Last year at about this time in the spring, I started getting the itch to redo something bigger than just a piece of furniture or a room. I set my sights on a vintage camper. I wanted to do a Shasta or Airstream, but soon realized that those are in short supply and high demand. If you’ve ever studied economics, or simply been to a garage sale, you know that low supply + high demand = high prices (and vice versa). But just when I began to despair of unfulfilled inspiration, we found this little Apache Mesa from 1976. It’s a hard-sided pop up, which fit most of our needs, and it just needed a good cosmetic overhaul on the inside. The inspiration was back on!
I decided to use an outdoor carpet from Lowe’s to cover the floor. The yellow and brown linoleum was in great shape (just ugly!) so I didn’t want to get into a huge project of tearing it out, which would mean gutting the whole camper. I found that the inexpensive indoor/outdoor flat carpets are easy to cut with just scissors or a utility knife. For a template, I laid down several newspapers, taped them together, and then cut the edges into the outline of the floor. Then I laid the giant newspaper template on the carpet, traced it with chalk, and cut out the shape I needed. When I put it in the camper, I had to trim some of the edges just a bit, but now it’s the perfect fit. And it’s removable and easy to clean!
Here’s a quick tip. Although the upholstery was, well, let’s just call it “vintage,” the cushions underneath were in perfect, clean, condition. Rather than spending a lot of money reupholstering the beds, I just covered each of them with a large mover’s blanket. They’re cheap and durable, and I got mine at Harbor Freight for a whopping $4 each.
Next on my list was to re-upholster the dinette cushions and do something about the ugly orange band of plastic that ran around the top of the camper. However, those tasks got swallowed up by a summer full of fun and camping. My little project turned into our new family pastime, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Before closing up the camper for the winter, I found time to re-upholster the cushions.
Here’s another tip. To cover the cushions, I used fabric shower curtains. They’re stain resistant, washable, and very strong. Bonus: I was able to engineer the design so that the holes at the top of the shower curtain (for the curtain rings) became button holes, and I made the covers removable. After watching the way my kids climbed all over them with grubby feet and marshmallow-y hands, I knew washability would be important!
It came time to winterize the camper, and it bothered me that I hadn’t done anything yet about that orange plastic! Sometimes even I have to admit that I just can’t do it all, so we packed her up for the winter and I had to get over it.
But last weekend the weather warmed up enough to open her up again, and I was ready with the answer to the orange plastic. Again, rather than try to rip it out, of which I had no idea what the repercussions would be, I realized I could cover it with shelf paper. I found this adorable blue trellis pattern shelf paper at Marshalls, and knew it would be perfect for the job. Much like wallpapering a wall in a house, I decided to apply the paper in small sections. I knew that if I cut off a 4 inch by 8 foot long section of adhesive paper, I was just going to end up in a tangled mess. I mean, I’ve never even been able to use a foot of duct tape without it getting stuck to itself, and me, in several places! Here’s the process:
- Clean the surface well. I just used a microfiber cloth and water.
- Measure and cut one section of paper. (Use the grid on the back to help you get a straight line.)
- Before removing the backing, hold it up to make sure it looks right.
- Remove the protective backing.
- Carefully line up the patterns, overlapping where needed.
- Gently press the paper onto the plastic, and make sure the edges remain straight and even.
- If you get off-course, you can carefully pull up the paper and start again.
- Smooth the paper out, working from the inside to the outside. Press the paper into the edges for a clean line.
- Cut the edges off with a sharp utility knife.
- Repeat until your arms want to fall off from holding them over your head.
Finally, she’s finished. I must say, the end result is quite satisfying. You don’t need to have a pretty space to go camping in, but for me, it just made the whole thing more fun. Perhaps some day I’ll work up to a bigger remodel on an old Shasta or something, but this one has been a great learning experience and a fun challenge.
Unfortunately, we’ve been bitten by the camping bug now, and have decided to upgrade to a bigger camper that doesn’t pop up. So, my sweet little old Apache is
for sale. If you like her, feel free to make me an offer! Sold!