Our First Caravan Makeover | Introducing Dolly 1

Our first caravan makeover was a bit of a gamble.

We’d bought a little touring caravan; plain, boring (and a bit beige). And I’d decided to upcycle her.

As you do.

This was before the days of Pinterest and Instagram. There was no reference.

So it was a risk. But one that really paid off!

Our cool caravan makeover — I painted the exterior of Dolly and made a vinyl decal with her name on it!! She looked so much better than when she was boring old beige.

Pet Hates and Touring Caravans

When I was younger, I had numerous pet hates.

People who don’t thank you when you hold the door open for them — the sliver of ear that pokes through certain hairstyles (mainly on women) — bourbon biscuits — touring caravans…

the list was quite extensive.

Roll on a few years and it’s amazing how age mellows a person and these little irks are no longer, well, irksome.

And in some cases I’ve done a complete 360° turn and the pet hate has morphed into a pet love (although this will never be said for the ear thing — I still hate that).

And Bourbon biscuits.

However, touring caravans have redeemed themselves to such an extent, I actually shed a little tear when we waved goodbye to our last one. Who’d have thought it?

Not me, that’s for sure.

But that’s genuinely what happened.

Our Cool Caravan

Our cool caravan Dolly — funny little box on wheels — had became such an integral part of our family life that I was gutted when we sold her a few weeks ago.

A vision of shabby chic — probably more shabby than chic — and the catalyst for so many amazing adventures.

She offered the most comfortable bed and shelter from torrential rain (I’m thinking Glastonbury last year when the deluge was so bad it bent and snapped the metal poles of our awning).

Whilst other festival revellers struggled with damp clothes and steaming socks, we were safe in the knowledge that our spare clothes were bone dry and we had a comfy warm bed to snuggle up in, when the music — and mud — became a little too much.

Dolly — our cool caravan — after her caravan makeover!! I painted the exterior of Dolly in fresh white and powder blue — and made a vinyl decal with her name on it!! She looked so much better than when she was boring old beige. She regularly got mistaken for a vintage caravan!
Our cool caravan — meet Dolly :)
The sun coming through the window of Dolly the caravan. We used laminate on the floor and I covered the cushions with polkadot fabric. She looked so much fresher after her caravan makeover!! More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!
Looking towards the doorway of Dolly the caravan! I painted the cupboard area in fresh white and wallpapered the walls as part of my caravan makeover. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!

Resplendent in Cath Kidston; it had been noted — on many occasions — that our little caravan looked like CK had thrown up in her but I don’t want to dwell on that ;)

She was comfy and cosy and a million miles away from the boring old beige caravans that you usually see crawling along the roads.

Although she didn’t start off like that. Oh no.

A Caravan Makeover With a Difference

When we first bought her she was your typical offering.

Beige. Brown wood. Nasty upholstery.

A pretty ugly standard touring caravan.  

It’s not often I’ll put ugly pictures on my blog but — in this instance — I thought it was important to illustrate just what we were dealing with when we first clapped eyes on her.

I think before and after caravan renovations are much more interesting than just the ‘afters’.

pictures of our first caravan makeover — the before pictures!
Our cool caravan? Not so cool to begin with! This little box on wheels was desperate for a caravan makeover!

Ack.The above pictures hurt my eyes to be honest! She was a vision in brown.

Why do caravans always look like that?!

Needless to say, a few cans of paint and some chintzy wallpaper rectified all that.

Although I searched on the internet for caravan makeover photos, it was before the days of Pinterest. Trying to find out how to update a caravan interior was pretty tricky.

Nevertheless, with some moderate DIY knowledge — and a lot of good intent — I set to and turned Dolly into what we see here today.

The living space in Dolly after her caravan makeover! I painted the ceiling and cupboards, and wallpapered the walls with Cath Kidston wallpaper. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!
Close up of the drawer unit and shelf in Dolly the caravan; after it had been painted as part of my first caravan makeover. I kept the original green velvet curtains but covered the seats with blue polkadot fabric. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!
Dolly the caravan's kitchen area; after it had been painted as part of my first caravan makeover. I painted the units white and wallpapered the wall's with Cath Kidston wallpaper. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!
The interior of Dolly the caravan, after she had been painted as part of my first caravan makeover. I covered the seats in polkadot fabric and made shabby chic bunting. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!

Goodby Dolly — Hello Caravan Makeover Number 2!

