't wait for another post about your camping adventures!

  11. I was waiying for this post. This so inspiring for me us we are about to buy camper van soon. Yours looks amazing now, i like the painting and the name you gave it, i am going to name ours as well. We are going to travel to England in October (we are from Poland)and hoping to visit some bootcar sale to get some bits to our wheel home ;)Do you know any inspiring websites with vintage caravans?

  12. Unbelievable!! What an incredible transformation and very inspiring post, you created something really beautiful.

  13. Oh my this is sooo beautiful 😍

  14. Blimey, amazing amount of work, You could rent out your house for summer and stay in the caravan! I wouldn't want to go back home if I had that little nest, lovely.

  15. Reading this brought our summer childhood holidays flooding back. As a child we had a caravan (I think it was a Thompson but it was an Alpine - a bit bigger than this) My Dad towed that caravan all over Europe and we had some wonderful holidays. Even Yugoslavia when it was still Yogoslavia!

    I remember the colour palette being a sludgy green. May be brown ( and you are right - the colour of the 70s! I even had a brown bedroom for goodness sake!) but I also remember the clever storage. Everywhere was used for storage. It was so clever. And we had that for pump on the floor for the water. I remember pumping it now!

    You have done an excellent job on this. caravans could be cool again thanks to you. Did you have to do much work to the subframe or was the underneath in pretty good shape?

    And Storm Petrel is such an inspired name.

    Right - off to eBay to source my own!!!

  16. WoW amazing!! Now i want one too 😍

  17. Amazing! I love it!

  18. Oh my goodness it's absolutely adorable. I love how you get these things done even with your children and business, and you know, life. I can barely keep my own house tidy. Good for you.

  19. Incredible....love this.

  20. Soooo beautiful! Well done - I can just imagine how satisfying it is to sit in there after all your hard work! Very inspiring for me - I'm hoping to convert a campervan in a few years when I make the move out of London. Also - I really like the use of Ikea spice racks for books - might need to steal that! x

  21. I've been waiting for this post to appear :) I Love your caravan, you've Done an exelent work with and I'm amazed with both your and Nao's talent for making things fit together! Maybe me and My 8 year old daughter should take over her grandparents trailer arter all.... Looking forward to more pics fr.o.m. Your campingtrips

  22. Love this- might be enough to convince my husband to take on a reno. I still want a shed like yours in the backyard, too. Will you rent this to us if we ever come to the island? (From Texas, USA?)

  23. Blimey! Absolutely beautiful. Perfect :-)

  24. Ok dear, I'm completely speechless. You are a great interior designer and decorator. Wow.

  25. Can you please be my mummy? I want to live in this caravan.

  26. Absolutely beautiful. Such talent. Well done! x

  27. I love this! You have great talent.

  28. Wow Ab Fab! You and your hubby are a very talented and determined pair! Enjoy. :)

  29. I'm in awe not only of your talent and resourcefulness but also of your time management! Seriously, how did you find the time for this incredible resoration with two little 'uns? You have great taste ... I love all the little details. I'm hoping to buy a static soon and think your spice rack idea is brilliant but wondering how you fixed them to the wall? Loved this post and hope to read about more camping trips soon. X

  30. Wow! So inspiring. It seems everything you give a little elbow grease and attention to turns up gold. I enjoy reading about all your projects. And satisfied indeed shall you both be knowing it came from your own hands. Enjoy every moment as I'm sure you will and look forward to future adventures of your wee box on wheels.

  31. I love your caravan! You've done such a good job. I used to LOVE caravaning when I was little, that was how we went on all our family holidays and we'd go with Uncles and Grandparents and cousins in a little convoy haha so seeing things like the little foot pump etc make me feel so nostalgic!

  32. You guys are incredible!! I can only imagine all the adventures and memories your family will have in this adorable camper. You and Nao are such a dream-team of talents and creativity. We recently got a "shell" (empty, customizable) camper that sits in the bed of our truck. It's just has a bed platform right now, so I am excited to build cabinets, sew curtains and cushions, and fill it with sweet little treasures from our travels. This post is such wonderful inspiration. One idea I had was to keep a journal in the camper and have the family write entires or draw pictures in it every time we go on an adventure. I think I'll get a big spiral-bound photo-album style book so that we can add paper to it as needed and also pocket pages for keeping feathers, shells, flowers, etc. that we find along the way.

  33. Love it! What an awesome job that you two did on this!! I wish you many many happy camping trips and memories in this little cutie. Thanks for sharing and I loved looking at every photo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. You two are an amazing team.....so very talented and with an impressive (to me, anyway ) style. I love everything about what you have achieved and how you run your lives....all power to you ! Thank you for sharing and giving us all a glimpse into a magical world. It makes me think I've climbed into the pages of a childhood book. Love it!

  35. Thank you for sharing so many pictures! You and your husband did an awesome job, this makes me want a little camper of my own. Well done.

  36. It looks amazing. I was born in Falkirk, my parents still live there and I never knew that caravans were made there...so that's one new thing I learnt today ;-)

  37. You've both done an amazing job! It looks fabulous, and absolutely magical at night time!

  38. Absolutely gorgeous! Such a beautiful renovation. Well done for fitting all that hard work around looking after two little ones!

  39. You have made an amazing and wonderful work with this caravan. Really lovely.

  40. Such a dream, well done!

  41. Are you kidding me?!?!? Seriously, no SERIOUSLY, how do you guys even do stuff like this with a three-year-old and a BABY??? Olympic gold medal, you two. This is just utterly dreamy and every kind of wonderful. I stand, as Hugh Grant would say, in bewildered awe. Love you.



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