As of June 2018 I’ve been living in a caravan. Yes, completely on purpose. No, I’m not planning to move into a real house any time soon. To answer the frequently asked questions.
Now that I’ve been living this life for a while it’s time to change this camping item into a home.
When I started living in the caravan I set no goals and had zero expectations. I had never slept in a caravan before, I only had experience in tent camping. So I agreed with myself that I would try this out and see where it would get me. If I wasn’t happy then I would pack my things and find a house or move back to my parents.
After a few months I started to make the first changes, so my tiny house would really turn into a home. Every step makes it a bit more me than it was before. Since I know that caravans don’t sell well if they’re not original, I started with things that don’t have much impact and are easy to change back. But now I’ve been living in here for well over two years now and I don’t see myself changing direction any time soon. And if I somehow end up in a different situation then still I don’t see myself saying goodbye to this lovely friend.
Change 1 – Tent
The first change I made was on the first campsite. I bought a new tent. The one that came with the caravan was old and started to fall apart a little. But that wasn’t the biggest issue.
The thing was so heavy, there was no way that I could tear it down and set it up on my own. So I found this smaller tent, which is also a lot lighter. I’ve set it up all on my own and it doesn’t take up so much space when moving from one site to the next.
Change 2 – Seating area
The caravan has a very specific style of decoration, using blue and gold throughout the interior combined with a lot of wood. The cushions on the couch were a thorn in my side. Luckily this had a quick fix.
I had some olive green fabric lying around that I thought would be great for the pillows. I knew it wasn’t enough for all, so I decided that I wanted three different matching colors. I started measuring, cutting and sowing, and managed to upgrade three pillows. Then I remembered the leftovers of white curtains I used to have. With that fabric I could do another three cushions.
With a sample of each fabric I went to a fabric shop where I was lucky to find the third fabric for the last two pillows. In two weekends I finished the job.
The moment the cushions were back in place in the caravan the whole corner looked so much more modern.
Change 3 – Table
The table in the seating area was specifically made strong enough to use it as a base for a second bed. Since I’m alone, one bed is plentiful. The design of the table was irritating me heavily, often I bumped with my knees into the base of the table and also my feet could never be placed comfortably underneath. The table top could never be close or far enough, resulting in me leaning into the table when working. The last thing that was just plainly annoying was cleaning under the table, moving the table back and forth multiple times still resulted in a half cleaned area.
I searched the internet and finally I found this video that formed the base for my design. First I looked into how I could, just as him, attach the leg to the wall. The layout of my caravan was not offering any solutions here, until one day I thought about a floor base fitting in between the benches. This would be strong enough to hold the weight of the table top in whatever position the table would be.
I thought out the design in SketchUp and set to work. I wanted the table top and the base to be of about 3 cm thick wood, but this is very expensive. Instead I bought thin plywood and slightly thicker planks, glued and nailed them together. I cut the portions pipe for the table leg and pieced all that together. A thin sheet of copper filled up the extra space between the pipe and the connections, this eliminated the tiny bits of movement each connection had. I painted the wood in one base layer and then three layers of gray paint.
When the table was finally put into its rightful place it instantly was right. It does exactly what I wanted. I easily change the position of the table top. I love the flexibility.
Change 4 – Plants
Adding plants is one of those things that instantly give a more homey vibe to the caravan. My biggest challenge was to find plants that actually fit in the tiny spaces that I have available and at the same time can handle the hot and cold in the caravan. I started out with a glass bowl filled with some cacti. They handle hot and cold like a champ and I have to water them only once a month or so.
The other plant I bought straight away is a heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum).The plant itself is standing in a place where it gets hardly any sunlight, the hanging branches however do. At first I had it hanging down, but once it got too long I made a rope construction in the caravan where I draped the plant on. Now it’s about 2,5 meters long.
I now also own a chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides), that I got from a friend, and another cactus in a vase. All of them seem to do fine in the cold in winter (close to 0 celsius) and in the hot in summer (up to 40 celsius).
