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DIY Caravan Rebuild – Saffron is an ’81 Millard with a ’70s Interior.

Saffron caravan reno
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If you’d rather watch the Leyland Brothers travel all over the country side rather than Spider Everett or you find platform shoes more comfortable than a pair of Nike’s latest, then this caravan renovation is for you. Meet Saffron, a child from the ’80s with ’70s styling.

Kirsty Docherty is a registered midwife, wife, mother, grandmother, and self-confessed serial DIY addict. Like most people last year Kirsty found it hard not being able to travel thanks to the lockdowns to control the COVID-19 pandemic. So to keep herself occupied and active, Kirsty decided to take a shot at renovating an old caravan. She had seen some of the DIY renovated caravans and motorhomes we had featured on RV Daily in recent months and thought she would like to have a go at transforming an old caravan in her own unique style. After all, how hard could it be?

As Kirsty told RV Daily, “We have always owned a caravan, sometimes brand new, some 2nd hand. Our last one was written off due to storm damage and we hadn’t replaced it. I was fortunate to have some decent building experience after we bought a half-built 5 bedroom house on 22 acres so I learned pretty quickly.”

Kirsty’s van, she lovingly calls Saffron, is a 1981 Millard pop-top she found on a Facebook swap buy and sell site. Upon first inspection, the old Millard appeared to be in great condition and was registered. Unfortunately, all was not as it seemed as Kirsty explains, “The first night we had her home it rained and the old girl leaked…a lot! This was a huge disappointment as I was told the van had no leaks.”

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Undeterred, Kirsty got down into the dirty work. “I started by pulling a few fixed structures out. The L-shaped lounge the steel bed and some of the kitchen bits and pieces. I replaced the back wall and side wall along the bed area and the roof sheets. I spent days sanding and resealing the aluminium on the pop-top and re-waterproofed it. All the windows were pulled out, cleaned, and put back in. I discovered just how amazing YouTube is for getting an idea of what to do and how to do it.”

“All of Saffron’s j-rails were taken off and resealed as well. The bed was rebuilt and we made a cover over the wheel hub. I purchased some cute bedside cabinets that had a lovely carved Balinese design, pulled the legs off and joined them, and attached them at the base of the bed. The back walls were lined with round edge timber strips and the cabinet next to the bed as I didn’t like the look of the ply after I painted it.” 

Kirsty put her skill into personalising Saffron’s interior to suit he own unique style. “I handmade a lot of the quirky bits and pieces. The overhead cupboard door frames were made with cut-up Balinese wall art and tassie oak frames to tie in with the end cabinets. I taught myself to macrame and made the bedside lights. Hubby is an electrician, so all electrical works were completed by him.”

“Every inch was sanded and spray painted white. I installed a new fridge, sink, and timber benchtop and made the kitchen cupboard doors. Light fittings, knobs, handles and a brand new fridge were spray painted rose gold. The flooring was replaced with self-adhesive wood look vinyl floor planks.”

To achieve the look she wanted inside Saffron, Kirsty had to resort to some ingenuity. “I wanted pressed tin tiles for the kitchen but the space was a bit small for the traditional ones so I made them with aluminium flashing using an embossing machine. I hung sheer curtains and then made block-out curtains for privacy, and found matching blinds for two of the other windows. I reupholstered the couch cushion and decided to use 8 Ikea rectangle feather pillows for the backrest. The wallpaper was designed by me and a company called Spoonflower. They will print any fabric and make peel and stick fabric wallpaper for a reasonable price.” 

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Kirsty says she believes the soft furnishings are what makes Saffron’s interior something special. “I bought a range that Miimi & Jiinda had designed in collaboration with Adairs, and it fits perfectly with my colour palette.”

Kirsty also had a go at renovating Saffron’s exterior. “The outside was sanded and I used rust guard oil-based paint this was sprayed on. The four coloured stripes are hand-painted. Each colour, including the white, took roughly four coats and 16 hrs to cure between coats, so this process took quite a few weeks. I was super happy with the results. I cut her lettering and the mandala on the front from a specialised vinyl with my cricut machine. I sewed her awning from canvas which I have coated with a waterproofing membrane for fabric.”

Once all the renovations were completed, Kirsty had Saffron roadworthy checked and arranged for all four wheels wheel bearings to be replaced.

The whole process took Kirsty about 9 months, at a casual pace. 

When asked about any future plans for Saffron, Kirsty explained she wants to replace the pop-top skirt as it’s a little past its use-by date. “I don’t think there’s anything else I would change at this point.”

Not one to sit idle, Kirsty told RV Daily she has now moved on to renovating a ’78 viscount to keep her busy again. “I really enjoy the process and would love a whole collection of vans, each with their own personalities.” Well Kirsty, if Saffron is anything to go by, this next project should be another head-turning renovation. We can’t wait to share the results with you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to dig out my 8-track tape player, listen to some classic David Cassidy by the light of my lava lamp.

Safe travels.

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