Van Tour

April 2018, Jake and I were coming to the end of our second year at university and decided take a break from our work and take a sunset trip by the sea to recharge. This is where we got onto the topic of after uni and where we thought we would live and what our plans were. As Jake is from South Wales and I am from Manchester we knew we didn't want to have to deal with the distance so whatever we were going to do it was going to be together. From there, we got onto the topic of travel and wanting to see the world and loving the idea of van life and the freedom to take a home on the road with you, and from that point on, we just knew this is what we had to do. We scoured the internet for used motorhomes from up and down the country, visited a dealership, researched the lifestyle inside and out, and after 8 long months we finally found... our Jolene.

Jolene is a 1992 Elddis Autoquest 320. We decided we wanted to buy a motorhome rather than self-converting a sprinter van like many vanlifers do as we had limited time, money and equipment to completely start from scratch. So by buying a van that already had everything in it we would need just cut out a lot of the work. Having said this, it still took a lot longer than expected to revamp. We bought Jolene on December 23rd 2018 and had to have her fully ready to move into by 30th June 2019. This may seem like we had plenty of time, however we were trying to balance finishing our degrees, working at our part time jobs as well as travelling back and forth from Cornwall to South Wales whenever we had a free weekend (which was very rare) to work on the van with help from Jake's dad who had the tools and the skills that we did not have on our own. 

 

 As a self-confessed Pinterest addict, I had been pinning my life away, obsessively looking through all of the van interior and home decor pictures for inspiration months before we found Jolene. So when we finally got the van we already knew exactly how we wanted her to be. Bright, homely and stylish were the keywords we had in mind when we started buying everything for the revamp and we think we were very successful in achieving just that.

When we first bought Jolene she was very well looked after but very dated. She was a complete blank canvas to us which gave us the creative freedom to turn her into the rolling home we'd always dreamed of. 

We started the facelift by tackling the largest and most important areas: the cupboards/doors, flooring and soft furnishings. These were the things that were really going transform the van and bring it to life. It took one coat of strong primer and two coats of oil-based eggshell paint in the colour ivory to paint the cupboards and doors. We really took our time with this as it took a lot of prep to ensure that the paint wouldn’t just chip off. We chose an off white colour as the walls of the van are cream coloured and a slightly rough texture which we weren't too sure we were able to paint without the risk of it scratching off, so we went with a paint colour that would make the walls blend in instead. Another reason for the off white was to make it as bright and airy as possible, as we will be spending a lot of time in it, we really wanted to make it a light and inviting place to live and work. 

When it came to flooring I found that many vanlifers chose to go with laminate flooring and that was our initial idea when planning the revamp, however, the van was already carpeted when we bought it and we liked the cosy feel it added, especially during colder evenings. So in the end, we decided to rip up the dated pink carpets and replace it with a cosy new grey one - fitted by Doleq Carpets in South Wales. We also had all of the seat cushions reupholstered in a matching grey by Devine Upholstery in South Wales.

When it came to flooring I found that many vanlifers chose to go with laminate flooring and that was our initial idea when planning the revamp, however, the van was already carpeted when we bought it and we liked the cosy feel it added, especially during colder evenings. So in the end, we decided to rip up the dated pink carpets and replace it with a cosy new grey one - fitted by Doleq Carpets in South Wales. We also had all of the seat cushions reupholstered in a matching grey by Devine Upholstery in South Wales.

 

Once all of that was finished, which was really the main bulk of the revamp, it was down to the little details that would really bring the whole thing together. A huge important factor for us was a comfy bed! The one that came with the van, however, was not comfy at all. The over cab bed was basically a thin bit of foam on a large plank of wood covered in the same dated and itchy material that was originally on the seat cushions. So I took the plank of wood and individually pulled out all of the staples which held down the upholstery and pulled off the old thin foam. I then cleaned it all up and stained the wood a walnut colour, giving it a couple of coats to darken it and it looked as good as new! We were then kindly donated an unused memory foam mattress from our old lovely neighbours which we then cut down to size to fit our bed and voila! Good as new and done super, super cheaply! (and it is extremely comfy!)

For our countertops, we used a self-adhesive material called Fablon, which we bought from wayfair.com. It was a bit of a nightmare to put down and requires a lot of patience and precision (which I have none of but luckily Jake does) and it was well worth it! It is durable and a really lovely and cheap way to resurface the countertops. It really finished the look off and modernised the whole kitchen. 

Storage is a huge privilege when you live in a tiny home and you really need to make the most of the space you have. So for the large cupboard/wardrobe, we bought a big hanging clothes storage with several compartments which we also bought two drawers for a little extra room for underwear and swimwear. This has provided us with a surprising amount of room for almost all of our clothes, however, we do keep our out of season wear in the roof box just to make extra room for everything we need right now. We also have our coats and jackets hung up next to it, and a few hoodies and cardigans folded underneath them for those slightly cooler days.

It was really important to us that we had our own individual storage space for our own things. Living in such a small space together can sometimes feel like you're living on top of each other, so by having our own cupboards for our own things just gives us a little bit of room to have something that is just our own. Having said this, they are only small cupboards in length and width but quite a lot of room in height. So to maximise the amount of storage we bought adjustable tension bars which extend to the length of your cupboard and tighten by twisting them, by lining a few of these up it creates a shelf which adds another layer to the cupboard to allow for even more things to be stored in such a small place! 

The cupboard at the top is where we keep anything that we may need to quickly grab before we leave the van such as, hats, gloves and head torches. We hung a black hanger where we keep all of our keys when we’re in the van. We also keep a storage basket in here with all of our first aid supplies and medicines.

In the van we have both a gas heater and an electric heater. The reason for both is we can only use the electric heater when we are hooked up to mains but it saves us from using up our gas and we use the gas heater when wild camping with no electricity hook up.

This is our hob, grill and oven. All of the original appliances and all run of gas.

This is one of our food cupboards. On the back of the wall we took some long pieces of elastic and screwed either side of them to the wall. This helps keep all of our jars and condiments in place while we are in transit.

These shelves are the same as the spice rack we have in the kitchen. I got the idea to turn one upside down to use as a hand rail from Pinterest and it has worked perfectly for us! The plant and toothbrush holder are firmly stuck down so they don’t come flying off while in transit.

Also in the bathroom, we kept the original cassette toilet and sink with the tap that doubles as a shower head. The walls are made out of hollow soffit board which is a very cheap a durable material which Jake and his dad fitted and the back wall is covered in white self-adhesive plastic, similar to the fablon we used on the countertops. The flooring is also from the original interior, however, to upgrade it without spending a fortune, we bought this wooden bath mat which we take out whenever we shower and put back in there after which allows us to walk into the bathroom without getting our feet soaked - win win!

So after what felt like forever, we finally finished giving Jolene the makeover she deserved, however, I don't think we will ever be fully finished, there is always another idea we are coming up with to upgrade certain parts of her. Nevertheless, we are so proud of what we have done and are so thankful for all of the help Jake's family have given us over the months to turn her into our dream home.

Below I have linked as many of the products inside Jolene that I could find!

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rebeccanwalker@yahoo.com