A whole lotta love went into the restoration of this once-rusty caravan. Now ‘Daisy’ is the perfect mobile holiday home for a young family, who have kitted it out for a lifetime of adventure
Who owns this?
Lara Maher, 32 (stay-at-home mum), Ben Maher, 34 (foreman/builder for Planit Construction), Charlotte, 2, Ollie, 2 months.
Where do you live?
Lara: Tawa, Wellington.
When did you buy your caravan?
January 2017 – one week before we got married!
Why did you decide to purchase it?
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision but one we haven’t regretted. We were planning a big road trip for our honeymoon and thought that with our skills we could do up a caravan over the year and have it for family holidays in the future.
Where do you keep it?
At home, on the grass beside our driveway.
Tell us about your honeymoon in ‘Daisy’ the caravan.
We spent a month touring around the South Island, covering over 4550 kilometres. Highlights included an amazing trip to Akaroa, a day trip to Stewart Island, visiting Milford Sound, seeing the glaciers, lake swims and many sunny afternoons lounging lakeside outside the caravan.
Have you taken the caravan on many other journeys?
We’ve done a couple of lower North Island weekenders. We’d like to do another longer trip soon.
What do you enjoy most about going on holiday in a caravan?
It’s nice to just leave the caravan set up and take the ute away from the campsite for day trips. Plus there’s no packing up of tents and it doesn’t matter if it rains!
Did you do much camping before you got Daisy?
We both have fond memories of family holidays spent camping and wanted the same for our children.
Tell us about the buying process.
We bought Daisy off Trade Me. The process was pretty straightforward, although we did have to put it on a tow truck as it had a flat tyre and wasn’t anywhere near roadworthy. We had a nervous drive following it home.
What was the caravan like when you bought it?
It was in a pretty bad way. It was unlicensed and had not had a WOF since 1992. It was completely gutted, the wiring was shot, the carpet was smelly, the windows were broken, the paint job was peeling and mouldy. It needed a lot of work!
Were there any structural changes required?
The steel trailer frame was completely rusty, so we stripped the rust (spending many hours under the caravan with a grinder fitted with a wire-brush wheel) and then painted it. Luckily the structure was sound. It was already mostly gutted apart from the carpet, curtains and wallpaper. There was no internal cabinetry so that was all built by Ben.
Did you do the work yourselves?
We (Ben!) did most of the work. There were many late nights in the last few weeks before we headed away. We did get all the electrical work done professionally by RV Dreams in Lower Hutt. They also installed the solar panel. The plumbing was done by a friend – Andy at Perano Plumbing and Gas.
What exactly did you do?
Basically everything needed doing! We initially spent weeks scraping wallpaper glue off the walls – that was the worst job. From there, we built all the internal joinery, replaced the broken window with Perspex (saved us the cost of a glazier), added wiring and plumbing, removed rust from the axle, painted it inside and out, installed appliances and a solar panel, and fitted soft furnishings – not to mention all those extra small fiddly jobs.
How long did the restoration take?
It took us all year as having a toddler kept us pretty busy. There were many late nights spent painting once she had gone to bed!
How did you paint the exterior?
We enlisted a workmate, Nick, to help us do the exterior spray-painting – in our driveway! It was painted with a two-pot Autothane automotive spray paint from Total Bodyshop Supplies.
Have you had much experience renovating?
Ben is a qualified builder with a lot of experience in high-end residential renovations. I have a kitchen-design background. We’ve also done a number of renovations at home together.
What were some of the considerations that were unique to working on a caravan?
We did a lot of research on the rules and regulations we had to follow – especially to do with waste water and gas connections and ventilation. We also had to research the intricacies of 230-volt and 12-volt electrical systems and what campgrounds expect in terms of self-containment.
What was your inspiration for the interior?
As well as wanting it to be relaxing and cosy, getting the layout right was important as we wanted it to feel spacious inside. Key features included creating a daybed at the front instead of bunks and having open shelving rather than full cupboards above. We also wanted it to be really practical and efficient – the three-way fridge (which works on gas, 230-volt and 12-volt power), solar panel and the ability to transform the seating into a full-sized bed all helped to achieve this. We have future-proofed it so the space will still work for us as our family grows.
Tell us about the styling.
We wanted it to be a relaxing space so we kept to a simple palette of whites and greys. The timber adds warmth and we love that the patterned vinyl on the floor is a bit different to the norm.
How did you find the reno experience?
It was a fun but very challenging experience, especially doing it for the first time. Everything we know about designing, renovating or styling a house has been squeezed into a tiny space; it all needs to be lightweight but strong, and stand up to the rigours of being towed at 80 kilometres per hour. We learnt that planning is everything.
Best moment during the process?
It was a real buzz once we had finished painting the exterior; it was such a transformation! Getting our WOF was also a major milestone and we were able to re-register the caravan with the original number plate, keeping a bit of history.
Any major disasters during the reno?
Not so much during the reno but our first trial run to Palmerston North on Christmas Eve resulted in us nearly losing a wheel and ending up on the back of a tow truck. Luckily, with the help of a kind stranger, we got back on the road pretty quickly.
What was your budget?
We didn’t make a budget because it was done over nine months so we could spread out the cost. We also learnt as we went through the process.
How much was your total spend?
We spent around $15K, not including labour.
What did you splurge and save on?
We splurged on squabs, exterior paint, the electrics, solar power and appliances. We saved on labour, painting, trailer wiring, curtains (by making them and using secondhand fabric) and by replacing the broken window with Perspex, not glass.
Scroll down to see before and after’s of ‘Daisy’
Shop the look
Exterior painted in Resene ‘Half Sea Fog’ and Resene ‘Trojan’.
Interior painted in Resene ‘Half Sea Fog’.
Vinyl flooring is Magali by Monaco from Carpet Court.
Wall tiles are white satin hexagon 50mm MT1118 from Tile Space.
Table made by Ben, covered with a marble vinyl from Bunnings.
Squabs from Trade Me, re-covered by Reklaw Upholsterers in Keylargo fabric in ash from Warwick Fabrics.
Kitchen bench made by Ben, using American oak veneer panels from Bunnings.
Skylight, vintage radio and sink/hob unit from Trade Me.
Three-way fridge from Challenge Yachts.
Curtains made by Lara using secondhand fabric.
Hafele storage baskets from Bunnings.
Bedding from The Warehouse.
Cushions from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart and Spotlight.
Outdoor chairs from Kmart.
Outdoor mat from Mocka.
Creating a mobile holiday home is just one great example of why you should refurbish an old caravan. They can also be refurbished into a retreat, sleep-out, office space or party-ready cocktail bar in your outdoor area.
Words by: Fiona Ralph. Styling by: Lara Maher. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.