Buying a run-down caravan was a spontaneous decision for this young couple, but their belief in its potential has resulted in a magical home away from home
Where do you live?
Why did you buy the caravan?
We noticed it parked up for sale at Ferry Landing (at Cooks Beach, Coromandel) two years back. We had recently got married and decided to use some of our gifted wedding money to buy it. We had been talking about buying a caravan and turning it into a food van for a while, but once we bought it and realised how epic a little home-on-the-road it would be, that idea went out the window. We were going to call her Ferry Land due to where we found her, but Dad suggested Neverland – after the mystical place in Peter Pan – and it stuck.
What was the caravan like when you bought it?
It was usable but pretty grotty. It was painted maroon and cream, had ugly old cupboards painted maroon as well, and at one end there was a table with two couch-type seats on either side that weren’t at all comfy. The lino was stained, there were watermarks everywhere and quite a bit of hidden rot.
What did you do to it to make it roadworthy?
We ripped off all the wall lining and stripped it back to the aluminium – that exposed at least 50 holes in the roof and walls! We stripped the exterior and water-blasted it twice as there were three layers of old paint. Then we bogged up the holes and got it ready for painting. We made a spray-painting booth at home and a mate did the painting for us. Then the sign writer put our ‘Neverland’ name on.
What else did you do to the interior?
As well as gutting the inside, we stripped the floor back to the timber. We then handed it over to The Caravan Doctor in Papamoa who put in all the new framework and cupboards, lights, batteries and solar panels. Once we got it back, we sanded and painted it, and polished the floor. The gas fitter installed the gas fridge and hob. Then I did all the fun decorating bits like the tiling. It took about six months.
Best makeover moment?
Having the floor and walls completed. The original wooden floor was amazing so having it done was a big deal.
What was your inspiration for the styling?
I wanted it to be far from classic retro or vintage. The Mexican tiles and Moroccan lights were the first things I bought. I wanted it to be beautiful, comfortable and practical with fresh white walls and timber benchtops. We eat outside when we can, so I wasn’t worried about having a big dining table; instead we wanted an L-shaped couch that folds out into another double bed. And I found a beautiful coffee table that fits in perfectly – I just gave it a quick sand.
How did you track down all the unique decor?
I collected stuff for ages. Our spare room became the collection room for Neverland! Any major disasters during the reno process? While taking Neverland to The Caravan Doctor, the hatch blew off. I searched the sides of the road but couldn’t find it. I discovered that spare hatches are not easy to find; I rang all over the country. Luckily for me, my neighbour helped me to make a new one out of a sheet of aluminium. We folded it and shaped it to size and I bought new bronze latches. Then I bought some lace and sewed Velcro onto it so we can have the hatch open at night and no mozzies can get in. It ended up being better than the original hatch!
What was your budget – and did you stick to it?
We didn’t really have a budget as we weren’t too sure of what it would cost. All up, we spent about $25,000 including the purchase price.
What did you splurge on and save on?
The Moroccan wall sconces were a bit of a splurge at $250 each. But the coffee table was only $10 from an op-shop and it fits the space perfectly. We made the striped cushions out of some table runners.
How did you design the Neverland sign on the side of the caravan?
I found a mandala design and a font I liked and asked BOP Signs in Tauranga to create the logo and stick it on.
What paint colours did you use?
I found a paint I liked (can’t remember the mossy green name) and had it colour-matched at an auto paint shop; this was used for the strip around the outside. The white on the outside was a standard white, and the inside is ‘Wedding Cake’ from Valspar.
Who made the furniture?
The Caravan Doctor installed the bed, sofa and drawers for us. I just told him exactly what we wanted. It would have taken us ages so we figured it was better to pay someone. We have heaps of storage under the bed and can slide surfboards and fishing rods under it.
Are the floorboards original? What did you do to them?
They’re original but we were told it would be too hard to restore them and to just put lino down, but once we got a glimpse of the beautiful timber, we knew we needed to bring the original floor back to life. I used a strong stripper to get the paper and some of the glue off with a scraper, then used an electric sander. We used an Osmo stain and a gloss varnish. It was definitely the hardest job and took about 20 hours.
Have you been on many trips in Neverland?
Only a handful so far; the best one was a week at Lottin Point down the East Cape, where we often go. It was so amazing having Neverland and not the usual tent. We plan to do a few fun trips this summer and maybe the South Island, if we can squeeze that in. Lately, my business partner and I have also been using Neverland as an office for our new wedding hire business, Lovers Eclectic Hire (@lovers.eclectic.hire). We take it to a beach close by and park up for the day.
$25,000 (reno $21K + purchase $4K)
See before & afters of the caravan below
Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Helen Bankers.