Then & now

A whole lotta love went into the restora­tion of this once-rusty car­a­van. Now ‘Daisy’ is the per­fect mo­bile hol­i­day home for a young fam­ily, who have kit­ted it out for a life­time of ad­ven­ture

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - In­ter­view by Fiona Ralph. Styling by Lara Ma­her. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ni­cola Edmonds.

A con­tem­po­rary car­a­van restora­tion to in­spire wan­der­lust


Where do you live? Lara: Tawa, Welling­ton. When did you buy your car­a­van? Jan­uary 2017 – one week be­fore we got mar­ried!

Why did you de­cide to pur­chase it? It was a spur-of-the-mo­ment de­ci­sion but one we haven’t re­gret­ted. We were plan­ning a big road trip for our hon­ey­moon and thought that with our skills we could do up a car­a­van over the year and have it for fam­ily hol­i­days in the fu­ture.

Where do you keep it? At home, on the grass be­side our drive­way.

Tell us about your hon­ey­moon in ‘Daisy’ the car­a­van. We spent a month tour­ing around the South Is­land, cov­er­ing over 4550 kilo­me­tres. High­lights in­cluded an amaz­ing trip to Akaroa, a day trip to Ste­wart Is­land, vis­it­ing Mil­ford Sound, see­ing the glaciers, lake swims and many sunny af­ter­noons loung­ing lake­side out­side the car­a­van. Have you taken the car­a­van on many other jour­neys? We’ve done a cou­ple of lower

North Is­land week­enders. We’d like to do an­other longer trip soon.

What do you en­joy most about go­ing on hol­i­day in a car­a­van? It’s nice to just leave the car­a­van set up and take the ute away from the camp­site for day trips. Plus there’s no pack­ing up of tents and it doesn’t mat­ter if it rains!

Did you do much camp­ing be­fore you got Daisy? We both have fond me­mories of fam­ily hol­i­days spent camp­ing and wanted the same for our chil­dren.

Tell us about the buy­ing process. We bought Daisy off Trade Me. The process was pretty straight­for­ward, al­though we did have to put it on a tow truck as it had a flat tyre and wasn’t any­where near road­wor­thy. We had a ner­vous drive fol­low­ing it home.


What was the car­a­van like when you bought it?

It was in a pretty bad way. It was un­li­censed and had not had a WOF since 1992. It was com­pletely gut­ted, the wiring was shot, the car­pet was smelly, the win­dows were bro­ken, the paint job was peel­ing and mouldy. It needed a lot of work!

Were there any struc­tural changes re­quired? The steel trailer frame was com­pletely rusty, so we stripped the rust (spend­ing many hours un­der the car­a­van with a grinder fit­ted with a wire-brush wheel) and then painted it. Luck­ily the struc­ture was sound. It was al­ready mostly gut­ted apart from the car­pet, cur­tains and wall­pa­per. There was no in­ter­nal cab­i­netry so that was all built by Ben.

Did you do the work your­selves? We (Ben!) did most of the work. There were many late nights in the last few weeks be­fore we headed away. We did get all the elec­tri­cal work done pro­fes­sion­ally by RV Dreams in Lower Hutt. They also in­stalled the so­lar panel. The plumb­ing was done by a friend – Andy at Per­ano Plumb­ing and Gas.

What ex­actly did you do? Ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing needed do­ing! We ini­tially spent weeks scrap­ing wall­pa­per glue off the walls – that was the worst job. From there, we built all the in­ter­nal join­ery, re­placed the bro­ken win­dow with Per­spex (saved us the cost of a glazier), added wiring and plumb­ing, re­moved rust from the axle, painted it in­side and out, in­stalled ap­pli­ances and a so­lar panel, and fit­ted soft fur­nish­ings – not to men­tion all those ex­tra small fid­dly jobs.

How long did the restora­tion take? It took us all year as hav­ing a tod­dler kept us pretty busy. There were many late nights spent paint­ing once she had gone to bed!

How did you paint the ex­te­rior? We en­listed a work­mate, Nick, to help us do the ex­te­rior spray-paint­ing – in our drive­way! It was painted with a two-pot Auto thane au­to­mo­tive spray paint from To­tal Bodyshop Sup­plies.

