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Easy DIY Updates Take a Conversion Van to Custom Cool

Van Glamping (Glamour Camping) on a DIY Budget

Last summer we bought a 1994 Ford Econoline conversion van camper. We had outgrown our charming but cramped and delicate vintage travel trailer, and wanted to take our RV living onto the fast lane (ie. highway) with a conversion van that could go the distance from the Midwest to visit family in Florida... and we wanted to take our dog.

Our 20-year-old Ford Econoline Coachman conversion van is chock full of amenities... the trade-off is that it comes fully equipped with the charm of a nursing home waiting room—circa 1981. RV redecorating sounds like a good challenge to me!

While a new conversion van (or class B motorhome) can ring in at around $40k-$50k, used ones like ours are a relative steal so even the budget-challenged can afford a small DIY redecorating budget...great for those with the "glamping" bug - like me. This lens will accompany me on my journey to renovate our campy van into camper cool! Let's go GlamVannin'!

Ford Conversion Van Class B for Sale
Ford Conversion Van Class B for Sale

DIY Glamping & Away We Go

With a flexible work life and a pre-schooler, we bought the van to renovate in order to travel the country & visit family who winter in Florida. We started working on it immediately, spending the summer completing our interior upgrade with a new professional sofa, roof and door liner upholstery, new lined curtains that block the light and interior paint job that gives the vehicle a spa-like modern feel.

Easy to drive, easy to park; this newly refreshed motor home now had everything we needed for camping plus a spa-like style that made relaxing much easier.

After having a more traditional pull-behind camper, we really enjoyed the ease of use with this all-in-one RV. Just pull into a campground, plug in and you're ready to play. No setup, leveling jacks or difficult backup driving needed.

Plus, with its 2" receiver and ample towing power, you can even tow additional toys or gear like a dream (we actually towed our 19" travel trailer effortlessly!).

A Van Icon: The Mystery Machine (credit: Zazzle)
A Van Icon: The Mystery Machine (credit: Zazzle)

Benefits of a Conversion Van: Faster, Further, More Functional

Although conversion vans are relatively rare in the campgrounds we've visited, and they probably hadn't entered my mind much outside of a childhood love for Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, back in the vanning heyday of the 1970s, the more research we did, the more it made sense of us to increase our options without increasing our size or budget too much.

The conversion van option offers a lot in a relatively small package:

  1. Highway-worthy: Designed for 65mph roadways
  2. Conveniences: Modern conveniences such as fridges, microwaves and air conditioning included
  3. Driveability: Easier to drive without the worries of trailering, hitches, tow vehicles.
  4. Flexibility: Available in manageable sizes allowing for use as a living space and destination vehicle
  5. Price: Older second-hand models are widely available in the $3,000-$10,000 range with just as many features as the newer pricier models—if you can stand the décor (or fix it yourself).

"Before" Photos of My 1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van: How to Decorate an RV from Frumpy to Foxy

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We'll call him Elvis and try to embrace yet improve the campy heritage of vanning. Look - a bunk bed over the drivers - who didn't want one of those as a kid? My hubby and toddler are already fighting over it... good thing there's a double pullout coWelcome to the Senior Center waiting room... this is where the dreary starts... doesn't it just shout "Dinner at 4pm & BINGO at 5pm"?18 feet makes for a relaxing evening with a sink, two burner gas stove, fridge, microwave, A/C, tv hookup & shower... but the faux wood decor really puts a girl to sleep... this is a '94 van, but its designer must have hit his peak in the early 1Cool how the "recliners" swivel 360 degrees into the "living room!" Comfortable yet shabby... I'll see what I can do for "the King's" thrones!My husband likes to put on his Elvis glasses and in his best "King" drawl offer this potty for your "Blue Suede poos, thank you very much"A van full of mobile amenities to get you where you're going and sleep a crew of 4 (small people)... all it needs is a decorator's touch!No glove compartment; just this "upgraded" wood console whose cup rests are so shallow they release your commuter mug right into your lap on turns.Racing stripes in baby blue are the only thing that distinguishes us from the local Senior center's bus. This tranquil exterior hides a 5.8l V8 that can tow 7,000 pounds... and drinks gas like a camel in the desert.
We'll call him Elvis and try to embrace yet improve the campy heritage of vanning. Look - a bunk bed over the drivers - who didn't want one of those as a kid? My hubby and toddler are already fighting over it... good thing there's a double pullout co
We'll call him Elvis and try to embrace yet improve the campy heritage of vanning. Look - a bunk bed over the drivers - who didn't want one of those as a kid? My hubby and toddler are already fighting over it... good thing there's a double pullout co
Welcome to the Senior Center waiting room... this is where the dreary starts... doesn't it just shout "Dinner at 4pm & BINGO at 5pm"?
Welcome to the Senior Center waiting room... this is where the dreary starts... doesn't it just shout "Dinner at 4pm & BINGO at 5pm"?
18 feet makes for a relaxing evening with a sink, two burner gas stove, fridge, microwave, A/C, tv hookup & shower... but the faux wood decor really puts a girl to sleep... this is a '94 van, but its designer must have hit his peak in the early 1
18 feet makes for a relaxing evening with a sink, two burner gas stove, fridge, microwave, A/C, tv hookup & shower... but the faux wood décor really puts a girl to sleep... this is a '94 van, but its designer must have hit his peak in the early 1
Cool how the "recliners" swivel 360 degrees into the "living room!" Comfortable yet shabby... I'll see what I can do for "the King's" thrones!
Cool how the "recliners" swivel 360 degrees into the "living room!" Comfortable yet shabby... I'll see what I can do for "the King's" thrones!
My husband likes to put on his Elvis glasses and in his best "King" drawl offer this potty for your "Blue Suede poos, thank you very much"
My husband likes to put on his Elvis glasses and in his best "King" drawl offer this potty for your "Blue Suede poos, thank you very much"
A van full of mobile amenities to get you where you're going and sleep a crew of 4 (small people)... all it needs is a decorator's touch!
A van full of mobile amenities to get you where you're going and sleep a crew of 4 (small people)... all it needs is a decorator's touch!
No glove compartment; just this "upgraded" wood console whose cup rests are so shallow they release your commuter mug right into your lap on turns.
No glove compartment; just this "upgraded" wood console whose cup rests are so shallow they release your commuter mug right into your lap on turns.
Racing stripes in baby blue are the only thing that distinguishes us from the local Senior center's bus. This tranquil exterior hides a 5.8l V8 that can tow 7,000 pounds... and drinks gas like a camel in the desert.
Racing stripes in baby blue are the only thing that distinguishes us from the local Senior center's bus. This tranquil exterior hides a 5.8l V8 that can tow 7,000 pounds... and drinks gas like a camel in the desert.

