Summer Camping…in a Shabby Chic Camper

Summer Camping…in a Shabby Chic Camper

When summer arrives, I invariably think of hitting the road for a camping trip to one of the many great campgrounds situated along California’s Pacific Coast Highway or a State Park.

shabby chic vintage camper trailer

This vintage pink and white trailer named “Audree” has been revamped for the ultra-feminine, glamour-camper, or “glamper.”

While I enjoy the experience of the great outdoors and pitching my own tent—especially the type with a netted peek-a-boo roof that allows you to sleep under the stars without the accompanying mosquito bites—I have recently started fantasizing about hitting the campground in high style—in a glamorous camper, or glamper.

Glamping, as it is called by trend-spotters, has apparently become a thing in both the US and Europe.

The  glamping movement involves designer-camping enthusiasts, mostly women, buying up vintage motor homes and camper-trailers, and renovating or redecorating them in a variety of design styles. They even name their upscale campers—kind of like sailors name their ships—with monikers like “Marilyn” or “Jeannie.”

A recent search on the Internet, particularly Pinterest, using the search term “glamper,” proffered up a plethora of photos.

Shabby Chic camper trailer

I would love to park this shabby chic camper in my backyard as a private retreat where I could read or host afternoon teas.

I found images of vintage motor homes and caravans with interiors that had been done up in shabby chic, French country, coastal chic, junk gypsy, mid-century modern, and more.

While many of these designer-cum-campers join “Glamping Clubs” and meet up with like-minded Glampers at luxury campgrounds, others forego the actual camping trip, and just park these little caravan cuties in their driveway as a “spare room” to use as a personal retreat or for kids’ summer sleep-overs.

I love this idea! The camper-as-spare-room idea would only work for those with a flat driveway, of course.

French Country decor

It’s hard to believe this French Country sitting area is inside a camper! I’d feel right at home here. Visit this European designer’s blog to see her amazing “before” and “after” renovation photos.

(My driveway is on a steep hill, so this option won’t work for me. I have visions of my teen daughter and her pals rolling away in the night as they slumber.)

Let’s get back to camping.

What could be better than fusing my love of the outdoors with my love of design, and all things shabby chic, by creating a romantic shabby chic camper?

My girlie-girl camper would be my own little of cocoon of coziness.

I think I’m favoring a motor-home or RV as one drivable unit, rather than a trailer I’d have to pull behind a truck.

I’m already imagining how I’d white-wash all the faux-wood paneling inside a 1970s motor home.

I’d add paint trim and other accents in shades of turquoise, aqua and cerulean for a “shabby beach” look.

Pollyana, the happy little camper

This sweet sleeping nook is in a camper called “Pollyanna.” See more pictures and read more about it at this American designer’s blog.

It would be great to come in from a day of fun in the sun at a coastal campground, grab a cold drink from the camper fridge, and plunk down on my cozy camper couch decorated with easy-wear white denim slipcovers and soft toss pillows.

I also wouldn’t mind curling up in my flouncy, floral sleeping nook with a good book.

The indoor toilet wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either.

Late-night card games around the pull-out table after kayaking on a mountain lake?

Sleeping under a fluffy duvet after a full day of hiking in the forest?

Peering at the great outdoors through sun-washed linen drapes as the sun comes up?

Check, check, and check!

Cottage style camper

A cottage style interior in red and aqua has loads of charm. I want the top bunk!

Hello summer…and here’s to dreaming about a cozy cottage on wheels. Happy camping to all!

To read a more comprehensive description of glamping (accompanied by some great photos of both vintage caravans and modern camper-trailers that have been fully renovated), visit designer Joni Webb’s “Cote de Texas” blog. She nailed it!

You’ll find even more camper photos at Cozy Little House, where they’ve documented a range of vintage glampers, from those redone in black and white stripes to one that looks like a 1950s diner.

More great “glamping” coverage can be found at AnyoneCanDecorate.blogspot.com, including the trend of glamping in fancy tents.

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Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

How a shabby chic furniture refurbisher took an unexpected detour and found a one-of-a-kind treasure with sentimental value.

Painted cabinet

A one-of-a-kind painted cabinet is a treasured find for a shabby chic home.