Change 5 – Fridge
After more than a year struggling with the old original fridge, I was lucky enough to almost have a good working second hand one thrown into my lap. The hard part with getting a new fridge in such a tiny house is finding one that fits the hole left by the previous one. Someone in the campground had one almost exactly the size I needed, and lucky for me, they didn’t need it anymore.
But then came the real challenge. Find a way to get it in there in a way that it wouldn’t go anywhere. Inspired by some browsing through youtube, I came up with the idea to put styrofoam between the walls of the cabinet and the fridge. I found sheeted styrofoam that was almost exactly the size of the gaps I had to fill.
First I put the fridge in its rightful position. Then I wedged the styrofoam boards to both sides of the thing. It was hard to get it neatly in place, but the technique of pushing with some pieces of wood worked as a charm.
To prevent the fridge from falling out and hide the styrofoam, I bought some aluminum L shaped corner trim. With this last step the fridge was snuged in so nicely it will never move again. To visually finish the project I made a new board that would hold the gas buttons in place, and then I was finally done.
On this project I had a great amount of help from friends and family. Thanks to each and everyone who helped me with removing the old fridge and placing the new.
Change 6 – The bed
The bed was as old as the caravan itself, built around 2002. What I know of the previous owners is that the caravan was used for long summer seasons, set up in one campground. After about 2 years living in the caravan I felt it was time to change the mattress. Since this caravan has a French bed (a corner of the mattress is cut off) and one half of the bed can be opened I needed an especially made mattress.
So I found a shop online that makes mattresses to any size and shape you like. I paid them a visit, tried some different types of mattress, and let myself be informed. I learned that the slating under the mattress is responsible for 33% of the sleeping quality. Since my slates were more bending downwards then upwards I decided that I had to work on that issue first.
I found slates by a company called Bedflex (not sponsored).
Removing the old slates and putting in the new took about 5 hours of work. I had help from both of my parents, which made a huge difference. Once the old slates were out, all new slates had to be cut to the right size. I used a jig saw with a fine blade to get nice clean cuts. After sanding the cuts the support pieces were slided on, whom I put holes in beforehand so the screwing would go easier. We looked at what would be the perfect spacing so they were spread evenly over the whole bed, and then each slate was put in with 4 screws. When the old mattress was put back on I could tell it was the right choice to change the slating.
Now I could order my mattress from De Slaapfabriek (not sponsored). After 2,5 weeks it was delivered. Since then sleeping experience in the caravan has completely changed. It doesn’t feel like a caravan bed anymore. Now it’s just my bed.
Change 7 – Cabinet doors
The interior of the caravan had a bit too much wood print for my taste. So to make it a bit more my style I decided that I would paint some of the doors and panels.
I painted one portion at a time and the smaller doors I took out so I could paint it laying flat. I started off with sanding. Since I was working with a paper like veneer layer I had to sand really well and create a good base layer. After sanding I cleaned it with an ammonia water mixture and let it dry properly. A white primer came after that and then two layers of the desired color. In between at least 12 hours to dry. I used water based paints to make sure it wouldn’t become too smelly in the caravan.
Before I started I was thinking about what color I wanted to paint everything. The color I really like was however very dark, and I worried that it would feel too dark inside. But I also didn’t want to make it all white. Then I came up with the idea of painting a plant pattern in my desired color on top of a nice white. I sketched out some different patterns till I found the one I really liked. I then drew the pattern on my painted surface and with some small paint brushes followed the design. A small amount of paint I mixed with some white and then I painted some highlights on my pattern.
Above my bed I created a wall painting of a mountain landscape. I did this before, years ago with a full wall. It was inspired by something I saw online. I started with drawing out my plan. Then I started off with white and then kept mixing more green in to get darker and darker tints.
There is still some more painting to be done on the other doors. I’ll try to finish it when I have a few free moments. At this time I’m not sure how much of the woodwork I’d like to transform. Only time will tell.
Right now I have one more thing on my wishlist and that’s adding stickers to the outside of my caravan. I have a design ready, so once I feel ready I’ll have them printed and stick them on.