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Emma Davies was at a low point when she found herself scrolling through the online marketplace. After spotting the caravan she quickly snapped it up.
However, she revealed her husband was not impressed with her impulse buy, reports Wales Onlne.
Emma, aged 46 and from Gower, Wales, explained: “We were days away from signing for our dream house with a pool when the owner pulled the sale.
“I was absolutely gutted and disappointed for the children, I think I’d decorated every room in the house in my head, so after brooding for a week, I dusted myself down and did something quite impulsive – I bought a £1,400 caravan off Facebook Marketplace.”
But the family were unsure of Emma’s impulse buy.
She said: “The husband thought it was a terrible idea! It was a 1997 Bailey Ranger with an interior that would have been all the rage 25 years ago!
“It was very beige and he had visions of it being left to rot on the drive, but ‘if it makes her happy’ he said to friends.
“It had been the previous owner’s pride and joy and he’d taken great care of it and although it was dated, it was bone dry.”
So, while most other people are left pondering why they bought a cupboard, chair or crockery in a moment of weakness, Emma was picking up an expensive old box of brown decor on wheels – and she could not have been happier.
She had been gaining experience in upcycling furniture via numerous projects but the vintage caravan was her biggest, most expensive and riskiest project so far.
Radio presenter Emma, who has worked at The Wave in Swansea on the “Badger and Emma at Breakfast” show, then more recently The Big Welsh Weekender on Nation Radio Wales, totally threw herself into refreshing and updating her new impulse purchase but rather than feeling stressed about risking £1,400 she found it very therapeutic.
Emma said: “I took off each cupboard door, lightly sanded and primed them and spray painted them with Frenchic chalk paint in the garden.
“I even resprayed the sinks, fridge interior, bathroom cupboards and shower tray so that everything looked shiny and new, and I bought a big awning with a bedroom annexe for our children to sleep in at night.”
Respraying so much of the inside of the caravan took time and effort but it has made the biggest difference, and Emma has some fantastic tips to pass on if you are thinking of doing something similar, whether it’s inside a caravan, kitchen cupboards or wardrobe doors.
She said: “I found it easier to take the doors off and spray them, if you do the same, remember to put a sticky note on the back of each one so that you can remember where they go when it comes to screwing them back on!
“Some of the overhead cupboard brackets were a bit a fiddly, so it’s a good idea to take a photo of them before you dismantle them so that you can remember how to put them back together again.
“The biggest spend was the flooring and worktops, I bought a sheet of Formica online for the tops having done a bit of research on caravan makeover forums.
“We had a carpenter friend working on our house at the time, so I asked him if he’d be happy to spend an extra few hours putting some new flooring and worktops in the van.”
Emma looked at ways to keep the costs down and one was simple – a good clean of sofa cushions followed by hunting for bargain material to re-cover them, which she found in Lee Mills, Swansea.
The bargains didn’t stop there.
Emma said: “I also found some bargain curtain fabric in Bridgend fabrics, they’d advertised on social media that they were emptying a shipping container at their unit and selling everything from between 50p and £2 a metre.
“So I got 10 metres of fabric for £20, then I paid a local seamstress to reupholster the cushions and make some curtains using the old ones as a template.”
It is impressive to discover that it only took Emma three weeks fitting it in around three children, lockdown, home schooling and a dog, to drag the van from the 1970s to the present day, with some help from skilled trades that you could attempt yourself if you are planning on giving an upcycling project a go and wanted to cut costs even further.
Emma’s project in total cost around the same as a two-week family holiday, but now they have the freedom to roam wherever they desire.
She said: “With paint too and the initial purchase of the van, it cost little more than three thousand in total, but it’s lovely having something that reflects your tastes, it feels so homely in there.
“I wanted it to look like a swanky, white, chill-out beach club on wheels.
“I bought the Moet acrylic flutes online and then I had the idea to paint the fridge black and add some letter stencils, and a crown so it looked like a Moet logo – it’s always a talking point on campsites, so many people have asked me ‘where can I buy a fridge like that?’ They’re always surprised when I tell them I winged it with some black and white paint!
“I also found some great black wire cube shelves in B&M, they were very lightweight and ideal for screwing into the cupboard wall to display some plant pots – it’s the little touches that make it special.”
Then the van got its first outing, but not to the local campsite as a test run, but across the channel.
Emma said: “Our holiday flights had been cancelled due to the pandemic and I was determined to do something positive for the kids, the paint was still drying when we towed it for its first outing to France, no practice run for us, go big or go home!
“We’d never owned a caravan before and we didn’t even know if anything worked, we just took the seller at his word, and figured it out as we went along, and, fortunately, it was a great buy.
“My husband took a day’s caravan towing course and a few days later we were on an overnight ferry to St. Malo, pitching up in the Vendee. Now we have our little home on wheels, we find getting away much easier.”
Emma’s husband is very happy to admit he was wrong and that the caravan is now a very welcome and valued member of the family, their home from home while on holiday, creating wonderful family holiday memories and it is probably not an exaggeration to say it has been somewhat life changing in respect of quality family time spent together.
Emma said: “Although the husband thought it was a crazy idea to buy a 25-year-old caravan and do it up, he’s since admitted that he really likes it, and our children love it.
“It’s funny, we’re so busy that we’re rarely in the same room together for more than ten minutes at home, but there’s something lovely about snuggling up in the van to watch a movie in the evening or having a chess battle or family game of cards after dark.”
But Emma has opened the major upcycling flood gates now, with friends and family seeing the incredible job she has done with her van now requesting she sprinkle some of her magic on their projects.
Emma said: “My parents purchased a motorhome in their retirement, so we’ve been able to join them for weekends away too, but now having seen how light and airy I’ve made the caravan, they’d like me to have a crack at doing one for them.
“My next mission is to paint the exterior of ours, and then maybe buy a bigger one, just don’t tell the husband that!”.
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