Upgrade your outdoor area by installing a refurbished caravan to use as a retreat, sleep-out, office space or party-ready cocktail bar

Here’s why a caravan should be your next summer accessory

Got a spare sunny spot on your property? A caravan can be an affordable and creative solution for use as an outdoor office, backyard retreat, art, music or writing studio, spare room, or even a cute bar like Darcy the Caravan Bar.

If you are buying a caravan solely for use in your backyard, it won’t need to be warranted or road ready – this means you can potentially buy a cheap doer-upper. Alternatively, you may wish to invest more up front and buy one that is in great condition or has recently been refurbished.

Trade Me has lots of caravans for sale, and you can also check out businesses dedicated to selling second-hand caravans. Look for shapes, sizes and colours you like and that will suit the style of your house.

If you are wanting to make your caravan a permanent structure, you will likely need to put it on blocks or build a platform to stabilise it. Building a deck off your caravan will also maximise your living space, but you will need to check if you require a building permit for this.

Now for the makeover. If you need to repaint the exterior of your caravan, this will require a lot of stripping, sanding, and rust-proofing. When it comes to the actual painting, Resene offers a range of products suited for this purpose. See one of their specialists in store to find out exactly what you need for your particular project. If budget allows, enlisting an automotive painter can be easier than doing the job yourself.

Inside the caravan, use interior paints, and varnish any wooden surfaces. You could line the walls with plywood like Darcy here, or keep the original fit-out, restoring any Formica or linoleum. Decorating is the fun part – hunt online for inspiration and scour vintage shops for accessories.

Buyer’s checklist

Is the caravan waterproof?

Check for watermarks and rust on the interior. You may need to silicone rivets and joins if there are any small leaks.

Is the structure solid?

The more rust or dents there are, the more you will need to spend to get it looking good.

What condition is the interior in?

You may need to reupholster squabs and add new flooring, unless you are planning to gut the caravan and refurbish it from scratch.

Are the windows in working order?

Check that these open and close, and seals are intact.

Will you need power in your caravan?

If so, you could have it wired from your house by an electrician or have them install solar panels to make it self-sufficient.

Brighten up your backyard for summer by creating comfy spaces for relaxation. Have a supply of picnic blankets, make up a low level table from pallets or make up chairs from old beer crates topped with colourful cushions. Use your imagination and make the project a fun family affair. You can check out Pinterest for lots of great ideas

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Florence Charvin.