With their own home renovation completed, Michael and Carlene turned their attention to a holiday home on wheels…
Who lives here: Former The Block contestants; Michael and Carlene, who run their own business Cedar & Suede; and their two children, Paddy, 7; and Stella, 5.
Style of home: A ‘nautical retro glam’ revamp of a 1966 Millard Florida (Millie).
When they’re not busy appearing on The Block or Reno Rumble, renovating their own home and running their business Cedar & Suede; Michael and Carlene are keen campers. But after packing up a tent in the pouring rain with two kids in tow, Michael vowed to buy a caravan, and so began the couple’s latest renovation project. We spoke to Carlene upon it’s completion.
What sparked the idea for this project?
At the time, we were at the initial stages of renovating our house so we weren’t in a position to purchase a new van with all the bells and whistles, and given that we are renovators it made sense to buy something old and make it what we wanted.
What was the renovation timeline and budget?
The renovation budget was loose but we were conscious of not overspending. We purchased the van on Gumtree for a steal at $3.3k and Michael did all the labour so the only trades that we engaged were a plumber, electrician and the panel painter. We used IKEA cabinetry and laid our own oak timber floorboards. With the curtains, I sourced the fabric and had them made by a local sewer. The biggest expense was the exterior paintwork and the upholstery in the dining area.
The timeline also started off quite flexible, but that’s never good news if you ever want to finish a project. We work more effectively with some pressure behind us, so I booked in a trip at a caravan park so that we had a deadline to give us some steam.
How would you describe the end result?
The caravan is ‘nautical retro glam.’ I love that the colour palette is tonal with its varying shades of blue and white because it keeps the space calm but fun, which is what you need in a small space.
Working with small spaces is a common renovation qualm, but we’re guessing this was on a whole new level – how did you create more space?
By gutting most of the van interior, rather than working with the original cabinetry, we were able to maximise storage and space by including drawers in the kitchen and wardrobe instead of cupboards and by installing extra overhead cabinets above the dining area. We even included storage under the king bed.
Michael agonised over the bed set up for ages but I was determined [not] to convert the dining area into the kids beds, as was the original design. Installing the bunks above the king size bed meant [that we could] all have a permanent bed and when the kids outgrow theirs, we will likely move on and upsize.
What are your favourite features of the caravan?
The dining table is my favourite feature, no contest. We worked with the original table (the shape was perfect) and resurfaced it with penny round mosaic tiles (something I’ve always wanted to try) and finished it with brass edging. I also love the shape of the original windows.
We packed plenty of pattern and texture into this little space with the penny rounds, the vertical panelled cabinets and the contrasting patterns of the bedding and bench seat upholstery, but the tonal colour palette keeps this space calm.
What was the biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge was working out the exterior finish, hands down. The van had sat under the previous owner’s house for 20 years untouched, so while the interior was in mint condition the aluminium was really deteriorated.
My first hunch was to paint it, but some vintage caravan enthusiasts convinced us to polish up the aluminium for a more authentic result. After a lot of searching it turned out we couldn’t get anyone to do the job – it was too big of a task because the aluminium was ribbed.
[Plus] exposure to the elements means polished aluminium requires re-polishing every couple of years and that was maintenance I didn’t want. I made the call to go ahead and paint it and it was a blessing in disguise because the result was in line with my original vision. It was a good reminder to stick to my ‘design guns’ and to make my own rules.
The other challenge was having to make compromises to keep the weight of the van at a minimum. This is really important with caravans, especially vintage vans, which aren’t designed to take a lot of weight.
What’s the best part about having a home on wheels?
We love that we can just get up and go. We keep the van stocked with staples and we love that we don’t have to pack a bag. Our clothes transfer straight from our bedroom wardrobes into the van wardrobe. We also love that we can holiday anywhere at any time of year and we aren’t at the mercy of holiday accommodation price inflation.
Favourite trip you’ve taken so far?
Our favourite trip was our first trip with Millie as a finished product. We did a group holiday with our long-time friends (fellow campers) and their kids to Big 4 Emerald Beach, Coffs Harbour. It was the first test to see whether or not what we’d created worked for us and it was a very satisfying moment to know that it did.