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peek inside a retro pink caravan

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As far as impulsive DIY projects go, Emma Sheppard’s quarantine reno is one of the raddest of the lot. With live music on hiatus earlier this year, the bass player for indie-pop band Sheppard decided to channel her energy into revamping an old caravan. Five months later, Emma and her partner Liam are putting the finishing touches on Calli, a travelling home that’s cute, kitschy and pink all over. Hey Emma! What motivated you to take on the reno? It was such a random project. I woke up one morning, spotted the caravan on Facebook Marketplace, and went to have a look with my partner. As soon as we saw it, we fell in love! 

How much practical experience did you have before starting? My partner Liam is a carpenter so he has plenty of experience; me on the other hand, not so much. That’s another reason why I wanted to take on the project – I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about renovating. 

What was the original state of the caravan and what was involved in doing it up? The van was actually in pretty good condition. The previous owners really loved it and kept it in a shed while they weren’t travelling in it. We did, however, end up gutting a lot of it because we wanted to give it a modern feel that complimented the vintage shape. 

The van originally had a ’70s rock feel with checkerboard flooring and vinyl singles glued to the wall. It was fairly dark, with a wood-grain interior. We basically removed everything but the front seats. At first we were only going to give it a coat of paint and a new bench top, but as quarantine kept getting extended, we had more and more time to do exactly what we wanted. All of a sudden, the van was empty and we had quite a large project to complete.

What new things did you install? The interior has been a full rebuild with new cupboards, drawers, a table, fridge and bed base, as well as an amazing, custom-made mattress from Makin Mattresses. We put in new light shades to give the van a beachy vibe, and installed LED strip lighting over the kitchen bench, which doubles as a reading light.

Where did you look for style inspiration? I initially looked up ‘caravan reno’ on Pinterest and came across some amazing renovations like the ‘BumbleBee’ by Michael and Carlene Duffy. I also pulled ideas from Instagram, which has such a great caravan community and lots of people wanting to give you tips and ideas. Overall, I wanted a Palm Springs and California vibe! 

What are your tips for sourcing furniture and decorations? I love looking for both old and new pieces, and that’s very much what our van is. I’ve found pre-loved items off Facebook Marketplace and at antique and vintage stores around Brisbane (Camp Hill Antique Centre is one of my favourites). I would recommend not rushing in and buying everything at once. It’s nice to take it slow and come across items that you really love and need in your life. 

Any tips for saving a bit of moolah? Well, find yourself a partner who's a builder. If that’s not an option, try to keep everything in the van that’s still in good condition – a coat of paint can do wonders. Our cupboards are made from 4mm ply to keep the weight down, but that’s also a cost effective way to build a cabinet. Finally, if you look on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or in op shops, you can find really cute things. We found our pink cutlery set at the local Vinnies for $8.

What’s been your favourite part of the process? Spending more time with my partner and keeping our minds off Covid. It was a great way to keep sane during isolation and was something to look forward to every day. It’s also been great learning how to use a drill! 

What’s been the most challenging part? Liam’s answer would definitely be different, but for me, sourcing an upholsterer and fabric for our couches proved harder than I thought. We’re still in the process of doing that.

What will you be doing with Calli once you’ve finished? We’d love to do a big trip in Calli once she’s finished. I’ve always wanted to explore more of our beautiful country. After that, we’d love to rent it out for other people to enjoy. 

Will we be seeing Calli hit the road with Sheppard? We have an upcoming gig in Gladstone in November and were hoping to take the caravan with us, though maybe we should also incorporate it into the album launch.

Speaking of music, Sheppard has just announced their new album, slated for release on February 19th, 2021. See the track list over here.