Design & DIY

How a couple transformed their camper into a luxurious retreat on a budget

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Samantha Monger and Jonathan Mikolay had big plans for their 27-foot Jayco camper trailer this summer, among them Boots and Hearts and camping weekends with friends. As it turns out 2020 had other ideas. So when the pandemic ground Ontario to a halt in March, they decided to use the money they would have spent for the music festival on renovating their 2005 Jayfeather.

“Well, we thought ‘we have this money, we might as well renovate it now’ because there’s no better time than when we’re not using it,” Monger says.

Constrained by only their imagination and a $2,000 budget they set to work on injecting their style into every crevice of the interior.

“We wanted something clean and modern with a little bit of country,” she explained.

What they did

They managed to keep the existing built ins and cabinets, primarily making aesthetic changes. First, they took aim at the dated interior riddled with dull shades of grey, ash-coloured wood, and uninspiring patterns typical of early 2000s trailers. They gave the interior a refresh by painting the cupboards and cabinets white and removing dark curtains that made the space feel stuffy and closed in. They chose matte black polyurethane paint purchased from Home Depot for the kitchen table and countertops, for its durability, and to introduce contrast.

“The backsplash in the kitchen is actually meant to be ceiling tile, but we didn’t want to spend the money on the hard ceramic expensive tile,” she explained. “The flooring we got a huge discount on because there was a big sale at Lowe’s.”

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They were able to keep the costs down by doing the renovations themselves with some help from family members.

“My dad helped us do the caulking, and my aunt, who has a sewing machine, showed me how to sew the cushions.”

Rather than painting the walls, they opted to go with bold wallpaper in floral, brick, and barnboard patterns. The weathered barnboard wallpaper behind the beds is intended to mimic a headboard.

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They started the project in May, working on it over the weekends part-time, and completed it in early September in time for her birthday celebration.

“This was the biggest project we’ve ever done together,” she says, and “for the most part, it went pretty smoothly.”

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“You have to get into a groove, and once you’re in it, do not stop because the wallpaper will not go back to the way it was—it’s so finicky,” she says.

Personal touches

DIY tip

Unlike a cottage, which is stationary, a trailer requires a different approach to adhering decor to the walls as they discovered.

“At first, I put tiny nails in and hung the wall decor [on them] but the first time the door slammed all you heard was everything drop,” she says. “So now everything—the mirrors, decor, antler head above our bed—is screwed in because I did not want it to fly off while we were driving.”

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The financials

  • Wallpaper ($500)
  • Paint and spray paint ($200)
  • Flooring ($300)
  • Cushion material ($250)
  • Backsplash ($30)
  • Bedsheets and decor ($250)
  • Tools ($120)

Total: $1,650

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