The "After Effect": Renovated and Ready to Rumble!

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A calm spa-like feel transforms the van into a spa-worthy retreat with the DIY techniques described below!A kitchen with sink, stove, microwave & fridge glammed with chartreuse & silver.New grey-sueded upholstery invite you to lounge on the sofa that seats 3 and pulls out to a double bed.The back houses the bath, shower & wc.The side door with speakers and new curtains keep out prying eyes.New door panel upholstery invite you inside.
A calm spa-like feel transforms the van into a spa-worthy retreat with the DIY techniques described below!
A calm spa-like feel transforms the van into a spa-worthy retreat with the DIY techniques described below!
A kitchen with sink, stove, microwave & fridge glammed with chartreuse & silver.
A kitchen with sink, stove, microwave & fridge glammed with chartreuse & silver.
New grey-sueded upholstery invite you to lounge on the sofa that seats 3 and pulls out to a double bed.
New grey-sueded upholstery invite you to lounge on the sofa that seats 3 and pulls out to a double bed.
The back houses the bath, shower & wc.
The back houses the bath, shower & wc.
The side door with speakers and new curtains keep out prying eyes.
The side door with speakers and new curtains keep out prying eyes.
New door panel upholstery invite you inside.
New door panel upholstery invite you inside.

Features and Specs of This 1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van

Low miles—ride in style!

Engine

Ford E250, V8 gasoline engine
4 speed automatic with overdrive
69,234 original miles

Specs

Length (overall) 19'8"
Height 9'9" includes a/c (fits in our barn)
Interior height 6'7"
35-gal fuel capacity

Interior Amenities

Newly updated custom upholstery on sofa
New curtains with UV block lining
Overhead expandable loft bed
Sofa twin bed expands into full size bed
Microwave oven
LP cooktop
Sink
Dash AC & heat
Roof a/c with electric heat strip
AM/FM & cassette
LP furnace
Tub with shower (outside shower too)
Marine toilet
New electric fridge
Lots of storage
Mirrors
Swiveling captains' chairs face back

1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van
1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van

How Much do Conversion Vans Sell For?

Vintage Vans Offer Great Value!

When we first got the idea to look into a camper van, we figured that since they included the "tow vehicle" they'd be a lot more expensive that the prices we've become familiar with for vintage travel trailers. We were wrong.

Searching for van pricing information turns out to be pretty frustrating on Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book. The sites tend to value just the base van before the conversion. Your best pricing guide comes from following eBay auctions and searching the web to see what dealers are offering for used models will give you a good thermometer on camper van price ranges.

After seeing that new conversion vans are for sale in the $40,000 - $50,000 range, we were really surprised to discover that you can buy a used conversion van nicely loaded with reasonable mileage for anywhere in the $2,000 - $11,000 range. Vans seem to be largely undervalued perhaps due to their relative obscurity in camping circles.

After our research, we felt that older model vans are a good value and offer all the functionality of the new vans. Although they lack in interior glamour (as do most of the RVs available sadly), I think I can fix this myself for relatively low cost.

Where Do You Find a Conversion Van for Sale? And Where Do You Do Your RV Cost Research?

When deciding what to pay for a used camper van, you'll need to do your research and visit the various places people use to sell an RV. There are many classified RV listing sales sites you can check both locally and online. I always like to start with a quick check on eBay. You can get a sense of the conversion van models, features and price ranges.

Then, using the "advanced search" feature, with keywords like "camper van," "conversion van" "class B" motor home, you can even check "sold" auction ending prices. Once you have a sense of what's available and what the pricing is like you'll have a better sense of what's a good deal if you see a van for sale by owner on the side of the road like we did! Happy searching!

Renovating a Vintage Van—Where to Start?

Camper Van inspired by Elvis
Camper Van inspired by Elvis

Inspiration Elvis: Embracing Van "Glamping" and Camping Kitsch

We've named our van for the King! We like to name our vehicles. The personality enhances the fun of our travel adventures. For this larger-than-life vintage van, crowned with an extra ducktail of a top and dressed in white and blue sueded plush, it seemed obvious to take inspiration in Elvis. And, in tribute, our first major trip will be to Graceland. It will be fun to see where we can add in some decorative nods to "the King" in our interior design... wouldn't it be great to get that belt buckle mounted over the Ford logo on the grill? Do I know any welders?

