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DIY Couple Transform Caravan From Drab To Fab For £1,600 With Online Tutorials

January 6, 2022, 7:00 AM
  • Bianca and Bert Bertalli bought an old caravan and transformed it for £1,590
  • They learnt what to do through online tutorials
  • The couple did everything themselves, from painting to reupholstering

If you’ve always dreamt of a gorgeous caravan to take your holidays in but didn’t want to splash out on a brand new one, this incredible renovation will make you want to transform an old one yourself.

Bianca Bertalli, 37 and Bert Bertalli, 47, from New South Wales, Australia, bought an old caravan in need of overhauling, and turned it into a chic, stylish, Pinterest-ready space with a lot of hard work and love.

The couple, who have three kids aged two, four and 12, learnt what to do through online tutorials, and did everything from painting to reupholstering themselves, spending £1,590 in the process.

Bianca, who works as a primary teacher, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: "The idea to buy a caravan was quite spontaneous. We have had several family camping trips in a camper trailer which requires days of planning to make sure everything is packed properly and a decent amount of set up once we arrive at our chosen spot.

"I found we were endlessly opening and closing boxes trying to look for items or shift boxes around to make space for the kids to sleep comfortably. I was growing tired of having to deal with zips and flaps and bugs and the weather impacting on our down time too.

"I saw a renovated caravan pop up on Facebook Marketplace and I could instantly see how our family could benefit from having a set up that was ready to go.

"The light, bright interior would make us feel instantly on holiday and it could double as a place for family to stay if they visited us.

"While away for a long weekend camping, I first pitched the idea to my hubby on the Thursday.

"I showed him the ad on Facebook and he instantly said ‘we are NOT buying a caravan - I am not a caravan kind of guy’.

"Unfortunately the renovated van was snapped up within 24 hours but over the course of the weekend I’d managed to convince him and on Sunday we were going to look at the old Millard van we have named Daisy Duke (because of the yellow and white colour and because we estimate that the van was made the same year the Dukes of Hazzard was released).

"When we went to look at Daisy Duke we knew nothing about caravans. We called some family members for their advice and things to look out for.

"It had a dual axle and electric brakes which was important for safety and it had new air conditioning, a decent fridge, a tv and a roll out awning. These were all things we would need to add to a vintage van.

"So while the original van cost us quite a bit, those additions made it a reasonable price. We also weren’t prepared to buy a full gut and rebuild van.

"It was in excellent condition for her age and part of me felt guilty for pulling out the wild orange and brown vintage decor. We checked for water damage (we did find a bit more once we got her home unfortunately) and the condition of the cupboards, fixtures and electrical.

"We determined that our project would be mostly cosmetic with some straightforward additions so we thought we would be able to tackle it.

"We have renovated a house but we knew nothing about caravans - thank goodness for Google and online tutorials! Given that it wasn’t a complete rebuild we managed to complete most of our project in six weeks.

“It was almost a Christmas miracle given that I am a teacher and it was report season and my hubby is a teacher union official in full campaign mode for improvements to teachers pay and conditions.

"We also have three kids who keep us on our toes.

"As a former Design and Technology teacher, Bert is very handy and did all of the construction while I was on planning, painting and styling. We made a good team!

"We had my brother in law assist with electrical as he has experience with building his own camper truck. After checking for asbestos, we took out the lounges and cupboard doors being careful to try and save what we could.

"We did have to replace some water damaged panels with 3mm triple A grade ply from a hardware store. You can buy actual caravan panelling if you like.

"We primed and painted, added the VJ panel arch to create a distinct parent zone and then built the bunks.

"The lounge surprised me. I had gotten quotes of $500 (£265) and up to reupholster the original council but Bert convinced me to give it a go ourselves.

"He has poured his heart and soul into making my dreams come true and despite his initial reservations he loves the van now.

"We tried to recycle what we could. We reused the lounge and reupholstered it in a stretchy couch cover from ebay and sewed in the original brass buttons. It was able to be reshaped from an L shape lounge to a curved lounge which I think looks so good.

"It actually fits two adults and two small kids quite comfortably. With an added base box it can sleep our 13 year old.

"The cupboards are all original, just painted, as are the fixtures. The bench top is acacia panel from Bunnings. We used laminate sheet flooring brim from Bunnings as it was light and easy to sweep.

"The tiles are Tic Tac Tiles, and the installation was a marriage tester but they came up really nice.

“The blinds are from Spotlight and the light covers are actually small rattan baskets from Big W - you should only use rattan near LED lights to avoid a fire hazard.

"The curtain divider is velvet pinch pleat from ebay and hangs on the original track. There are some other bits and pieces from kMart, such as the tassels on the bunks and the wallpaper.

"The bunks were an old set of wooden bunks that my hubby cut to a custom length and we added the VJ panelling. The mattresses are a double mattress from Fantastic Furniture that we cut to size.

"We used four in one primer from British Paints and an aqua enamel on the walls called ‘Dreamy White’, also from British Paints.

"It is a great colour because it has a hint of warmth and suits both beige and grey accents as well as pinks, greens and other earthy tones, which I love.

“Regarding weight, whatever you put in should be about the same as what you’re taking out. Bert actually stole my bathroom scales to weigh everything as he took things out and put new things in.

“For safety, Google videos on weight distribution and how this affects your towing. Try to keep your weight at the front.

"Don’t forget to factor in to the budget a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and any tools you might need for the road. Check for asbestos before you start demolition.

“For inspiration, follow other van reno accounts on social media. I’d like to say that all of our ideas are original but most of them are not. Daisy is an amalgamation of many ideas we have looked at and tried to recreate in our own way.

"Don’t be afraid to reach out to other fellow van renovators with questions on how to tackle something. Learn from others and share with others."

Bianca is thrilled with the finished look of their caravan, and the cherry on top of the cake is how much money they saved doing it themselves.

"It is such a beautiful space to be in,” she adds. "It’s light, bright, airy and spacious. We can sleep five of us in comfort.

"Having Daisy Duke means that we can get away whenever we want or need. It also gives me a space to work away from the madness of the house. I like taking my laptop in there and working in the space.

"I love the romantic parent zone with the flickering LED candles from Kmart - it’s just a nice little haven that feels so cosy and like you could be anywhere in the world. It honestly feels nicer than some of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in!

"I would estimate that so far it has cost up to $3,000 (£1,590) and we have a couple of things still to do. We would like to repaint the outside eventually.

“To stay on budget, recycle whatever you can. It saves the planet and saves you money.

"It also keeps some of the history alive and injects some personality into a vintage can. We like to shop locally where we can: online purchases often proved to be cheaper for items. I did get some of the decor off buy, swap and sell sites quite cheaply.

"It is pretty satisfying stepping back and seeing something you’ve created yourself. There is no way we could afford a van that was fully renovated or brand new ourselves!”

Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, comments: “Bianca and Bert have truly given Daisy Duke a new lease of life.

“By buying budget supplies and giving the DIY aspects a go themselves, they’ve saved themselves thousands of dollars compared to buying a brand new one or getting professionals in to renovate it.

“Even if you’ve never attempted any DIY before, make like Bianca and Bert and inspire yourself with online tutorials - you can start small, like painting a chest of drawers, and before you know it, you’ll catch the DIY bug and be taking on a big project like Daisy Duke!"

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