How Do You Modernise a Caravan? Here’s How I Did Our First Caravan Makeover

Have you ever wondered how to modernize a caravan? 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.

But it was well before the days of Pinterest and Instagram. There was no reference.

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

How Do You Modernise a Caravan?

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!

When we first bought Dolly 1, she most definitely wasn’t cool! My first thought was: how do you modernise a caravan?

As there weren’t any touring caravan makeover ideas on the internet when I did our first van, I was pretty much winging it.

I settled my own questions by trying things out!

Questions like ‘can I paint the inside of my caravan’ and ‘how do I cover my caravan seats’ were soon answered, simply by trying things out.

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.

Caravan Makeovers Before and After Photos

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!

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

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.

Tourer Caravan Makeover Part Two

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 two-berth capacity could offer.

So we waved her off with her new family and bought a new van. Time for tourer caravan makeover number two!

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 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!
Editors note — More Makeover Caravan Interior Ideas

It’s been a few years 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.

Some More Posts on How To Decorate a Caravan

Originally published September 15 2015

Caro Davies editor of The Listed Home
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Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.

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52 thoughts on “How Do You Modernise a Caravan? Here’s How I Did Our First Caravan Makeover”

    • 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

  1. 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!

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

  3. Wow you really transformed Dolly into such a pretty lady! Sounds like you had so much fun in her too I can understand why it was sad to say goodbye. But every ending is a chance for a new beginning – can’t wait to see makeover number two! #HomeEtc

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

    • 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!

  7. 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

    • 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 ;)

  8. 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

  9. 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!!!

  10. 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


    • 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! :)

  11. 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!

    • 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

  12. 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?!?!

    • 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!!!!!

    • 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! :)

  13. 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

    • 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

    • 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!

    • 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!

    • Hi Janis, I’m not sure exactly! I bought a whole roll of fabric — which was way too much for two vans! But I used the same fabric on both. I even had a little bit left over for the blind in Dolly 2 :)

  18. Just bought the same caravan which we are having in our garden for family to stay in when they visit. Love your make over, but would love to also see the bathroom as I’m really sorting my head knowing what to do to improve it. It’s a very strange layout, you have to go in the shower to use the loo???

    • Hi Dianne! I’m afraid I don’t ave any pics of the bathroom. I spruced it up and painted it, but — as you say — it’s an odd layout, so I never really did a lot else in there! If you’re planning on keeping the van stationery — and won’t be towing it — potentially (if you had the appetite for it!) you could rip all the fittings out and replace/move them, so it suits you better.


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