Out with the Drab, in With the Fab! Choosing a New Design Style for the Conversion Van Interior

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Here's a photo of swatches showing the colors of the elements I HAVE to work with (interior dash & rug colors) and the paint colors I've chosen to lighten the mood a bit.This shows the paint colors with the fabric I've chosen for the curtains (grey with white dots) and for the pull-out couch (a dark grey with a subtle dot texture).I never thought I'd find such a great use for white pearlized faux alligator vinyl. But how slick would that look to replace the dirty blue fabric on the door panels? Now I'll have to update the door pulls to white too!The "racing stripes" on my 1994 Ford Econoline Coachman conversion, van aka the exterior color palette.Denim Fabric slipcovers for the captains' chairs seems a budget-friendly, durable and washable choice for upgrading the dingy seats. And I think Elvis would approve.
Here's a photo of swatches showing the colors of the elements I HAVE to work with (interior dash & rug colors) and the paint colors I've chosen to lighten the mood a bit.
Here's a photo of swatches showing the colors of the elements I HAVE to work with (interior dash & rug colors) and the paint colors I've chosen to lighten the mood a bit.
This shows the paint colors with the fabric I've chosen for the curtains (grey with white dots) and for the pull-out couch (a dark grey with a subtle dot texture).
This shows the paint colors with the fabric I've chosen for the curtains (grey with white dots) and for the pull-out couch (a dark grey with a subtle dot texture).
I never thought I'd find such a great use for white pearlized faux alligator vinyl. But how slick would that look to replace the dirty blue fabric on the door panels? Now I'll have to update the door pulls to white too!
I never thought I'd find such a great use for white pearlized faux alligator vinyl. But how slick would that look to replace the dirty blue fabric on the door panels? Now I'll have to update the door pulls to white too!
The "racing stripes" on my 1994 Ford Econoline Coachman conversion, van aka the exterior color palette.
The "racing stripes" on my 1994 Ford Econoline Coachman conversion, van aka the exterior color palette.
Denim Fabric slipcovers for the captains' chairs seems a budget-friendly, durable and washable choice for upgrading the dingy seats. And I think Elvis would approve.
Denim Fabric slipcovers for the captains' chairs seems a budget-friendly, durable and washable choice for upgrading the dingy seats. And I think Elvis would approve.

Decorating Elvis with Elvis

Marble Elvis: The King Lives!
Marble Elvis: The King Lives!

A 3inch marble Elvis statue...which I ended up painting bright yellow to get the attention it deserves. Of course with mobile decor, it needed to be glued down...I used magnets (I doubt AAA covers injuries caused by falling Elvis' during transit).

 

What Do You Think of the RV Redecorating Plan? Let's Make This RV Fit for a King!

Elvis Likes it!
Elvis Likes it!

What would Elvis say about these colors & fabrics?

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Most Cost-Effective Areas to Update in Your Van's Interior to Get the Look for Less

Out with the old (folks home) and in with the new! As we contemplated adding the van to our "fleet," my hubby inspected the vehicle's functionality and I spent some time mulling the design challenge. I looked around at the tired plush, the dirty fabric panels, heavy fuzzy drapes, pink-and-blue speckled vinyl wall board, fake vinyl composite wood cabinet boxes, blue shag carpet and pondered:

  • Where do I spend my DIY time and budget to make the most impact on the RV's style?
  • What cheap DIY RV decorating ideas could I use to keep the costs down?

I made my bucket list below and hubby gave the rig a thumbs up. We decided to welcome Elvis to our fleet and bring him back to life (or at least give him a facelift). As we complete each of the tasks below we added a module to show you our solutions. We decided to see if all our efforts directed attention away from the rugs enough to leave them alone. As they were installed under all the cabinets, replacing them with another flooring would have been a challenge.

Our RV Van Renovation Bucket List

  1. Paint the RV cabinets. Paint is cheap and the right colors can make the space look bigger. Cabinets in a cramped space will be subject to high wear and tear so it was important to do this somewhat risky task right. But coming from a vintage travel trailer with real wood paneling to this poor imitation added further insult to injury... this will make a huge impact in steering the van away from its eighties slump.
  2. Paint the vinyl wallboard. I have to admit, this project gave me the most pause as I'd been taught that paint over vinyl is a dubious task. But there's nothing that says 80's nursing home more than this powder blue & pink speckled pattern so its gotta go.
  3. Make new RV curtains. These carpet-like fuzzy blue curtains are just dowdy and give my emotional age a three decade boost - in the wrong direction. This is a great place to bring in some style and character. I want something long-wearing stylistically because with eight window treatments & a divider curtain, this will be a lot of work and a major expense. Choose wisely!
  4. Auto re-upholstery. The one real functionality problem we found with the van is that the previous owner had replaced the fridge and didn't realize that the newer fridge had a curved front that prevented the fold-down couch from folding down fully. We'd either needed to find a new fridge that didn't have the same problem or modify the couch. Since I wanted to update the fabric anyway and was able to find an auto upholsterer who felt he could solve the design flaw, we got two wins in one. I felt the new fabric would go a long way towards playing down the light blue overload and would provide a major style boost. It will be expensive though so again I will choose something stylistically tame.
  5. Door and headliner panel re-upholstery. I have zero auto experience so this seemed a bit outta my league, but the dirty blue fabric on the doors was one of the first things you see upon entering the van. I think it is worth the learning curve.
  6. Captain's chair updates- The seats, although comfortable, had a lot of wear. I would have to figure out the options: seat covers, slipcovers or new seats? This turned out more challenging than I anticipated.

