This article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Caravan and Outdoor Life magazine:
The most off-putting thing about second-hand caravans is that the interiors are often awful (for a woman, anyway).
Dingy curtains, worn cushions and a lingering smell of past meals, stale cigarette smoke or moth-balls, can make any potential caravan buyer head for the section where the shiny new caravans live, and sign over their souls to the finance people.
There’s no need to be discouraged, though, as a second-hand caravan is a good buy, saving you thousands of rands, and re-decorating the inside can be a lot of fun, especially if you, like us, are a keen DIY-er.
So – you’ve chosen your future caravan – or it’s chosen you, as the right caravan came along at the right time, and the right price. But you loathe the old 80’s or 90’s décor, and the cushions are just nasty. Where to start?
Well, if you’re buying the caravan privately, hopefully it will have been stored under cover, or garaged. If you have any doubts about wood-rot, or anything technical, take the caravan to your nearest caravan dealer and ask them to sort it out for you, for safety reasons. If you are the ultimate handy-man, though, you can tackle wood-rot – my husband re-built the entire pop-top roof of our first caravan very successfully.
Next step is a good spring-clean. Then you can tackle the interior décor. This is the fun part, especially if you’re handy with a sewing machine.
Your choice of colours may be governed by the trim of your caravan/tent, but as this is your holiday home, choose fabrics which are cheerful and hard-wearing. Don’t be limited to one design – choose one for the curtains, maybe a stripe or check, and a cheerful contrast for the cushion covers, such as a floral or abstract print.
Old caravans have usually lost their lace curtains to time, and the other curtains will be outdated and faded. The lace is easy to replace (and are necessary for privacy), but the curtains in the older caravans can be more difficult because of the specialized curtain rails/tape used by the manufacturers. On two of the vans I have re-decorated, I have unpicked the curtain tapes of all the old curtains and re-used them on the new curtains – a lot of work, but essential.
Cushions can be re-purposed: we bought a new mattress for the permanent bed which my husband installed at the back of our caravan, and moved the bed cushions to the dinette in front. Loose covers with zippers that allow them to be removed for washing work very well.
Lastly, buy bed-linen that matches your new decor, add some niceties, like rugs and air-fresheners, and your caravan will look and smell brand new!