A Breakfast Nook, an Outdoor Kitchen—Yep, This Tiny Pink RV Has Those
Van life isn’t all sacrifices and cramped spaces.
Published Aug 3, 2023 1:00 AM
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Most campers whip together their meals over a portable burner or folding table, but not Carlene and Michael Duffy. The Cedar + Suede interior designers, who have become known for renovating vintage caravans (they recently wrote a whole book on the topic, titled This Old Van), prepare their food on a full-size peninsula that’s complete with a sink and utensil drawers. The clever innovation is just one of many they’ve made to their newest trailer. To fit the pull-out counter, they raised the main bed on the inside of the van. After unlocking the hatch door on the facade, they can slide out the surface and quickly screw on the legs so it’s ready to use. “It’s very efficient,” attests Carlene.
While their latest caravan, which they’ve lovingly dubbed Goldie in honor of their hometown on Australia’s Gold Coast, is a good 6 feet smaller than their last one, moving the kitchen to the outdoors left plenty of room for cozy sleeping nooks and storage inside. With this marking their fifth RV reno, the couple compiled all the lessons they’ve learned from previous projects and implemented it into this space—an outdoor kitchen was only the beginning. Here are a few more game-changing updates they worked into their tiny vacation home on wheels.
Enjoy Taking Your Shoes Off
In past spaces, when it came to installing flooring, the Duffys always went for wood-look vinyl. And while it was long-lasting, it proved difficult to clean and didn’t feel great underfoot. This go-around, they went with carpeting. Yes, it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen in a van, but the designers selected a low-pile goat-hair covering that’s commonly used in commercial spaces and laid it in square tiles so that if a section ever gets damaged, they only have to replace that particular square. “It’s also a very good lightweight flooring option, which is important in a van,” says Carlene.
Spread Out While You Play and Sleep
When the Duffy’s two kids, Paddy and Stella, were little, they could curl up in just about any nook, but now that they’re 14 and 12, respectively, they need bunks where they can stretch their legs. To accommodate their fast-growing teens, Michael and Carlene made sure there was adequate headroom and a small niche next to the mattresses with a light for reading at night. The primary bunk actually folds up into the wall like a Murphy bed when not in use, allowing them to pack the area with tables and chairs when they’re on the move.
For morning meals or Connect Four games, they can post up at the breakfast banquette. The bench spans the entire width of the RV’s interior, making it extra-functional if they ever have a fifth guest riding with them.
Keep Your Wardrobe Wrinkle-Free
The other perk of elevating the primary bed was that it allowed Michael to build a set of drawers underneath the mattress for storing folded clothes. Still, the solution left out Carlene, who prefers to hang most of her things. So she turned to Facebook Marketplace and scooped up an old wardrobe for $50. Inside the tall cabinet, there is a rod and two shelves for shoes. The set of cubbies next to it is where she keeps things like shorts, swimsuits, and socks (although the very bottom drawer front is completely fake—it covers the wheel arch).
One of the biggest design challenges, surprisingly, was the curtains (there was also a lot of head scratching to meet everyone’s different preferences for privacy and light). “Paddy and I like to sleep in complete darkness,” notes Carlene. But she also cared a lot about how the window treatments would look from the outside of the van, which meant selecting a fabric that was both chic and didn’t come with unsightly blackout lining (they landed on a combo from Warwick and Walter G). They also made two internal curtains that offer privacy for changing using the same textiles.
Leave the Sand at the Beach
Whether they’re traveling to Yamba in northern New South Wales during the spring or North Stradbroke Island (their annual Christmas holiday destination), the Duffys fill their mornings and afternoons with swim sessions in the ocean. The aftermath, however, isn’t as dreamy: Sand and tiny caravans don’t mix well. To avoid constant vacuuming, the couple added an outdoor shower to the exterior where they can rinse off in their suits. “Sometimes we book en suite campsites or use the public showers at the campgrounds, but it’s far more satisfying showering in the open air,” shares Carlene.