When we bought her, my boy and I were a little unit; just the two of us. We never — in our wildest dreams — expected that there would be two more little bodies joining us on our travels!

Needless to say, we’ve managed for the last couple of years but as the twins are now growing boys — and will soon be out of their travel pods — we needed more space than Dolly’s 2 berth capacity could offer.

So we’ve waved her off with her new family and bought a new van.

Another vision in brown. And actually — if at all possible — much (much) worse than Dolly was when we first bought her.

I’m SO looking forward to sharing the new caravan’s makeover on the blog.

Fingers crossed, over the course of the next year, she’ll be turned from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

A new home-on-wheels in the making — and many, many more adventures to come :)

Little drinks cabinet in Dolly the caravan, after it had been painted as part of my first caravan makeover. More info on both of my caravan makeovers on the blog!

Pin This!

Before and After Images of our First Caravan Makeover!
Before and After Pics of our First Caravan Makeover
Editors note:

It’s been a few year’s since I wrote this original post and, since then, we’ve updated another caravan — Dolly 2 — you can see the second caravan makeover blog here.

I’ve also created a totally separate caravan makeover post, on how to update a caravan interior. You can go and read the first part here, which outlines how I wallpapered and painted the interior of both vans.

Please share, if you like this!

About Caro Davies

Caro Davies art directed fashion and interiors before leaving the world of design to pursue a career in social media. She can now be found chasing the light — and two small twin boys.

48 thoughts on “Our First Caravan Makeover | Introducing Dolly 1

    1. Hi Joanne, I bought some fabric and covered the cushions really simply — almost like wrapping a parcel! It’s not the most precessional job in the world but they look a million times better!! :) I have a half written post, showing how I did it! I’ll get around to finishing/publishing it one of the days!

  1. Oh my goodness me I think I’m in caravan heaven!!My partner last night said I think buying a little caravan sounds great(I’d already sent him a link for one selling locally) the usual drab interior is to be expected,then by magic I came across your amazing blog such an inspiration,I’m so excited and have even named her (Clementine) xx

    1. Hi Beki! Aaaah I’m SO excited for you!!!!! To be honest, as long as the van you buy is sound — structurally good with no damp — the interior can be REALLY ugly and it doesn’t matter :)

      You can literally treat a caravan interior as you would with any room in a house; only you can have a little more fun with it and perhaps choose a style you wouldn’t want to live with all the time.

      I wouldn’t have minded spending the night in Dolly 1 when we first bought her — she was drab and dated but tidy and clean — but Dolly 2 was REVOLTING when we first bought her. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to spend a night in there!! We love her now though — it’s amazing what a difference a can of white paint and a new floor can make!!

      Good luck!

  2. What a beautiful job you made of Dolly. Can I ask what paint you used on the outside and did you spray or roller it on? We have an old Elddis and I have been thinking of painting her as she’s looking a bit tired. Thanks x

  3. Dolly looks fab. We have the same van but ours is still in the oridunal browns and wood. It’s great to see what can be done as I was lost on where to start :)
    Just a quick qestion, what paint did you use on the outside? Am waist to paint ours but again unsure where to start? Thanks x

    1. Hello Debi! Thanks so much for getting in touch! I used coach-paint on the outside. I got the colour mixed up to my specification too — we had blue for the first Dolly and yellow for Dolly 2!! I will write a post in the new year, explaining it all — where I got the paint from etc. Good luck!!! :)

      1. I love your blog it’s brilliant ! Thank you ! What type of psint did you use on the walls and cabinets and how has it lasted please ? Thank you !

  4. Lovely pictures, a really super makeover.
    We have the same model van, a little bigger (4-6 berth) and plan to do the same. Ours is a 1999 model. What year is Dolly, out of interest?

    Look forward to the next makeover.
    All the best.

  5. Caro, from the moment I saw Dolly I fell in love with her but what a transformation it was to get her there. You did an amazing job and she was so pretty. I can’t wait to see what you do with your new one ☺ #HomeEtc

    1. Aah thanks pet!! I can’t wait to see how the new one’s going to turn out either!!! ;) It’s taking a LONG time. MUCH longer than Dolly did, as we didn’t have the boys back then. Trying to fit a caravan makeover around two little people is blooming hard!! x

  6. I would happily have lived out the rest of my days in the little beauty that was Dolly. So stylish but cozy…and cute (how the heck do you do it?)… I am so excited to see the next transformation xoxo

    1. Aaah thanks lovely!! I’m OBSESSED with caravans these days — I absolutely love them!! Buying Dolly was one of the best things we ever did! I can’t wait ’til the new one’s finished! :)

  7. Oh my god, Dolly looked amazing! You really did work wonders on the interior, it looked so cozy! It must have been really sad to say goodbye, but exciting too to have the new one to makeover. And lots more new adventures! Sabrina xx #HomeEtc
    PS -How can you not like bourbon biscuits?!?!