Blue Dice for our Van

Vintage Parts 14556 3" Blue Fuzzy Dice with White Dots - Pair
Vintage Parts 14556 3" Blue Fuzzy Dice with White Dots - Pair

Of course, what tribute to the fabulous 50s would be complete without hanging dice in the windshield? And what could be better than blue ones for Elvis?

 

Job 1: Painting RV Interior Cabinets and Vinyl Wallpaper

Latex over primer over vinyl—roll on!

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Painting vinyl laminate cabinets is possible with the right prep and primer. Zinsser is one of the many new latex primers designed to cover smooth surfaces like plastic, vinyl and laminate which don't respond to sanding. My cabinets were combo varnisRustoleum now offers an "Ultra-cover" spray paint that is advertised to bond to plastic as well as other challenging surfaces. Just to be safe, I'm still using a primer first on the vinyl wallboard that I can't sand. These spray paints & primers Set up a prep area somewhere away from wind and dust. Expect there to be over-spray so if you're doing this in the garage, make sure to get your car & bike out first!Lots of masking going on here. Tape around the windows, plastic on the seats, paper on the floor, ceilings, openings and some on the windows for safety."Eye-catching" is the name. That's a good name. I like it for the pop of color and its sense of playfullness and humor... its kinda like Elvis' white eagle sequined pantsuit...Natural white walls connect the upper wallboard to the natural white rug on the ceiling. The middle walls are a dark gray tying them together with the newly upholstered gray couch, dark blue cabinets & blue rug.The blue plastic door handles were covered with Rustoleum primer and dark grey Rustoleum Ultra Cover paint.A sneak peak at the 4 colors; natural, gray, navy & "eye-catching" chartreuse. My mechanic got a glimpse today; first time since the paint job and he gave it a big thumbs up and said he couldn't believe what a difference it made"... and that madeStill have to put the cabinets and some reupholstered trim pieces together and then add the decorative elements... but you can see I started with some throw pillows!
Painting vinyl laminate cabinets is possible with the right prep and primer. Zinsser is one of the many new latex primers designed to cover smooth surfaces like plastic, vinyl and laminate which don't respond to sanding. My cabinets were combo varnis
Painting vinyl laminate cabinets is possible with the right prep and primer. Zinsser is one of the many new latex primers designed to cover smooth surfaces like plastic, vinyl and laminate which don't respond to sanding. My cabinets were combo varnis
Rustoleum now offers an "Ultra-cover" spray paint that is advertised to bond to plastic as well as other challenging surfaces. Just to be safe, I'm still using a primer first on the vinyl wallboard that I can't sand. These spray paints & primers
Rustoleum now offers an "Ultra-cover" spray paint that is advertised to bond to plastic as well as other challenging surfaces. Just to be safe, I'm still using a primer first on the vinyl wallboard that I can't sand. These spray paints & primers
Set up a prep area somewhere away from wind and dust. Expect there to be over-spray so if you're doing this in the garage, make sure to get your car & bike out first!
Set up a prep area somewhere away from wind and dust. Expect there to be over-spray so if you're doing this in the garage, make sure to get your car & bike out first!
Lots of masking going on here. Tape around the windows, plastic on the seats, paper on the floor, ceilings, openings and some on the windows for safety.
Lots of masking going on here. Tape around the windows, plastic on the seats, paper on the floor, ceilings, openings and some on the windows for safety.
"Eye-catching" is the name. That's a good name. I like it for the pop of color and its sense of playfullness and humor... its kinda like Elvis' white eagle sequined pantsuit...
"Eye-catching" is the name. That's a good name. I like it for the pop of color and its sense of playfullness and humor... its kinda like Elvis' white eagle sequined pantsuit...
Natural white walls connect the upper wallboard to the natural white rug on the ceiling. The middle walls are a dark gray tying them together with the newly upholstered gray couch, dark blue cabinets & blue rug.
Natural white walls connect the upper wallboard to the natural white rug on the ceiling. The middle walls are a dark gray tying them together with the newly upholstered gray couch, dark blue cabinets & blue rug.
The blue plastic door handles were covered with Rustoleum primer and dark grey Rustoleum Ultra Cover paint.
The blue plastic door handles were covered with Rustoleum primer and dark grey Rustoleum Ultra Cover paint.
A sneak peak at the 4 colors; natural, gray, navy & "eye-catching" chartreuse. My mechanic got a glimpse today; first time since the paint job and he gave it a big thumbs up and said he couldn't believe what a difference it made"... and that made
A sneak peak at the 4 colors; natural, gray, navy & "eye-catching" chartreuse. My mechanic got a glimpse today; first time since the paint job and he gave it a big thumbs up and said he couldn't believe what a difference it made"... and that made
Still have to put the cabinets and some reupholstered trim pieces together and then add the decorative elements... but you can see I started with some throw pillows!
Still have to put the cabinets and some reupholstered trim pieces together and then add the decorative elements... but you can see I started with some throw pillows!
DIY Paint job for your camper
DIY Paint job for your camper

Job 2: Painting RV Interiors: Vinyl Wallboard and Cabinets

Mask, Tape, Prime, Spray, Paint & Paint...

I'll admit I was nervous about taking the plunge to paint the RV interior. Vinyl surfaces and paint are not historically good pairings. The folks at the paint store told me there are many new paint products designed especially for plastics, vinyl and cabinets. Key to success; clean surfaces, good prep and drying time.... patience in other words. Not my strong suit.

