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Alice & Caleb’s retro caravan reno gets tricky

Like all good renovation projects, Alice and Caleb Pearson’s retro caravan do-up has thrown up plenty of surprises along the way. Rust, rot and water damage have created unexpected challenges, but slowly and surely, the clever couple – who won The Block NZ in 2013 – are well on their way to bringing their old girl back to life.

“We had high hopes for a simple renovation,” says Caleb with a laugh. “But it’s turned from a renovation into a complete rebuild.”

The couple – who are parents to Alek, eight, Mika, six, Blake, two, and one-year-old Brooke – might be dab-hands at residential renos, having worked their magic on 11 properties over the years, but this is their first ever caravan project and it’s turned out to be a little more complicated than they’d bargained for.

Not only does their bach-on-wheels need to look good before they head off on a family adventure, it needs to be road-worthy and watertight.

“We thought this was going to be a simple renovation, but that’s definitely not the case!” says Caleb.

After completely gutting the original 1970s caravan, not to mention pulling up the old carpet and removing tired, peeling wallpaper, Alice and Caleb drafted in some help from a builder and a welder to deal with rust, rot and water damage. Walls have been relined, cracks and leaks fixed up, and Alice and Caleb are finally ready to crack out the paint brushes.

“All I can say is if you’re painting a caravan you need to get the right advice,” says Alice. She stresses that it’s not just about what paint to choose, but how you plan to paint as there many options. She’s particularly grateful the team at Resene considered her and Caleb’s skillset when giving them advice.

“We found it really important to get proper advice that’s specific not just to our caravan, but also to the season of life we’re in,” Alice says. “The fact that we’re doing it with four kids  means we have to have a strategy for painting and renovating that’s achievable to actually get the caravan on the road in good time.

So first: A trip to their local Resene ColorShop for some expert advice on bringing their retro Zephyr back to her best.

“We took the caravan to Resene and had them come through and look at all the different surfaces. We ended up using five different primers because we had laminate, aluminum, vinyl, and wallpaper, so we’ve made sure that we’re using the right products in the right places to get the best finish,” Alice explains. “The hard thing is not picking the top coat, it’s actually everything you do underneath to ensure your paint job lasts.”

Alice loves getting the right advice from knowledgeable staff at the local Resene ColorShop.
Alice and Caleb get stuck into painting the exterior of the caravan with Resene Super Gloss in Resene Quarter Black White.

Keen to retain the retro charm of the caravan, she wanted a neutral hue for the walls, with a soft, warm accent colour on the cabinetry. Thankfully, a team of Resene experts were on hand to help guide them through the process.

Resene Quarter Black White and Resene Mischka, which is a lilac grey, is going to be perfect,” says Alice, although her advice is to never choose colours in isolation. For example, when she visits her local Resene ColorShop she takes samples of every material she plans on using inside the caravan.

I pick colours to complement the curtains, the floor tiles and other fabrics I’m using, so thats why it all works together,” Alice says. It draws out the best of the colour so the paint finish  – like the Resene Mischka – will look beautiful because its complementary but it will also pop.”

For the outside of the caravan, Caleb was armed with Resene Rust-Arrest, followed by Resene Waterborne Smooth Surface Sealer (use Resene Laminate and Melamine Primer for your project as this has replaced Resene Waterborne Smooth Surface Sealer) and Resene Vinyl Etch.

“We have a plan, we have all our paint, now it’s just about a whole lot of hard work,” says Alice. “But when you get your colour scheme right, it makes colour the hero. Its going to look awesome.”

Updated May 2024: Resene Laminate and Melamine Primer has replaced Resene Waterborne Smooth Surface Sealer.

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