before & after: hugo gets a facelift

A few weeks ago I was scouring Craigslist for ping pong tables, and somehow I stumbled onto a listing for a 1981 Westfalia van for sale in my neighborhood. I didn’t take the plunge, but since then I have had campers and caravans on my mind in a big way. As we get deeper into summer, it just sounds more and more appealing to pack up into a camper and live on the open road, especially if said camper was decked out in such adorable furnishings as this renovated Knaus Passat from 1976, which owners Catherine Hug and her husband have lovingly named “Hugo.”

In its previous life, Hugo certainly suffered from that 1970s camper look, with dark, heavy curtains, a carpeted floor and lots of beige. Catherine decided to bring crazy pattern to Hugo’s walls with a Ferm Living wallpaper, which was a genius decision: The pattern pays tribute to the maximalist, fun vibe of the camper’s original era, but its hues are subdued enough to give the interior a modern and sophisticated feel. I would gladly shell out $3K (what Catherine and her husband spent on the camper and its renovations) to have a nomadic home away from home as lovely as this. Awesome job, Catherine! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: 3 weeks

Cost: We bought Hugo (that’s what we call him) for 1500 euros ($1870), and invested about the same in the interior.

Basic Steps: First we threw everything out we could, only keeping the original wooden furniture from 1976. The furniture and the outer shape were the two reasons to buy Hugo. Then we changed the flooring to a light bluish/grey rubber and wallpapered and colored the walls, which were faded birch veneer before.

On one side we changed the big round seating to a double bed, now measuring 190 x 190 cm to make it more comfortable. We built the bed construction on the existing wood that was for the seating. I built a lamp out of an old globe above the bed.

On the other side I changed the cushions for the seating (sewed new ones and used a mattress from Ikea for inside). This side is the sleeping nook for our 4-year-old daughter at night. So we hung a dark curtain to the side, which we close at night. You can see the curtain on the right side of the kitchen. And we changed the light above the table and spray painted the former dark brown table to white. We installed white blinds to get more space instead of the usual curtains. In the kitchen we changed the fridge and the wood covering the stove and the sink.

Our advice to anyone tackling something like this is that the caravan must be dry (no slacky wall or floor), and all the windows have to be in good condition. These are the two main factors that cost a lot of money or work you can’t evaluate. And if you’re planning to go on tour with the caravan, always keep the max. weight in mind. If these two are okay, the following is much fun! You can try out colors or wallpaper that you might not use in your apartment. — Catherine

Paint: James White and Dix Blue by Farrow & Ball
Wallpaper: Remix by Ferm Living
Blinds, Mattresses: Ikea
White wall lamp: Bolia

  1. Toni says:

    I absolutely adore this make-over. Beautiful!
    Toni x

  2. Courtney says:

    Yes! I am seriously plotting how to make this happen for myself next year. This is great inspiration.

  3. Jen says:

    That is awesome. I am now itching for a road trip.

  4. christiana says:

    Love this! And, I adore the wallpaper! :)

  5. la leti says:

    I would like to travel with!

  6. WHOAH!! this is seriously amazing and makes me not so frightened of getting an old camper!!

  7. Caitlin says:

    Great job! Now you having me pining for a camper! Do you tow it behind the VW in the photos? If not, what do you drive? I’m curious if my car could do the duty.

  8. Evalyn says:

    Beautiful makeover without destroying the vintage integrity of the trailer. Kudos.

  9. Lizzie Lewis says:

    Utterly adorable. Love it!

  10. Sheila says:

    super cute!

  11. I love this so much you have no idea! I spent summers as a child camping in a pop-up camper and I’ve always wanted my own little mobile home. This is such a lovely transformation! I’m so in love with it. Sorry for gushing… :)

  12. Erica says:

    I am in love with Hugo! I *may* or may not have already started furiously text-linking trailers on CL from my phone to the husband.

    Such a great variety of inspiring posts on DesignSponge! I hop on everyday. :D

  13. Dionne says:

    Super duper cool!

  14. Emma says:

    love that wallpaper!!

  15. LOVE! Such a great renovation :)

  16. Lauren says:

    I’m in love with Hugo!!

  17. Wish I had one!!!!! Isn’t white amazing!

  18. Maricel says:

    Absolutely cool. I want to make a trip in one of those to the Grand Canyon with the kids.

  19. Abigail says:

    great job!

  20. Catherine says:

    thanks for all your lovely comments on my caravan!!! I’m quite excited, we start our holidays with hugo next week…

    @Caitlin: yes, we had a vw touran, but it was stolen a few weeks ago, so now we got a peugeot. the trailer weights only 1000kg, so the car/motor doesn’t need to be that strong.

  21. Mr Glitter says:

    I’ve always wanted to do something like this. I think I’m jealous!

  22. Louise says:

    Great inspiration for my kitchen actually. That wallpaper looks wonderful in Hugo.

  23. Dana says:

    So sweet, makes me want tot travel

  24. Cathy says:

    What a fun project!

  25. Logan says:

    Can you give me some info about the wooden radio shown? It’s beautiful and I would love to know where you got it. Thanks!

  26. Ficou lindo, parabéns! Já tivemos um parecido… Felicidades!

  27. Mer says:

    Wonderful! You’ve got a real sanctuary on the road! This reminds me of a “hunter/gatherer”-inspired project by two Barcelona-based designers:

  28. Lewcolicious says:

    Every year we pack our 1978 16 footer and head to The Winnipeg Folk Festival. And for the last 2 years I’ve thought our orange and wood vibe, although cool for Folk Fest, was time for a makeover. TOTALLY inspired!!

  29. Rebecca says:

    Can you tell more about how you made the globe lamp? I want to make one for my bathroom…


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