Choosing the Paint Colors for the Van's Interior

Some think that dark colors make a space look smaller. I disagree. I feel dark colors create a depth and mood that give a sense of depth and make it hard to judge how close they really are. I've had great results with this in my home's narrow entrance hall and smallest bathroom. For that reason, and because I had to work with the fixed elements such as the medium blue rug, I chose a dark blue for the lower cabinets around the couch and the kitchen and a dark grey for the midwalls up to the bunk rail & top cabinets. For the upper wall and cabinets I chose a natural white to tie into the off-white carpeted ceiling. With all the lower elements in a dark tone and all the upper elements in a light tone, the former visual clutter of cabinets, walls, upholstery, rug, curtains & windows is minimized to just two tonal zones. Sound strange? Stick with me and compare the before and after photos. You'll see what I mean. Oh yeah, and for a visual punch and an element of humor, I chose a high gloss chartreuse called "Eye-catching" for the kitchen cabinets you see right when you enter the van.

Prepping the Van to Paint

Take a day (ok, a couple of hours) to remove AND LABEL all cabinet doors, knobs, outlet covers etc. that will be part of the paint job. I put screws and parts into separate baggies labeled with "Drivers Side" or "Passenger Side" and then additional description such as "kitchen cabinets" or "door panels." I even labeled the back of cabinet doors under where the hinges would cover and put a piece of masking tape over them to indicate which side was up. This task ended up being a big help getting through the drudgery of putting everything back together in order to admire the results! Definitely worth the time. I set up all the removable elements in the garage on sawhorse tables.

Clean or Sand What you Can

Many of the "wood-like" elements in the van were not much more than particle board covered with paper stickers made to look like wood. Don't sand those! This makes for a fuzzy surface. Just clean them for the primer with a good degreasing spray. I used Greenworks by Clorox. Give it time to dry. I sanded the wood cabinet doors, wood door panel inserts, wood console & trim.

Mask away

I had decided to use spray primer where possible (everywhere but the vinyl wallboard which I felt was too close to too many of the other non-paint surfaces such as the ceiling and windows. For masking tape I like the green Frog Tape. More expensive but worth it in my experience. I also used plastic and cloth drop cloths over the rug and seating and paper to cover windows and other elements. This took about another 2 hours.

Prime the RV Walls

I started with the spray primer on all the fixed interior surfaces since I knew there would be over-spray that I could correct with the traditional paint-on primer afterwards. I used a gray Rustoleum Spray Primer for the cabinets and walls which would have a dark color finish and a white spray primer for the upper cabinets which would be finished in a natural white. The spray primer leaves a really nice smooth finish. I liked it so much I almost opted to keep the grey primer as my finish coat on the vinyl wallboard.

Apply the Finish Paint

I opted for a traditional application acrylic paint in a semi-gloss finish on the walls and high-gloss on the cabinets. I chose the high-gloss against my design preference because the paint store rep promised the finish would be tougher. I tried both roller sponges and paint brushes and prefered the brush finish to the orange-peel effect of the sponge roller. Neither had as nice a finish as the spray paint. If I could have gotten my chosen color scheme for the cabinets in spray paint I would have done all the cabinets with spray paint for the final color.

Timing

I had the unlucky chance to get to this job just as the weather turned wet and chilly. This increases the drying time and makes getting a nice finish with paint brushes frustrating. The directions on the primer indicated that it would dry to the touch in an hour but requires 24 hours in good conditions for the finished paint application. The finish paint said either add a second coat within an hour or wait 24 hours (again in ideal conditions). I found that I needed at least two coats of the finish paint which I was disappointed about. Maybe it was the brand of paint (Menards) or the conditions, but the Chartreuse especially took even more coats and still isn't as solid as I'd hoped. Finally, the finish paint suggested that the paint wouldn't be at full strength until 5-7 days (in good conditions) had passed. I got impatient and went ahead and shampoo'd the carpet... and scratched some of the chartreuse off. Argh. Save some paint for touch-ups!

Clean-up

Be patient, wait as long as you can stand, get out your Exacto knife and start removing the tape. You'll probably have some paint loss so get some tiny brushes for touch ups. Step back, admire your handiwork. Can you believe it's the same van?