My heart fluttered when I saw it. A vintage cabinet that had been beautifully hand-painted with a rendering of a hummingbird hovering among wisteria vines and lilacs. This work of art was already perfect—no refurbishing required—and it instantly reminded me of my maternal grandmother who had adored hummingbirds. I had to have it!

I’d popped into this thrift store while I was running my weekend errands, just for a quick browse to see if they had any vintage furniture pieces that might lend themselves to a white-washed, chippy paint, shabby chic look.

Hummingbird cabinet

The hummingbird painting on front of the cabinet.

After hunting among a limited selection of boxy media cabinets from the 1980s for my next furniture project, I’d almost given up. Then I spotted a small vintage wooden magazine rack that I could immediately imagine refurbished with white paint. I picked it up to get a closer look, and that’s when my eyes strayed down to the cabinet upon which it had been placed.

The top and sides of the cabinet had been painted a sage green with chipped corners, which was nice. But the front was the real surprise. It had been painted a creamy color, and then covered with a delicate study of flowers and a single hummingbird—all done in pale lavenders, blues, greens, and pinks, which were all my grandmother’s favorite colors. (I stood there thinking: Are you seeing this, Grandma?) I have a quilt at home that was handmade by my aunt in fabrics of the very same hues, which I love, too.

Inside cabinetI found a price tag taped to the inside of the cabinet’s door. It had been priced at $124, then had been marked down to $99, and now had a 40% off sticker taped over that. Yay! Why hadn’t this thing of beauty sold at $124? It was worth twice that. Never mind, it was mine now!

I couldn’t see a clerk anywhere in sight, and I didn’t dare leave the cabinet for a second for fear someone else might nab it. (Did I already mention that it matched my heirloom quilt exactly?) So, fool that I am, I dragged the cabinet by myself to the back of the store, and stood guard beside it while trying to flag down a clerk to help me.

Wipe down the cabinet

The cabinet just needed a light cleaning with a moist wipe to remove surface dirt.

A clerk eventually spotted me and rang up my purchase. As he was helping me load the the cabinet into the back of the car, he told me, “You have impeccable taste. I can’t believe someone didn’t buy this cabinet sooner.” I replied with a breezy, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” (Inside I was thinking: “Score!!”)

Once I got it home, my hummingbird cabinet didn’t need more than a gentle cleaning with a moist baby wipe. Otherwise, it’s chippy paint finish is perfect as it is, and looks quite at home in my shabby chic apartment as a storage cupboard for my art supplies.  A functional and beautiful treasure with an aged patina…a perfect combination.

A Tale of Two Hummingbirds

There is another hummingbird that figures into this story. Sure, painted furniture is a key component of shabby chic style, so sourcing one-of-a-kind painted furniture pieces like this falls within the parameters of a shabby chic treasure hunt. But…the real reason I fell in love with this cabinet was because it reminded me so much of my grandma. It was almost like she’d been shopping with me and noticed it at the exact moment that I did.

Hummingbird quilt

My heirloom hummingbird quilt.

Grandma loved hummingbirds. For as long as I can remember, she kept hummingbird feeders hanging outside her kitchen window and loved to to watch them fluttering about those feeders with their jet-speed wings.

Grandma received a lot of gifts over the years that carried the hummingbird motif. She even bought kleenex boxes that were decorated with hummingbirds. One of those kleenex boxes figures into this story, too.

My aunt once made a gorgeous watercolor quilt — a quilting style that looks more like an impressionist painting than a patterned quilt. This quilt was crafted with floral fabrics of purple, blue, pink and green, with a plain, cream-colored circle at the center of the design. After my aunt hung the quilt on the wall, grandma decided it needed something in the center. One day while my aunt was out, grandma cut out a hummingbird image from her kleenex box and pinned the little bird to the center of that quilt.

Cardboard hummingbirdDays later, my aunt noticed the little bird hovering at the center of her quilt and said, “Oh, look! Where did he come from?”
Grandma smiled and said, “He just needed to be there.”

Painted hummingbirdAfter grandma died two years ago at the ripe old age of 100, my aunt had to pack up the house and let it go. Knowing how much I love that quilt, she gifted it to me. After she’d washed it and was packing it up for me, I asked her if I could also have the little cardboard hummingbird that Grandma had pinned to its center.