    1. Aah thanks lovely!! She was SO cosy!! Such a fab place to shelter in when the rain was hammering down!! We went to Shambala in the new van and it’s going to be awesome after it’s finished! Lots more room for the boys and us :) And yep. EVERYONE always says that!! LOL! I’ve no idea why I don’t like them. I think it’s because I expected them to taste of chocolate. And they’re a MASSIVE let down!!!!!

  8. Wow what a brilliant transformation!! It looks completely different, you’d never get that little beauty had such a sad start in life. What kind of paint did you use for the doors? I want to paint my kitchen doors but am too scared! My dad has a camper van that we borrow sometimes and it makes camping so much more bearable! Becky x #HomeEtc PS I am totally with you on the ear poking through thing. UGH!

    1. Aaah thanks lovely — and don’t be scared!! It’s all in the preparation. If you’ve got wooden doors, sand them back and give them an undercoat before painting. I’d advise taking them all off the hinges and taking all the hardware off first. If they’re melamine doors, paint them with cupboard paint. I’ve changed the colour of my current kitchen twice now, as I hate what we’ve inherited but we can’t afford a brand new one. It’s such an easy way of giving something an update xx

  9. Even your caravan has style! What a fab job and so pretty. Ahhhh so sad to see her go though :( Cannot wait to see the new one and all your new adventures! So exciting :) Jess xxx


    1. Haha!! Thanks lovely. I couldn’t have associated with her in the state she was in when we first met!! Not my cup of tea at all. The whole shabby chic thing isn’t really me either but it suited Dolly to a tee. I’m looking forward to cracking on and finishing the new one! :)

  10. Wow! I actually can’t quite believe that’s the same caravan – what a complete transformation!! It looks just amazing. Definitely more chic than shabby now. I love the colours and how airy it all feels. Fabulous job and can I just say again – WOW!!!

  11. Well Hello Dolly.
    You’re lookin’ swell, Dolly…

    And Goodbye Dolly! Sorry I couldn’t resist – she looks fab, looking forward to seeing Dolly v 2 xx thanks for hosting #homeetc

  12. Wowee Dolly how lovely you looked!! I’ve never seen a caravan done up so beautifully and could definitely see how that can change your view on caravanning.

    PS, I had so forgotten about the ear slivers, it made me spit a bit of tea out. I hate that too, isn’t it mainly an affliction of those with pokerstraight very thin hair? And pointy ears maybe?! Xx

    1. Aaah thank you Lins — hopefully the new van will be just as lovely! In a different way :) Hahaha!! I thought it was just me with the ear thing!! So funny!! Yes — usually very thin, straight hair ;)

  13. what an amazing job you’ve done, no doubt your next project will be just as fab, I think you may have just inspired me, now just got to convince the husband. #homeect

    1. Thanks lovely. I can’t TELL you how brilliant it’s been, having this little caravan!! It’s just brilliant — and even better when it’s all nicely decorated!! I couldn’t stand it when we first bought it! Plus they make great garden hideaways, if you’ve got the space outside!

  14. Ah I absolutely LOVE Dolly! Who cares if it looks like Cath threw up in her?? She totally rocks that look. I can see why you were sad to wave her goodbye. Looking forward to seeing the new van makeover xx

  15. Oh my word what a beautiful caravan. I have never wanted a caravan but seeing your pictures makes me want to have a go myself. Good luck styling the new one I can’t wait to see what you come up with x

  16. Dolly was definitely a beauty, you really made her so beautiful. Can’t wait to see what you do with the next one! xxx

  17. Oh my God Caro! I can well imagine that you cried on selling Dolly. She was gorgeous. Such a transformation! Well done you!
    Can’take wait to see what you do with the new van!

    1. Haha! It didn’t occur to me NOT to paint them!! ;) As everything in our home gets painted eventually anyway, it sort of made sense to do the same with the caravan! :) I couldn’t have lived with it as it was — it would have driven me mad!!! :) xx

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