Jackies Journey: Renovating our caravan

By: Jackie Norman, Photography by: Jackie Norman and Gareth Scurr


Renovating our caravan During: The second half of the kitchen is put together Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Before: Before the demolition began Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Before: The old layout wasn’t making the best use of space Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: For Gareth, it meant squeezing into some tight spots! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: Even most of the sink plumbing parts were free Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: Fortunately the campground was quiet while Gareth worked! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: I rescued this wrought iron box from a skip Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: For the first two weeks we lived in chaos Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: The site for our new kitchen! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: There wasn’t always much room to work with! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: The main components of our kitchen cost just $30 Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan During: Wayne lends a hand installing the sink Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Desk: A quick sand reveals some more beautiful timber Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Desk: Keith’s desk is now a benchtop and shelves Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Door: Our kitchen bench began life as a door Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Door: Tracing out a template for the sink Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Door: Once varnished, the door takes on a whole new appearance Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Kitchen shelves: Even through the yellow paint I could see the potential Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Kitchen shelves: Now we had a sturdy base for our kitchen shelves Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Kitchen shelves: The timber under the paint was worth the effort! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan Kitchen shelves: We covered our new shelves with contact and non-slip matting Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: It’s so nice to finally have a space to work Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: What a difference! Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: An old number plate is given a new life as a bookend Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: The little pull-out drawer makes food prep easy Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: No more doing dishes outside for us... Renovating our caravan
Renovating our caravan After: From rusty old box to smart vege bin Renovating our caravan

Jackie and her husband Gareth tackle renovations on their gorgeous caravan, Marjorie Jean

While 2018 was a challenging year for us, it wasn’t all bad. Becoming owners of our gorgeous caravan, Marjorie Jean, at the start of November more than made up for all the months of dramas and disasters.

But now I was back on my feet there was a lot of work to be done. Although she had been beautifully maintained and cared for, Marjorie’s interior was pretty much a blank canvas.

This was great for us, as it was exactly what we wanted. Our previous two vans had been purchased in ‘finished’ condition and we relished the opportunity now to start from scratch and create the ideal set-up for our needs.

A space for work and play

Being freelancers, it was as important for us to ensure we ended up with the perfect work space as it was a perfect living space. This would be no mean feat, as although Marjorie was a big step up from our tiny van, she still was far from huge by caravan standards. We also needed to build and install a kitchen, as there wasn’t one.

While this was an exciting project, it also presented us with another challenge. After spending more than half the year unable to work to full capacity, our renovation budget was next to nothing. If we were going to pull this off, we were going to have to get creative.

When it came to planning the layout, Gareth’s previous experience working in a timber yard and then as a joiner and cabinet maker proved invaluable. He drew up the plans, carefully working out all the measurements in order to make the best possible use of space. Once he had an idea of exactly what we’d need, the search was on to find the key components in the right size – and price.

Out with the old, in with the new old!

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Before: Marjorie’s interior was a blank canvas

Marjorie was about to undergo an enormous overhaul, but we still wanted to retain as much of her authentic ’70s character as possible. The bed was fine where it was, and we left one of her lurid green couches untouched, as well as all the overhead cupboards with their original retro handles and the vinyl floor.

The rest, however, had to go. Back in those days, things were built to last and Gareth had quite a job on his hands ripping out the second couch and the built-in tri-folding table! Once they were gone, the transformation could really begin.

First, we needed a fridge and snapped one up on sale for $220. This was by far our biggest splurge and we laughed to think we had got married before purchasing our first ever piece of whiteware!

In the weeks which followed, we trawled the op shops looking for items which would fit in our new home. We were keen to recycle and re-purpose as much as possible and Gareth was stoked to find a solid timber door in the Salvation Army store.

This would become our kitchen bench. Next, I came across what appeared to be an old-fashioned tea trolley in the same shop. With a little modification, it would make perfect shelves for all our pots and pans.

We had sourced the main parts of our kitchen for just $30, but Gareth had his work cut out giving them a new look and purpose, in particular stripping and sanding back the tea trolley to its natural timber. Originally painted butter yellow, everything became covered in yellow dust – including Gareth! Still, the results were well worth the effort.

Fabulous freebies

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Desk: An old accountant’s desk is given a new lease of life

Our friends were an amazing help throughout our renovations. When we lived in a house, we had two sheds full of tools, but we sold almost all of them prior to hitting the road.

Bevin, our campground caretaker, was a godsend. Not only did he allow us to use many of his tools and shed space for sawing and sanding, he also gave us a brand-new sink to go in our kitchen bench. When it came to installing it, our bus neighbour Wayne was on hand with a tube of silicon and a steady hand to give it a professional finish.

As Gareth was busy building, I continued searching the op shops for more essentials, such as office chairs and a desk/table, in between applying coats of varnish to the benchtop and putting the finishing touches to our revamped tea trolley.

With half the kitchen now done, all that remained was to find one more thing we could use to build the other half. We found the answer in the most unexpected place. Our 90-year-old friend Keith had recently moved house.

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Door: Once varnished, the door takes on a whole new appearance

A former accountant, he no longer had room for his favourite desk, which was solid wood and beautifully made. Gareth carefully took it apart and used it to extend the kitchen bench and build two more shelves over the wheel arch, which had previously been wasted space. He even made a little pull-out chopping board to provide extra space for food preparation.

Keith is a very special man, who has led such a long and fascinating life, and we loved being able to incorporate such a cherished piece of his furniture into our home.

Our only (but fortunately not too costly) blunder was when it came to deciding on the right table. We thought we had found the perfect one – twice! (we bought both) – at the SPCA and Salvation Army stores before finally giving in and going with what we really needed all along, a cheap folding table from The Warehouse.

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After: We hope the original Marjorie would approve of our changes 

Our renovations are almost complete and we absolutely love them. Ironically, the biggest outlay was on the smallest things; the screws, brackets, varnish and a small amount of framing timber.

We learned a heap of new skills (e.g. plumbing in the sink) and realised once again how well we work together as a team. If Marjorie Jean’s original owner were here to see how she looks in the 21st century, we think she’d approve.

Our renovation costs, at a glance:

Kitchen bench (door) $15 – Salvation Army
Shelves (tea trolley) $20 – Salvation Army
Chairs x 2 $10 each – Hospice Shop
Electric two-burner stove $8 – Hospice Shop
Retro lightshade $3 – SPCA shop
Wrought iron vege bin $0 – rescued from campground skip
Benchtop oven $0 - caretaker
Kitchen sink $0 – caretaker
Kitchen unit (desk) $0 – from friend
Table 1 $35 – SPCA shop
Table 2 $20 – Salvation Army
Table 3 $19 – The Warehouse
Roll of contact and non-slip mat for shelves $15 – Mitre 10
Varnish, brushes $40 – Mitre 10
Timber battening $35 - PlaceMakers
Plumbing fittings $30 – PGG Wrightson
Brackets and screws - $50 approx.
GRAND TOTAL - $310

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