Just over a month ago, we introduced you to our brand new (to us) vintage camper. We purchased a 1980 Triple E 1700 Comfort Camper that we’re so excited to tow along as we explore the country in 2021 and beyond. Since our introduction, we have been hard at work every weekend and many weeknights. So far, with a few exceptions that I’ll explain in this post, we’ve entirely completed the painting, cabinets, and trim portions of our renovation. This feels like the bulk of the work, but we still have a lot of big plans. In case you missed it, check out our introductory post to get a good idea of what our camper looked like before:
We knew from the get-go that we wanted to brighten up the space. As you can see from the before pictures, the original interior was gorgeous with an eighties vibe and mid-century touches; however, it was really dark. We hoped that painting the interior white would make the camper feel more spacious and airy.
We started by removing everything that was inside the camper. We found towels, kitchen utensils, playing cards, and even the original registration papers from the early 80s. We looked up the original owner, and sadly, found his obituary. We would have loved to hear his stories about the sights our camper has seen.
We brought the cushions inside, removed the covers, and gave them a good clean using borax, detergent, and baking soda in the bathtub– yes, this is the laundry stripping trend from TikTok. The water turned a dark murky brown and after a good rinse, we were satisfied that 40 years of filth was washed down the drain. We’re storing the cushions in our spare room until the camper is ready to use. We also removed the curtains and blinds. Then, we began to dismantle the cabinets, doors, and drawers. We took off the hardware and brought the cabinet doors into the house where they’d be easier to work on.
Mack removed the frames from the windows to get a good idea of any water damage we might be dealing with. Miraculously, there was very little. We have two windows that need to be re-framed due to some wood-rot, but that will be a project for when the weather warms up. This is why as the post goes on, you’ll see that some sections are not painted. The picture below shows one of the good windows– an outsider would never know that they are looking at a 40-year-old camper that was stored outside during Canadian winters!
The next step was sanding. Sanding is so important when prepping for primer and paint, as it is much easier for the products to adhere to a rough surface than a smooth, shiny surface. We spent an entire weekend sanding the interior and a whole night sanding the cabinet doors. It’s not necessary, however, to strip all the finish off the surface– save yourself some time and just get everything nice and roughed up.
For primer, we used Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer from Canadian Tire, which was an affordable and effective option. One quart of primer was enough, but with not a drop to spare. We opted for one coat and the pictures below demonstrate what one coat looked like. We thought this was enough coverage and that one thin layer would be easier for our paint to bind to. Priming was fun because we didn’t have to be too precise with our brushstrokes. Don’t forget the painter’s tape!
We decided to leave the inside of our cupboards the original finish; partly as an homage to what the camper was and partly because painting inside them would have been so much work. Another aspect of our camper that we don’t anticipate changing anything with is our ceiling. Aside from needing a good scrub and a small patch of water damage in the bathroom, it is pristine and so funky. I love it.
After the primer had a week to dry, we started painting. We purchased one gallon of Premier Active Interior Paint from Canadian Tire in the shade Arctic White. A gallon was enough, but we may purchase another quart to have on-hand for touch-ups and other projects. We did three coats of paint on the interior and the cabinet doors. This definitely was the most time-consuming part of the renovation so far but the end result was so worth it. The white paint certainly achieved our goal of making the space feel larger, fresher, and brighter. It doesn’t even feel like the same camper.
The next step was the trim. We opted for cove trim, which we purchased at Rona. This style of trim was surprisingly difficult to work with as we had to stretch and bend our perspective to figure out how to make the corners match up. After what felt like way too long and several phone calls to helpful Dad’s and Pop’s, we (well, Mack) got it right. He did an excellent job measuring, cutting, and nailing up the trim. He used a hand saw, mitre box (necessary for cutting exact angles), and a brad nailer attached to an air compressor. All that we have to do to finish the trim is fill the nail holes. It looks so sharp and is an awesome finishing touch.
One of the most exciting aspects of the camper renovation, for me, has been shopping for hardware and accent pieces. Like the trim, a lot of the magic is in the finishing touches. We opted for black hinges instead of the old brass ones and sleek black pulls. These we bought on Amazon, and while we prefer shopping local, the budget didn’t allow it this time– these items were about 5x more expensive to buy in town than on Amazon. We were really pleased with the quality of the items that arrived and couldn’t wait to put them on. Check out the pictures below because I have no words!!
So far, everything is turning out exactly as I had hoped. This camper is a combination of our own personal style and my Pinterest dreams coming to life. We still have a lot of work to do: the bathroom, flooring, countertops, cleaning and perhaps painting the exterior, and reframing those windows. And, all this hard work didn’t come without setbacks– we’ve had to repair a few dents and dings, fix our furnace, and navigate some disagreements. But, I don’t have a doubt that the finished project will be something we love and take pride in.
Stay tuned as we continue to post updates and thanks for reading!
Char & Mack
P.S. Sorry about the quality of these images, they are iPhone snaps I grabbed as we worked!