Job 3: Making Curtains for Your Camper Van

Keep out the sun, bring in the style!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
3) I used this Roc-lon drapery liner fabric on the backside of the curtains to help protect the expensive woven fabric and increase their lifespan in the sun.2) Save (and label) the old curtains to give you the pattern for the new curtains. Remember to leave about 5/8 of an inch around the edge for your seams when you cut. Also remember to account for the rod pockets.4) Sew almost all the way around the liner and fabric with right sides together. Leave about a 4" opening to turn the curtain right-side out. Then hand stitch closed or top stitch around the whole perimeter.6) Ironing helps the curtain seam lie flat after you've turned the curtains right side out. You can also topstitch around the edge.5) Before you turn it right side out, cut a notch out of the corners like this so they will lay flat and you can get a better corner.1) New Curtains: A stylish woven pattern of grey background with white dots connects the newly white walls and grey carpeted ceiling. Very relaxing but with an element of fun!7) This grey & white woven pattern have the opposite color combination of white with grey dots on the back from which I made these tie-backs by stitching an aqua ribbon down the center for some color. They secure with velcro.
3) I used this Roc-lon drapery liner fabric on the backside of the curtains to help protect the expensive woven fabric and increase their lifespan in the sun.
3) I used this Roc-lon drapery liner fabric on the backside of the curtains to help protect the expensive woven fabric and increase their lifespan in the sun.
2) Save (and label) the old curtains to give you the pattern for the new curtains. Remember to leave about 5/8 of an inch around the edge for your seams when you cut. Also remember to account for the rod pockets.
2) Save (and label) the old curtains to give you the pattern for the new curtains. Remember to leave about 5/8 of an inch around the edge for your seams when you cut. Also remember to account for the rod pockets.
4) Sew almost all the way around the liner and fabric with right sides together. Leave about a 4" opening to turn the curtain right-side out. Then hand stitch closed or top stitch around the whole perimeter.
4) Sew almost all the way around the liner and fabric with right sides together. Leave about a 4" opening to turn the curtain right-side out. Then hand stitch closed or top stitch around the whole perimeter.
6) Ironing helps the curtain seam lie flat after you've turned the curtains right side out. You can also topstitch around the edge.
6) Ironing helps the curtain seam lie flat after you've turned the curtains right side out. You can also topstitch around the edge.
5) Before you turn it right side out, cut a notch out of the corners like this so they will lay flat and you can get a better corner.
5) Before you turn it right side out, cut a notch out of the corners like this so they will lay flat and you can get a better corner.
1) New Curtains: A stylish woven pattern of grey background with white dots connects the newly white walls and grey carpeted ceiling. Very relaxing but with an element of fun!
1) New Curtains: A stylish woven pattern of grey background with white dots connects the newly white walls and grey carpeted ceiling. Very relaxing but with an element of fun!
7) This grey & white woven pattern have the opposite color combination of white with grey dots on the back from which I made these tie-backs by stitching an aqua ribbon down the center for some color. They secure with velcro.
7) This grey & white woven pattern have the opposite color combination of white with grey dots on the back from which I made these tie-backs by stitching an aqua ribbon down the center for some color. They secure with velcro.

Where to Buy Fun Fabric for Your Van's Upholstery and Curtains

Vinyl Crocodile GATOR PEARL WHITE Faux / Fake Leather Fabric By the Yard
Vinyl Crocodile GATOR PEARL WHITE Faux / Fake Leather Fabric By the Yard

I wanted a modern fabric that will work with our white and blue exterior and bright blue rugs and have an element of fun. I also wanted a heavy enough weight for the curtains that wouldn't require adding a lining. Unfortunately I have expensive tastes. Most of my picks were retailing at about $65/yd at fabric stores and decorator shops. I did a quick search and found the same fabric available on Amazon at HALF PRICE!

 

Job 5: Updating Interior Door and Headliner Upholstery Panels

DIY, or hire it out to a professional? I went with a pro!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
BEFORE: Grungy blue fuzzy upholstery with pink and blue pockets and the wood panel sticking out like a glaring sore thumb. Nothing a little paint and shiny white vinyl with cool alligator print on it couldn't fix.AFTER: I sanded and painted the wood panel, trim and plastic handle with gray primer and spray paint to put them all in the same color family with the interior plastic color. The blue rug on the bottom just needed a little cleaning.I was contemplating doing the panel upholstery myself but instead found a professional. It wasn't very expensive and you get what you pay for. He even made the pockets out of fabric left over from the couch upholstery.BEFORE: The back door on the passenger side is where most of the action in and out of the van happens. There were so many mismatched dirty elements to clean up; handle, curtain rods, speaker cover...AFTER: with specialty spray paint for plast on the speaker cover & door handle and the new vinyl panels, things look a lot more streamlined and attractive
BEFORE: Grungy blue fuzzy upholstery with pink and blue pockets and the wood panel sticking out like a glaring sore thumb. Nothing a little paint and shiny white vinyl with cool alligator print on it couldn't fix.
BEFORE: Grungy blue fuzzy upholstery with pink and blue pockets and the wood panel sticking out like a glaring sore thumb. Nothing a little paint and shiny white vinyl with cool alligator print on it couldn't fix.
AFTER: I sanded and painted the wood panel, trim and plastic handle with gray primer and spray paint to put them all in the same color family with the interior plastic color. The blue rug on the bottom just needed a little cleaning.
AFTER: I sanded and painted the wood panel, trim and plastic handle with gray primer and spray paint to put them all in the same color family with the interior plastic color. The blue rug on the bottom just needed a little cleaning.
I was contemplating doing the panel upholstery myself but instead found a professional. It wasn't very expensive and you get what you pay for. He even made the pockets out of fabric left over from the couch upholstery.
I was contemplating doing the panel upholstery myself but instead found a professional. It wasn't very expensive and you get what you pay for. He even made the pockets out of fabric left over from the couch upholstery.
BEFORE: The back door on the passenger side is where most of the action in and out of the van happens. There were so many mismatched dirty elements to clean up; handle, curtain rods, speaker cover...
BEFORE: The back door on the passenger side is where most of the action in and out of the van happens. There were so many mismatched dirty elements to clean up; handle, curtain rods, speaker cover...
AFTER: with specialty spray paint for plast on the speaker cover & door handle and the new vinyl panels, things look a lot more streamlined and attractive
AFTER: with specialty spray paint for plast on the speaker cover & door handle and the new vinyl panels, things look a lot more streamlined and attractive

Campy Decorative Accessories for your Camper Van - Embrace Kitsch & Camp

With its beautiful white "suit," blue suede interior, and blast from the past style, we named our van "Elvis." And what is more fun that bringing a little Graceland into our décor? I'm not sure exactly how it will all net out... but I'm going to give it a "swing."

