Photo: vintage camper

Giving Your Camper a Vintage Makeover

If you are ready to start your first vintage camper redecorate adventure, or if you are just looking for ideas on how to decorate restored vintage campers, this guide will help get you started.

A little piece of home

The appeal of a pull-behind camper trailer is that you get to take a little piece of home along with you wherever you go. A camper can accompany you across the country if you want and every time you stop you can step into an environment that is comfortable and familiar. Your decorating efforts should be focused around creating a setting that is accommodating, comfortable, and convenient. While you can bring along supplies from any design era you wish, many vintage camper owners choose to use items that evoke the playful spirit of the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s – the decades when the most well-known camper styles were originally manufactured.

Look for the following items to begin your vintage camper redecorate efforts. These can be found in thrift shops, antique stores, through online auction sites, and at yard sales. You can also contact other collectors or antique dealers to inquire about applicable items that might currently be available.

  • Curtains (or vintage camper fabric to make your own)
  • Cups, plates, bowls, and cutlery
  • Cloth placemats and napkins
  • Pillows, blankets, and bedding
  • Throw rugs or era-appropriate carpeting
  • Framed prints and mid-century artwork
  • Lightweight lawn chairs or other camping chairs
  • Toothbrush holders, soap dishes, and other bathroom items
  • Kitchen towels, throw pillows, and other soft goods
  • A few decorative knick-knacks

These are just a few examples of the many items that can be used in your decorating efforts. As you acquire each item you will find that the camper becomes a little more comfortable and homey. It really does not take much to turn a camper into a home away from home.

Select items for use and for vintage style

Campers are distinguished by their small size and multi-use design. Many of the surfaces inside campers are designed to fold or collapse when not in use or can be flipped over or otherwise converted into another surface. This multi-use design should not be impeded by your choice of décor; in fact, there are several ways that you can enhance the convertible nature of your camper’s interior by selecting decorative items with their own multiple uses.

Wall art does not need to be in a heavy wooden frame or behind glass. Trivets, woven pot mats, and even hot pads can be hung on the wall as decorative objects that also have a practical use. Having these items close at hand will be helpful when preparing food; just grab the trivet from the wall and use it to support a hot dish. The towels, dishcloths, salt and pepper shakers, and dishes can all serve decorative as well as functional uses. There are loads of vintage kitchen items out there and most are very inexpensive. Just a handful will start to set the tone of your camper and make it more user-friendly.

Throw pillows are sometimes regarded as stuffy or unnecessary items but they do not have to be! They can be used to make camping chairs more comfortable; when they are not being used simply tuck them onto the dining bench inside the camper. They can make the space look more comfortable when they are not being used. Just make sure to select pillows with a durable outer cover that can be easily cleaned. Some vintage camper fabric can be found at thrift stores though there are many new fabrics that reproduce vintage patterns.

Inside and out

Getting the inside of your vintage camper ready for use is just the first step. Fully restored vintage campers also boast beautiful era-appropriate paint jobs and detailing.

Many camper owners choose to take their trailers to restoration professionals who are experienced making old vehicles look like new. First any existing paint will be removed. A main color will be applied to the body. White or beige are the most frequently-used main colors though blue, hunter green, pink, red, and even black campers can be found.

A secondary color provides visual contrast to the main color and is often chosen to complement a desired decorating scheme. For instance, if you wanted to decorate your camper with a forest theme, you might choose white as your main color and dark green as the secondary color. A camper that evoked desert colors might be tan and sage. Campers from the 1950’s and 60’s are given paint jobs that mimic the vehicles manufactured at the same time.

Once the paint has dried it will be coated with an exterior gloss that will protect the new colors and keep the surface looking perfect. The vehicle is now ready for whatever the open road has to offer.

You are not limited to two-tone paint jobs. Bold painted stripes are some of the most distinctive camper designs. Zigzags, curlicues, and racing stripes add instant flair to a camper from any era. Best of all, simple stripes cost much less than more extensive custom designs. The spirit of past decades can be brought to life with just a few bold lines.

On the road

Even the most trailer-focused camping trip will require a few items to enhance your comfort outdoors. Camping chairs, umbrellas, rain gear, outdoor dishes and utensils, tents, and canopies are just some of the additional items you might need to bring along with you in your camper.

Canopies can be free standing or connected to the roof of the camper. These are infrequently original canopies since older canopies are not often in fully usable condition. It is much easier to find a contemporary canopy that is made in colors that complement your trailer and décor theme. Look for lightweight folding chairs that are comfortable to use for long periods of time. Folding tables, a pack of cards, and a large umbrella will help you feel comfortable wherever the road takes you.

Your vintage trailer does not have to have a vintage decorating theme though you might be surprised just how enjoyable an era-specific theme can be. Start by selecting just a few essential items and see where your creativity takes you!