Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Campers!

Well, it's been months now since Lance brought home the camper (a 1996 Palomino Colt),  but I'm excited to announce that our camper re-do is FINALLY done! In all honesty, it's a project that could probably have been completed in just a couple of weeks, but we didn't even start on it until the school year had ended and we'd returned from a family vacation. Then of course everything takes 1000 times longer when you're trying to wrangle the world's most active toddler at the same time.  So for the most part we had to work during nap times or take turns watching her while the other worked on the camper solo. Our saving grace came when my parents visited for a few days, which gave us some much-needed child care and and extra set of hands at the same time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

In writing about everything we did, I realized that there were a LOT of changes, so for now I'll just give a really general overview and then I can provide more detail about specific parts of the project in subsequent posts (ha ha ha ha ha ha the thought of having time for more posts anytime soon is hilarious!).

Anyway, as you may recall, here is what the camper looked like when we started. In perfectly good shape, functional, and it easily could have been camped in almost immediately:

However, while we may like to revel in the nostalgia of 90's music, movies, clothes, and Zima from time to time, we weren't really eager to revisit 90's decorating.

Step 1: We started by pulling everything out, including the kitchen sink, which we decided to remove since we weren't planning to use it anyway, and it made the camper much lighter and gave us a lot more storage space:



Step 2: Small Repairs
There were a few areas that needed some repairs, including some small tears/thin spots in the canvas, a wheel well that was rusted through (all fixed, thanks to some Bondo and rust converter we already had on hand) and a spot where the wood veneer was coming off (we just replaced it with bead board and painted over it). We also replaced the lights on the outside and caulked the seams to make sure there are no water leaks.

Step 3: Cleaning, inside and out

For the canvas, we used a mixture of Woolite and water and then used diluted vinegar for dirt and mildew spots.  On the vinyl, we used dish soap and water and then finished it off with some Protect All to make it really shine. I also have to give a shout out to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which worked wonders on all of the black marks.

Step 4:  Priming and painting.
I had originally wanted to paint the cabinets gray to hide dirt and scuff marks, but then Lance pointed out that with all the gray canvas, the inside was going to look really depressing. After looking at several camper re-do's online where people noted that white cabinets really weren't any more difficult to clean than darker colors, I decided to go with a nice bright white (Dutch Boy Mold and Mildew Resistant Paint in White, to be exact. 1 gallon was MORE than enough and we saved money with a rebate). For primer, we used BIN Oil-Based primer left over from our master bedroom redo. Once it was dry, we gave it a clear coat of water-based polycrylic (remember you can't use polyurethane on painted surfaces because it will yellow over time).  Lance found some appliance epoxy (it's durable and heat resistant) and used it to paint the fridge, outlet covers, heater grate, and fire extinguisher cubby. We were skeptical that it would actually look like stainless steel, but were pleasantly surprised to find it actually does (for the most part, anyway). I don't know that I'd use it in our kitchen, but for a camper it worked pretty well.


Step 5: Table and Countertops
We also replaced the table and counter tops with wood instead of the old chipped formica and particle board combo. We used edge-glued spruce, which we cut to size using the old table and counter tops as guides, and we made a new counter for the space where the sink used to be. We know spruce is softer, so it's going to get some dings in it, but we're ok with that because it will give the wood a nice distressed look over time. We stained it with Minwax Dark Walnut,  which brought out some beautiful grains in the wood and it matches the floors perfectly.

Step 6: Floors and Molding
Speaking of floors, Lance and my dad spent a day and a half putting in snap together vinyl planks and finishing them with quarter round molding. We'd considered peel and stick vinyl, but it just looked really cheap and we were afraid it wouldn't stick well the the linoleum underneath. We're really happy with our decision- the floors look AWESOME!

Here was our progress at about the mid-point:

We also replaced the old yellow brass cabinet hardware with brushed nickel, though we discovered that with the addition of the molding, we had to make some modifications to make the doors fit properly:

Step 7: Fabric
The most difficult decision was actually what fabric to use for bunk curtains and re-covering the bench cushions.  We thought about using pre-made curtains, table cloths, or cloth shower curtains, but we weren't really able to find a pattern that we really liked.  Finally, we settled on a pattern for the bunk curtains (Covington Carson Fiesta) from and then we were able to pick coordinating fabric for the bench cushions and pillows. Now I am NOT experienced at sewing, and I found this to be the worst part of the whole project, although part of that might be because my sewing machine is terrible (I'm now in the market for a new one, preferably one that doesn't suck). I used this tutorial for re-covering the cushions, except that I finished the edges and instead of hand sewing the covers right onto the cushions, I used velcro to close them so that they can be removed and washed. The bunk curtains are just clipped on with Ikea Riktig clips and bungee cords. For pillows I just re-covered a few of the billion throw pillows we have lying around the house.

Step 8: Bedding
I know that sleeping bags would be waaaay easier, but we felt like so often sleeping bags are just too hot for summer, and that there is something really nice about crawling into an actual bed with actual sheets at the end of a long day. For now we are keeping the original bunk mattresses, but we put a layer of foam tiles (the kind you see on the floor of children's play rooms) underneath and will be adding a memory foam topper. We got sheets from Marshall's and bed spreads on clearance from Boston Store.

At this point I'm guessing most people have skipped over everything I just wrote and scrolled town right away to see the "after" pictures. At least that's what I do when I look at this kind of stuff. So....


Grownup bunk- not nearly as cute and colorful as Ellie's!

Vinyl snap-together flooring

We thought the door panel could use a little color.

Goodbye sink, hello new wood countertop!

A nod to the old pea green VW Van from my childhood

The dark stain really highlights the wood grain.

Ellie's Bunk


  1. I love it! You brightened the entire camper up and have durable fabric that is so cute! Kudos for making the cushion covers removable to wash. Velcro is a great invention! Have a great time camping!