I regularly receive emails from fellow caravan enthusiasts with questions about Dolly 1 and, more recently, Dolly 2. Very often, they’ve stumbled across my blog posts — or Pinterest pins — and ask for tips on decorating a caravan.
I’m asked what kind of paint we used on the walls and cupboards and what we used to hang the wallpaper.
So finally, I’ve decided to make a little list of tips for decorating a caravan interior.
It’s super simple and the look that can be achieved is fabulous.
I’m going to split the content into various posts — painting and wallpapering the interior, then all the fiddly bits like sinks and fittings, the upholstery and, finally, revamping the exterior.
There’s way too much content for one post — and there’s also a LOT of photos!!
So here goes…
Decorating a Caravan » Part 1
Painting Woodwork and Veneer Covered Walls:
In most older caravans — and even bright shiny new ones — the interior seems to be a sea of brown (or worse, orange) wood.
In some cases it’s real. In a lot of cases it’s chipboard; covered in a plastic wooden-look coating. The doors in both our vans have been solid wood but the surrounds have been constructed from a veneered MDF.
Either way, it can all easily be given a fresh, clean look with paint.
1. Firstly, we always take all of the doors off their hinges. This is not strictly necessary but makes them much easier to paint.
Top Tip: Make a note of which door goes where!
2. Give them a light sanding with medium grade sandpaper.
3. Prime using a cupboard makeover paint undercoat or primer. This is the perfect stuff for giving melamine, MDF, wood, wood veneers and acrylic bath panels a new lease of life.
5. Once you’ve primed with a suitable cupboard makeover undercoat paint, give them a topcoat.
The tins always advise to use the corresponding cupboard makeover paint but I haven’t in all cases. I’ve found that a topcoat in standard eggshell works just as well. Which is great as it means you can get bespoke colours mixed up to suit.
Annie Sloan chalk paint would also probably work well if you were after a flat, matt finish. Especially as it seems to cover most surfaces without the need for priming. That said, although I’ve used it on furniture I’ve not tried it myself on a caravan, so don’t quote me on that!
Painting The Walls and Ceilings:
We used the same cupboard makeover paint on the walls — and ceiling — of Dolly 1.
But for Dolly 2 we decided to try a different approach and although we used the cupboard makeover primer to undercoat the walls and ceiling — we did the second coat in standard white emulsion.
This was a triumph.
It saved us quite a lot of money and looks amazing — especially on the ceiling. It gives a lovely matt finish.
You’d expect it to flake or crack but a couple of years on and it still looks fabulous. I’m so delighted with the finish.
We painted all the plastic struts with the cupboard makeover paint first then went over the whole lot with the emulsion paint and a roller.
Now, there will be a point — probably when you’re half way though the renovation — that a sense of panic will begin to set in.
Don’t worry!!! This is perfectly normal!!!
Decorating a caravan is fun but can be a bit of a messy job. Particularly as you’ll be working in a very tight space.
Plus it doesn’t help matters if you’re a bit of a chaotic worker (like me) and don’t do things in order. I always start with the very best of intentions but invariably things start to look like a total bombsite; as I don’t work in a logical sequence. It drives Mr D nuts.
Opening the door to chaos can be a bit overwhelming but — trust me — just work through it. Keep painting. It will look amazing eventually.
To give you a little spoiler alert — these are the kind of scenes that you may be faced with when you’re midway through decorating a caravan.
And definitely alarming.
When you’ve spent a substantial amount of money on purchasing the van in the first place, it’s a slightly scary prospect to see looking like this.
But stick with it.
Give everything a couple of coats of paint and — bit by bit — the sea of orange wood will begin to diminish.
Eventually you’ll have painted every surface. Apart from the ones that you plan to wallpaper (if you’re going down that route).
Wallpapering a Caravan Interior:
We’ve wallpapered both of our vans. Not sure what made me think that wallpapering a caravan was a good idea but it is.
It totally works.
I went for a shabby-chic feel for Dolly 1. It has been said (on more than one occasion) that it looked like Cath Kidston had thrown up on her. But I take that as a compliment.
Here’s how she looked before her makeover.
And after a little bit of elbow grease — a lot of paint — and one roll of wallpaper, she looked like this.
Traditional or Modern?
I went for a more graphic Orla Keily-esque look with Dolly 2 and used a range by Layla Faye from Wallpaper Direct.
Pop and have a look at the original post for more info.
Wallpapering a caravan follows the same process as papering anything else to be honest.
I used standard tools — ruler, scalpel, brush, sponge and a papering table. And on both occasions I used a standard wallpaper paste; Polycell Maximum Strength, if memory serves.
The trickiest thing about wallpapering the interior of a caravan is trying to cut around tricky angles. But apart from that it’s no different from wallpapering a room in a house.
I wallpapered the ceiling in one of our bedrooms a couple of year’s ago so it’s something I’m quite confident doing. I also quite like working on small surfaces — as opposed to large rooms — so in some respects I find it easier than wallpapering a house.
A few little pointers for you.
Make sure the walls are grease free. Caravan walls can sometimes get a little greasy, due to cooking in such a tiny space, so making sure you give the surfaces a good wash down with sugar soap is always a good idea.
Paste both the wall and the paper; I always hang the paper from the top edge and trim the overhang at the bottom. Make sure you smooth the paper down well and buff out with a dry wallpaper brush to get rid of any bubbles. It can look a little bit alarming when the paper is wet but the bubbles tend to settle down and disappear when the paste is dry.
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
I remember feeling so nervous when I wallpapered Dolly 1.
Would it be a waste of a £30 roll of paper? Will the paper stick? Would it last?
I had visions of the opening her up after the first winter to find the wallpaper hanging off the walls and peeling paint everywhere but that never happened.
We had Dolly 1 for almost 7 years and the paper and paint looked as good when we sold her as the day it was put on.
So there we have it! A few tips on decorating a caravan. Next time I’ll talk about painting a caravan exterior.
Thanks so much to everyone who’s got in contact about Dolly 1 and Dolly 2. I love receiving your emails and would be thrilled to see how you get on with your own van makeovers.
Please do drop me a line with any before and after photos! Caro xx