Have you had much ex­pe­ri­ence ren­o­vat­ing? Ben is a qual­i­fied builder with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in high-end res­i­den­tial ren­o­va­tions. I have a kitchen-de­sign back­ground. We’ve also done a num­ber of ren­o­va­tions at home to­gether.

What were some of the con­sid­er­a­tions that were unique to work­ing on a car­a­van? We did a lot of re­search on the rules and reg­u­la­tions we had to fol­low – es­pe­cially to do with waste wa­ter and gas con­nec­tions and ven­ti­la­tion. We also had to re­search the in­tri­ca­cies of 230-volt and 12volt elec­tri­cal sys­tems and what camp­grounds ex­pect in terms of self-con­tain­ment.

“We wanted it to be re­lax­ing so we kept to a sim­ple pal­ette of whites and greys. The tim­ber adds warmth and we love that the floor vinyl is a bit dif­fer­ent to the norm”


What was your in­spi­ra­tion for the in­te­rior?

As well as want­ing it to be re­lax­ing and cosy, get­ting the lay­out right was im­por­tant as we wanted it to feel spa­cious in­side. Key fea­tures in­cluded cre­at­ing a daybed at the front in­stead of bunks and hav­ing open shelv­ing rather than full cup­boards above.

We also wanted it to be re­ally prac­ti­cal and ef­fi­cient – the three-way fridge (which works on gas, 230-volt and 12-volt power), so­lar panel and the abil­ity to trans­form the seat­ing into a full­sized bed all helped to achieve this. We have fu­ture-proofed it so the space will still work for us as our fam­ily grows.

Tell us about the styling. We wanted it to be a re­lax­ing space so we kept to a sim­ple pal­ette of whites and greys. The tim­ber adds warmth and we love that the pat­terned vinyl on the floor is a bit dif­fer­ent to the norm.


How did you find the reno ex­pe­ri­ence? It was a fun but very chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially do­ing it for the first time. Ev­ery­thing we know about de­sign­ing, ren­o­vat­ing or styling a house has been squeezed into a tiny space; it all needs to be light­weight but strong, and stand up to the rigours of be­ing towed at 80 kilo­me­tres per hour. We learnt that plan­ning is ev­ery­thing. Best mo­ment dur­ing the process? It was a real buzz once we had fin­ished paint­ing the ex­te­rior; it was such a trans­for­ma­tion! Get­ting our WOF was also a ma­jor mile­stone and we were able to re-reg­is­ter the car­a­van with the orig­i­nal num­ber plate, keep­ing a bit of his­tory.

Any ma­jor dis­as­ters dur­ing the reno? Not so much dur­ing the reno but our first trial run to Palmer­ston North on Christ­mas Eve re­sulted in us nearly los­ing a wheel and end­ing up on the back of a tow truck. Luck­ily, with the help of a kind stranger, we got back on the road pretty quickly.

What was your bud­get? We didn’t make a bud­get be­cause it was done over nine months so we could spread out the cost. We also learnt as we went through the process.

How much was your to­tal spend? We spent around $15K, not in­clud­ing labour.

What did you splurge and save on? We splurged on squabs, ex­te­rior paint, the electrics, so­lar power and ap­pli­ances. We saved on labour, paint­ing, trailer wiring, cur­tains (by mak­ing them and us­ing sec­ond­hand fab­ric) and by re­plac­ing the bro­ken win­dow with Per­spex, not glass.


Who owns this? Lara Ma­her, 32 (stay-at-home mum), Ben Ma­her, 34 (fore­man/builder for PlanitCon­struc­tion), Char­lotte, 2, Ol­lie, 2 months.BE­FORESnapshot

BE­FOREQUICK TO CON­VERT The cosy, mod­ern in­te­rior is a far cry from Daisy the car­a­van’s early days. Luck­ily Ben is a builder, which made the ren­o­va­tion process a lit­tle eas­ier. He de­signed the ta­ble to fold away, trans­form­ing the seat­ing area into a comfy bed. “We wanted to make sure the squabs would be su­per-com­fort­able and durable as we knew we would be sleep­ing on them for a long time,” says Lara.


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