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Convert an Old Caravan Into a Studio or Playroom

Quilter, painter, and gadget queen Jan T. loves all things creative. Here are her ideas for turning your caravan into a work of art.

Too big, too white: Not pretty

Too big, too white: Not pretty

Do You Need More Room to Work or Play?

Expanding hobbies or growing children seem to take up more and more living space in our homes, so why not build an outdoor studio space or a playroom in the garden?

A quilt-making studio was not possible in our country cottage at Rylstone, NSW, so I came up with an inexpensive alternative. I bought an old, dilapidated caravan (trailer) and gutted the interior. Perhaps you can do this too.

Do You Need Permission to Build?

Bob went to the council office and asked if we could use the caravan as a studio in the back yard. He was asked:

  • Were we going to live in it?
  • Was it relocatable?

Since the answers were "no we weren't" and "yes," it was, they said we could go ahead. Your council may have different requirements, so you do need to check first.

Where Can You Put It?

Putting the van in the back yard and situating it near the vegetable plot turned out to be a bit of a problem. We asked a neighbour to help with his tractor and we maneuvered it into position. Although it was convenient (I could walk on the brick path right up to the door), it was a great big white ugly blob. I had to work out a way to stop it being an eyesore.

The painting is started, with a tree on the corner. You can just see the seating area on the left.

The painting is started, with a tree on the corner. You can just see the seating area on the left.

Painting a Mural on Your Caravan

I have been drawing and painting for most of my life, so a mural didn't phase me in the least. I needed to blend the van into the garden by painting trees and plants, as well as some flowers. I went down to the shed to see what paint I had, got some more from the hardware shop and then I was ready to start. Bob was very skeptical and didn't want me to do it, but I was determined.

What Kind of Paint to Use on a Caravan

Use exterior house paint for this job. I needed white and blue for the sky and clouds, green for the grass and leaves, yellow to make different greens, and tan for the tree trunks and branches, plus assorted brights for the flowers.

I decided to paint two large tree trunks: one on the front corner, and one on the back of the van. I used a tan to block in the tree shape, and later added darker tan for shading by mixing some blue into the colour. We added some garden chairs and potted plants to disguise the drawbar as well as to prevent people from bumping into it.

Beginning the back - trunk in place.

Beginning the back - trunk in place.

My neighbour was chatting with Bob and she asked what I was doing. He said, "painting the van so it looks better." They were curious to know what it was going to look like, as people don't usually draw tree trunks as they are painting an exterior wall.

Inside the old van - very shabby and NOT chic.

Inside the old van - very shabby and NOT chic.

The inside was very worn and stained, showing its age, leaky in parts, and daylight could be seen under the sink.

We took out the bunks, the sink, stove and stuff.

We took out the bunks, the sink, stove and stuff.

We left the bed base because it had a drawer and some excellent storage room for large pieces of batting and for books. We placed a long, low wooden bookcase on top for my books and magazines. The existing wardrobe was great for storing my fabrics, in colour sets inside Itty Bitty Bins™.

Gutted interior

Gutted interior

Once gutted, the space was a respectable 12 foot by 8 foot. Very usable.

  • Another long, low bookcase was positioned under the window at the other end of the van, with a pine bench top on it for a cutting station.
  • Rolling sets of drawers were used for storage, and wire stacking baskets in front of the side windows.
  • Next to the door we put my quilter's table.
  • The horrid old floor was covered with leftover blue and white stick-on vinyl tiles from the kitchen.
The back of the van with its painted garden.

The back of the van with its painted garden.

No Longer an Eyesore. Doesn't It Blend Into the Garden?


And now people drive or walk up to see the beautiful caravan in the back of our house! When we sold our cottage at Rylstone, we wondered if the buyers of our house would want the van taken away, but they loved it. Their daughters use it as their cubby house.

Studio in the back yard? Would you like one of your own?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Have questions? Ask away . . .

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on August 11, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you!

anonymous on June 17, 2013:

Love It!!!

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