Organize your RV with Magnetic Accessories

In living the mobile life you find space saver and travel-friendly ways to store & transport what you use and need most. I find that magnetic boards and accessories are a great way to keep things handy and in their spot. I always try to put a magnetic board near the kitchen in my RVs.

Magnetic RV Storage on the Move

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Velcro & a Magnetic knife rack from Ikea can turn a useless wedge of a shelf into a useful & decorative storage space where things stay put in transit. Take a look...Velcro the underside of the magnetic knife rack to the ledge of a shelf. This space is so tight to the cabinet above you can't fit a screw driver in to attach it with screws.The ledge can now hold down metal boxes, metal spice containers, candle holders, pens, flashlights or anything you attach a magnet to (like a tiny bright green Elvis bust for example). Fun & functional.Throw some decorative elements in there like a yellow Elvis anchored down by magnets!
Velcro & a Magnetic knife rack from Ikea can turn a useless wedge of a shelf into a useful & decorative storage space where things stay put in transit. Take a look...
Velcro & a Magnetic knife rack from Ikea can turn a useless wedge of a shelf into a useful & decorative storage space where things stay put in transit. Take a look... | Source
Velcro the underside of the magnetic knife rack to the ledge of a shelf. This space is so tight to the cabinet above you can't fit a screw driver in to attach it with screws.
Velcro the underside of the magnetic knife rack to the ledge of a shelf. This space is so tight to the cabinet above you can't fit a screwdriver in to attach it with screws.
The ledge can now hold down metal boxes, metal spice containers, candle holders, pens, flashlights or anything you attach a magnet to (like a tiny bright green Elvis bust for example). Fun & functional.
The ledge can now hold down metal boxes, metal spice containers, candle holders, pens, flashlights or anything you attach a magnet to (like a tiny bright green Elvis bust for example). Fun & functional.
Throw some decorative elements in there like a yellow Elvis anchored down by magnets!
Throw some decorative elements in there like a yellow Elvis anchored down by magnets!
Spice Tin Wall Base, Stainless 12" X 24" for Magnetic Spice Tins
Spice Tin Wall Base, Stainless 12" X 24" for Magnetic Spice Tins

This provides a good size magnetic bulletin board in sleek stainless plus a lot of containers for little stuff or spices. We mounted it next to the kitchen area and added a magnetic hook for keys and a pencil cup for our most used utensils (bottle opener!).

 

More Ways to Save Space: Make Your Mobile Stove into More Countertop!

More Counter Space White
More Counter Space White

Check your measurements, but what a great way to add more counter space when you have none - it also works as a tray.

 

Moving Up from Vintage Travel Trailers to Modern Mobility

Vintage Playhouse on Wheels
Vintage Playhouse on Wheels

How We Discovered the Value of Vanning

I admit it - I'm in love with our little 13-ft vintage Shasta Travel Trailer. It's the warm cozy adorable playhouse I dreamed about as a little girl.

Those were the days before deadlines, full calendars and responsibilities limited my playtime; where my travel destinations ranged no further than the town pool or soft-serve stand and my fears of a cherished antique on wheels bursting apart at highway speeds unknown in its heyday were not on my mind.

Although my wanderlust has since widened my travel goals, I hadn't fully appreciated the limitations of the 40-year-old tin and birch veneer charmer. After three years of camping within a 4-hour secondary road circumference, buying glaciers-worth of cube ices for a minuscule icebox and keeping fingers crossed against salmonella, I was willing to admit that some modern amenities packaged in heavy duty highway-compatible sheet metal were well worth consideration. And with family spread across the country from Florida to Oregon, it was frustrating that my travel trailer couldn't travel far from home without taking a sabbatical.

On the hair-raising serpentine route back from our last camp-out in Hocking Hills State Park, my hubby and I arrived at a couple realizations about our vintage travel trailer;

Limited Range. We bought a travel trailer to travel and see new places, but were not enjoying the trials of trailering our delicate rig in its limited range at its limited speeds.

Space and Amenities. We were cramped and the challenge of food preservation in an icebox had lost its charm.

Therefore, if we could find an inexpensive highway-worthy RV small enough to be our destination transportation while still large enough to sleep us more comfortably, equipped with facilities, a fridge, microwave and air conditioning, we could drive to visit them with our dog and make a grand two week travel adventure out of it. A little online research when we got home revealed that a Conversion Van fit the bill to a "T"!

1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van Fuel Economy
1994 Ford Econoline Conversion Van Fuel Economy

Camper Vans vs. Travel Trailers

Guzzle deeply... and let's get there!

I'm a nature lover. As proof, I've sustained injuries chasing the recycling truck down the alley on a slippery winters morning. I'm in a CSA to help support local small farmers and I buy organic milk. Vanning is where I'll have to take a raincheck on natural resource preservation. At 10-15 mpg, I'm undoing a lot of Prius owners good works... and this was a challenge to overcome.

I felt better about it after I spent some time to consider it in the following two ways;

  1. Drive vs Fly, or
  2. Van vs. Trailer.

1. Drive the Van vs Fly. Our main event will be a trip to Florida to visit the family. At 1,100 miles, we'll eat about 225 gallons round trip and spend about $850 in gas. Last year we spent $1,000 to fly there for three days (using god knows how much jet fuel in the two leg journey) plus we need to pay to board the dog. Since the van trip this year will be a long term travel adventure where we can bring the dog and check out many educational sites along the way, we can at least look at it as fuel spent for many additional benefits and over a longer period (where we'd normally be spending fuel at home doing our daily routines). Flying is faster but upon arrival we are without our own transportation. This leaves us captive to our host's schedule and interests. Or, we have to rent a car. The van is something we'll have long after the trip for local camping, sports events & any other travel adventures we come up with.

