We’ve all fallen in love with Carlene and Michael Duffy’s inspiring makeovers of vintage caravans. The creative pair jumped on the zeitgeist way back at the beginning of the trend and haven’t looked back, turning out a bevy of beautiful caravan makeovers that are at once classically styled and bang on trend. In their new book, This Old Van, the designer/builder duo of Cedar + Suede introduce us to their latest vintage belle, Goldie.
Our most recent vintage belle is named in honour of our hometown of the Gold Coast, and her colour scheme pays tribute to golden hour, our favourite time of day. We purchased Goldie [a 1970s Viscount caravan] back in 2017, and until recently she’d been sitting under our house.
There was nothing to retain in this van, so we had little choice but to take her back to her shell and start from scratch. We used the opportunity to come up with a layout that worked for us and our two tween kids. We prioritised comfortable sleeping conditions (beds and window dressings) and sufficient, accessible storage space. Apart from the vintage wardrobe, Michael built every piece of joinery from scratch in this van.
Anyone who’s renovated a van will tell you it’s nothing like renovating a house, and you need to be prepared to make changes on the fly. We considered a whopping six floor plans for Goldie. In all cases, the kitchen pulls out from the outside of the van, meaning we were able to free up space inside and also create a camp-style kitchen. For us that means the first person up in the morning can go and put the kettle on without risking waking up the entire family. We’ve also found that with the kitchen inside, we’re inclined to feel a bit cooped up during meal preparation, when we have so much more space to utilise outside.
Michael had already started building when he flipped the floor plan once again. The sixth and final iteration saw the Murphy bunks from our original layout reinstated. The bench seat was given the full width of the van, making it a more functional sitting area, and we scored the most perfect free-standing vintage wardrobe from Facebook Marketplace, which not only fit the space perfectly but is incredibly lightweight, a key consideration for vanning materials. It also saved Michael a truckload of work in having to construct something from scratch.
When building your materials board, there is no right place to start, but Carlene likes to begin with paint colours – specifically, the exterior paint colour. It’s the simplest place to start because here you’re not contending with multiple surfaces but rather just one large surface.
In the case of Goldie, Carlene was very tempted to break the pattern and try two saturated colours on the exterior separated vertically rather than horizontally. When it came to painting day, however, she had a change of heart. Because vans are always longer than they are high, it made the most sense to carve up the colour horizontally.
To feel fully encompassed by colour it was important in this scheme that no white appear anywhere. It can be easy to think that a neutral like white won’t pull focus, but the opposite is true. White can in fact very much command a space, so it needs to be well considered.
Carlene played on the age of Goldie by introducing what we coined ‘a touch of granny’. The combination of florals and the way they are repeated in different applications (curtains and bench seat) are inspired by our grandparents’ homes and how our grandmothers used to decorate.”
Tour Michael and Carlene’s other vintage caravan renovations:
This is an edited extract from This Old Van by Carlene and Michael Duffy (Hardie Grant Books). Available in stores nationally.