How This Family Transformed An Old Caravan Into A 70s-Inspired Dream

A few years ago, former ‘The Block’ contestants Carlene and Michael Duffy decided to bring their home renovating expertise to transforming vintage vans, and quickly fell in love with the nostalgia of mid-century caravans.

Now onto their fifth van restoration, they’ve turned a weathered ’70s viscount caravan into a cabin-like retreat, complete with a pull-out kitchen and fold-down bunks!

Take a closer look at their favourite project to date (named Goldie!) as they share how they did it below.

Christina Karras

Carlene and Michael Duffy, and their two kids, along with their renovated caravan, Goldie! Photo – Ben Adams

They turned to renovating old caravans in order to create their ideal retreat, that was halfway between a camping trip and a holiday home. Photo – Mindi Cooke

Their update features a pull out kitchen from under the van, allowing them to cook outdoors. Photo – Mindi Cooke

‘We used a boat tap over the sink so that it could fold down for when we put the kitchen away but could also lift to allow for large pots,’ Charlene says. Photo – Ben Adams

‘I just love Goldie’s colours and warm cabin-like, seventies-cool vibe.’

‘We wanted to be able to cook outside to feel amongst the atmosphere of the caravan park rather than feel cooped up inside, so a pull-out kitchen was the answer.’ Photo – Ben Adams

Inside, a bench seat provides a cosy area for dining. Photo – Mindi Cooke

Clashing vintage prints and patterns ties the retro aesthetic together. Photo – Mindi Cooke

Michael even built fold down bunk beds, after demolishing the inside of the van to start fresh. Photo – Mindi Cooke

‘The browns, mustards, maroons, and dusky pinks are a match made in 70s heaven and the pattern-clashing feels organic and relaxed.’ Photo – Mindi Cooke

The queen bed features storage below. Photo – Mindi Cooke

They scored a wooden wardrobe on Facebook Marketplace for just $50, and somehow it was exactly the right size for the space, had hanging and drawers, and was also super lightweight! Photo – Mindi Cooke

The old caravan is unrecognisable before the renovation!

Christina Karras
5th of June 2023

Former ‘The Block’ contestants Michael and Carlene Duffy started looking into ‘van life’ after wet weather ruined one of their family camping trips.

‘Michael and I both grew up camping and we wanted that for our kids, but our lifestyles are fast, and we really wanted to be able to go on holidays and not have the work that comes with it,’ Carlene says, who is the director of interior design studio Cedar and Suede. ‘A van was the opportunity to camp but with some comfort and ease.’

The only issue was that modern caravans were too expensive and didn’t reflect their ‘design sensibilities’, which inspired them to renovate a vintage one themselves. Since then, they’ve tackled five van renovations and even written a book about this very topic, called ‘This Old Van: Plan, Renovate and Style Your Own Vintage Caravan’. And Carlene says the latest project, Goldie, is their favourite to date!

‘We’d been hoarding Goldie for about five years before we got stuck into the renovation,’ she adds. They were smitten with the retro silhouette, made from a standard raw aluminium with blue stripes, but the inside featured a ‘whole lot of timber-look laminate’.

‘Unlike some of our other vans, there was nothing in the van to retain in Goldie. It was too far gone and required a fresh start,’ Carlene explains.

Apart from the trailer and the exterior panelling — which was professionally repainted — they decided to gut the interiors and rebuild it entirely, with some help from Michael’s electrician brother on the wiring.

They created a queen-sized bed with under bed storage; fold down bunk beds; a bench seat and an unfolding outdoor kitchen, with ply drawers and a laminate benchtop. The clever addition allows the family to enjoy the atmosphere of being in a caravan park, in addition to saving space inside.

Carlene says Goldie was inspired by the colours of ‘golden hour’, whilst also paying homage to her 70’s origins with browns, mustards, maroons, and dusky pinks. Bracing ply was used for the new interior lining, as a durable, cost-effective, and warm backdrop for a few vintage pieces, including a $50 wardrobe they found on Facebook Marketplace!

‘We layered clashing patterns but within a very tonal colour scheme of tans, plums, mustards to talk to our 70’s aesthetic. The bronze and aged brass metals in the lights, light switches and handles are our go-to.’

Apart from the ‘cabin-like’ vibe, another highlight of the update is the block-out velvet curtains — offering both privacy and some ‘wow’ with their floral print and a sweet contrasting frill.

Find more details on this renovation and how to create your own in their new book, ‘This Old Van’.

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