2. Van vs. Travel Trailer. Since we were already doing our camping with a 13ft pull-behind travel trailer, we were already downgrading our tow vehicle's 25 mpg to quite a bit less. We're not sure how much less exactly, but our last trip of 200 miles each way cost us two tanks of gas (26 gallons) which comes out to around 15 mpg. So trailering with a more efficient vehicle nets out to about the same mpg, but our choice of trailer kept us on the inefficient & slower secondary roads making for a much longer trip... timewise. Since we didn't feel comfortable going long distances with our vintage trailer, we certainly would never take it to Florida so distance is out of the vintage trailer question for us.

Overall: The gas equation seems to be pretty much a draw. This is what tipped us over the edge with the van and made us eager to give it a try.

Useful Links for Vintage Van Parts, Pieces, and Information

One of the challenges with a conversion van is figuring out where to look for parts and information; especially because our van's previous owner couldn't provide any owners manuals.

Our van is a Ford Econoline Coachman Conversion. This means that the body and engine are based on a Ford Econoline cargo van. So, for parts and info pertaining to the basic vehicle function we'd search through Ford.

The conversion however throws in a real wrench. There's a big Coachman sticker on the back which I thought would solve the problem. Not really. Coachman no longer does van conversions opting instead to focus on the larger end of the Class B range. They offer some old manuals on their site but nothing for the Econoline. So how to find parts for the conversion upfit elements (and which parts exactly are part of the conversion)? From my initial searches it appears that seats, door panels, carpeting, dashboard consoles, lighting and part of the upfit and therefore very hard to source. One site I found mentioned that many of the conversion companies were in Elkhart, Indiana, camper capital... As I find more leads I'll add them below.

What Is Your Favorite type of RV? How Do You Go Glamping?

How do you go Glamping?
How do you go Glamping?

What do you camp in?

See results

Van Gifts & Gags: Underappreciated, Almost Forgotten

Aside from the iconic VW camper van bus, there is relatively little recorded about the camper or its heyday of custom airbrush designs in the 1970s. Back then, it was a must-have for freedom loving, Led-Zeppelin listening nomadic Don Juans. Shagadelic "Shaggin' Wagons" are due for a comeback... maybe we'd be more likely to call it a "Bug Out" shelter or a mini-mansion (but never a mini-van!). But whatever the name; get in early while they're still cheap!

Build Your Own Dream Camper Van for less than 1000 pounds: - That's including the cost of the van!
Build Your Own Dream Camper Van for less than 1000 pounds: - That's including the cost of the van!

Although I didn't start from scratch like this book shows, I certainly hit my diy wall. Paint & decor are my comfort zones, but if I was a carpenter, this would be my next project!

 

Van Information, Van Articles and Van Enthusiasts on the Web

Vanning was BIG in the seventies. It's due for a revival. Here are some sites to connect with other owners or enthusiasts. If you find more sites, please let me know!

More by this Author


Guestbook Comments 13 comments

caffimages profile image

caffimages 4 years ago

Great ideas! Have camper, will travel!


caffimages profile image

caffimages 4 years ago

Decided to add you to my lens http://www.squidoo.com/camper-van-choice


WerewolfCustoms1 profile image

WerewolfCustoms1 4 years ago

My family and I are big camping fanatics. Just this year, we have 9 camping trips planned. Well, we're still in the prehistoric age, since we go camping using our tents... well, luxury tents, but nevertheless. For the next year, we've decided to build our own camper out of scratch. My girlfriend is looking towards the old classics, like Volkswagen T1 bus (or similar), but I'm more looking into converting a full size bus, or maybe even a big rig trailer... we boys always think that bigger is better. :P

Great lens, I wish you all safe, enjoyable, fun-packed and hassle-free trips with your Elvis :) Blessed!


robertzimmerman2 profile image

robertzimmerman2 4 years ago from SE Florida, USA

Great ideas!


SheGetsCreative profile image

SheGetsCreative 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

Very cool - if ever I glam up a van, I'm going on a cross country thrift store lollapalooza! *blessed


UnbeatableHire LM profile image

UnbeatableHire LM 4 years ago

Great Article! Here is another articleHow to rent a motorhome?


HomeDecorKnight profile image

HomeDecorKnight 4 years ago

Great lens with great article, Thanks for sharing you idea.


Johnni Mac profile image

Johnni Mac 4 years ago from Western United States

You did a pretty cool job fixing up your new Conversion Van. I enjoyed watching your progress.


forextrading2000 3 years ago

Very cool lens! Great topic to highlight. :)


flinnie lm profile image

flinnie lm 3 years ago from Alabama USA

Hi this is such a cool redo, love it. Great lens, thanks for sharing.


Aladdins Cave profile image

Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Good stuff. I love to travel and go anyway I can. Mostly on the cheap. Thanks for this lens, and I will have to check the others as well. http://hubpages.com/autos/Travelall

Cheers from DOWNUNDER


Happymommy2520 profile image

Happymommy2520 2 months ago from East Coast

I love this article. I have always been interested in van camping and traveling. I'd love to hear more about your experiences during your van "glamping." You should write more articles! Very well written.


Will 7 weeks ago

These are all pretty sweet. Fantastic article. Totally reshapes my opinion of the often dull conversion van. If you ever break down in the Columbia SC area, check us out and we can give you a tow! www.towingcolumbiasc.com

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