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This chic summer caravan mixes old-school styling with modern finesse

Trading their rain-soaked tent for an old-school caravan has been the ticket to holiday happiness and magical memories for this Mt Maunganui clan

Meet + greet

Who holidays here?

Ants Reweti, 33 (builder), Nicola Reweti, 33 (stay-at-home mum), Arlie, 7, Jai, 5, and Mika, 2.

Background

Where do you live and when did you buy your caravan?

Nicola: In Mt Maunganui. We bought it last October.

How did you end up being caravan owners?

Ants: On Waitangi Weekend last year, we got flooded out of our tent at Sandspit Bay and had to evacuate at 10pm. We packed the ute and trailer in ankle-deep water and headed off for the six-hour drive home with everything soaking. That’s when we decided “no more tenting”. We borrowed a friend’s caravan to give it a taste and were hooked. It was so easy being able to throw our stuff in it and most things are in there already.

Tell us about the buying process.

Nicola: We got a bit overwhelmed on Trade Me, so we asked Ants’ uncle, who has done up a few caravans. It turned out he had a 1979 Oxford to sell to us with a mint-condition exterior and chassis. We were very lucky. But the interior was dated and had some bush-hack renovations. It had colourful curtains, wood veneer panelling and blue lino, all a bit mismatched. We named it ‘Clyde’.

The reno

Where did you start?

The planning was a huge stage. We marked things up on the floor with masking tape to get an idea of scale. We had a book of plans and looked at folding tables, fold-up beds and even the option of hanging the baby’s cot from the roof.

How much did you tackle yourselves?

All the ply detailing and cabinetry, painting, bed frames and flooring were done by Ants. I made the curtains, blinds and quilt cover, and upholstered the vertical sections in the seating area – the other part was left to the professionals.

Talk us through the renovation.

Ants: We created a curtained-off area with a double bed behind it and storage beneath. The original set-up didn’t have a permanent bed, but Nicola was keen to have a daybed and Mika’s porta-cot goes on top. The other end of the caravan is now the seating area (we switched that around), which converts into beds for the eldest two kids.

I built a frame for this new squab area which also contains storage space. I put the table on a pole so it’s removable at bedtime. We installed new cabinetry everywhere, except above the kitchen bench. The previous bench had a sink but we decided we didn’t need one.

The interior

What was the inspiration for Clyde’s interior?

Nicola: A natural look with some retro touches. We didn’t want anything too clinical and it had to be sturdy enough to handle bumps. Things like the pillows, wooden bowls, towels and mugs all came from op-shops. I wanted things that wouldn’t break, aren’t plastic and would add to the theme. I love how our exposed-filament bulb lights and gold wall brackets go with the wood, olive green and cream fabric and the natural look of the caravan.

What considerations are unique to a caravan reno?

  • The weight and placement of things is crucial so the caravan doesn’t fishtail when it’s towed. We did things to keep the weight down, such as not making the benchtop too thick.
  • So much is curved in a caravan, so we cut templates out of cardboard for the cabinetry and curved seating area.
  • In this confined space every inch counts and if there’s the option to create storage, do it. It’s amazing what fits under our bed!
  • Everything has to be secured as you don’t want cupboard doors and drawers flying open when you’re travelling. We used strong magnets on these, and a bolt on the fridge door.

The details

Best moment during the process?

Putting the floor down was cool as it was quite easy to do and made such a difference. The caravan went from looking old and ugly to nice, and that’s when we saw the potential of the whole renovation. The same day we masking-taped the size of the bed, so it was an exciting day.

Worst moment?

Ants: Our first trip with Clyde! We travelled up a windy, rough coastal road. I’d never towed a trailer before – turns out there’s quite a skill to it. I was worried I would clip the car or go over the cliff into the ocean.

What do you enjoy most about caravan life?

It offers quality family time, is so much easier than tenting, and we don’t have to worry about the weather so much. It’s a relaxing way to get away and we pick places that aren’t so busy.

What was your total spend?

The caravan cost $6000. We budgeted on $4000 for the renovation but it was closer to $5000, mainly because we discovered the need for new tyres. So the total spend was just under $11,000.

What did you save/splurge on?

Nicola: The leather handles on the cabinetry and divider curtain were a save as I bought strips of leather and stained them with soy sauce. We splurged on the squabs, which cost $1200 plus fabric.

See before & afters below


Follow Clyde’s travels @clyde.the.caravan

Ply from PlaceMakers, polyurethaned by Ants.
Cane chair, crockery, cushions, dish on wall and glass vase from op-shops.
Bulb lights from Mitre 10 Mega.
Squab fabric is ‘Plush’ in olive by Warwick Textiles from Urban Lounge Interiors.
Splashback from Vinyl Home.
Flooring from Bunnings.
Leather for handles from MDS Leatherworks.
Curtain fabric from Spotlight, curtains made by Nicola.
Woven mirror from Trade Me.
Pierced gold metal candleholder from Kmart.

Words by: Monique Balvert O’Connor. Photography by: Claire Mossong.

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