“Of course,” she said, “they belong together.” And she tucked it into my suitcase with the quilt.

How to Shabby Chic a Table

How to Shabby Chic a Table

I’m no Rachel Ashwell. In other words, I’m not the founder of a home design empire, nor the veteran of countless years of vintage furniture shopping and refurbishing. However, I’ve read nearly all of Rachel Ashwell’s design books, poring over pages and pictorials that describe how she sources old pieces that have just the right shabby chic vibe, and spruces them up until she achieves that romantic “old-new” look. As described in “Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Treasure Hunting and Decorating Guide,” she finds special pieces that others might overlook, and gives them a fresh, new look that deserves a coveted spot in a “shabby chic” home. I need a new coffee table for my tiny apartment, and I’m going to try and replicate Rachel’s methods. How hard can it be?

Finding the right tableWith hours of research under my belt, I head off on a “shabby chic” junket. I scour thrift shops in the Beach Cities of Los Angeles to find the perfect piece of furniture that is calling my name. I’m going to test out my “eye” for design and keep a lookout for a table that will lend itself to a cottage or shabby beach style. I need to keep an open mind, but the coffee table must: 1. Be round or oval; 2. Have romantic lines; 3. Look good painted white; and 4. Fit into the trunk of my Toyota.

The first couple of thrift stores I visit have some nice mirrors and baskets, but not a great selection of furniture. The third thrift store, in Torrance, is full of battered furniture, and…they are having a 50% off already marked down prices on furniture. Bingo! (This is the kind of thing we junk shoppers get excited about!)

After perusing aisles of battered bunk beds and deck furniture, I find it. A small, oval coffee table that will look perfect painted white. Bonus: It will fit in my car trunk.

ReadytoRefinishOnce I get the table home, I spread out my handy paint cloth and gather my tools. It’s best to find a spot outside for this work, because the whole refinishing, white-washing thing can get messy. Also, I wear a mask to protect my airway from all the dust I’m about to create. I usually pick up some painter’s masks when I buy my other paint supplies. I wear my glasses in lieu of eye protection.

I’ll need heavy duty sand paper, a couple of soft-bristle paint brushes, primer, and paint. I can buy most of my supplies at home improvement stores like Orchard Supply Hardware, or directly from paint stores like Dunn-Edwards Paints, or Sherwin Williams Paint Store. Many people favor Benjamin Moore paints, but I like them all.

GatherYourToolsThe first step is to sand the old finish off the table–at least enough to rough it up and give it some “tooth” that a fresh coat of primer will stick to. Note to reader: If this is your first shabby chic refinishing project, start out with a small furniture piece like this coffee table. Why?

Sanding off the old finish, or even just roughing up the old finish, can take a long time and lots of elbow grease. I am sanding this table by hand. I wish I could say I was another “Rehab Addict” like Nicole Curtis, who loves her power tools, but the truth is, those things scare me! So, since I don’t want to devote an entire weekend to this project, and I’m not ready to invest in an electric sander, I’m starting small.

Sand off the old finishOnce I’ve “roughed up” the entire table from top to bottom, I wipe it down with a slightly damp cloth or dampened paper towel. I don’t want any bumpy dust spots sticking in my paint.

Now I am ready to prime the table with paint. I use a satin finish latex paint for both my primer and my top coats. I have heard you can find a spray on primer, which would save me a bunch of time, but those little cans get expensive, and I know I’ll need more than one.

I try to find traditional, brush-on paints in the sale bin at the big DIY retailers like The Home Depot or Lowes to use as my primer. I have gotten some great deals on paint that way in the past. Since the primer doesn’t have to be an official “primer,” and it doesn’t have to be the final color, I’m going to use some off-white paint I previously bought on sale as the primer for this table.

Primer coatOnce in a while when I’m looking for primer paints, I find a can of pure white, pale blue or aqua color paint in the sale bin at a fraction of the retail price. This happens when someone orders a custom-mix color of designer paint (even better, with no odor and low VOCs) that isn’t quite right for them, so they return it and it lands in the sale bin. So, word to the wise: Always check the sale bin at the home improvement store or paint store!

Second coatI allow the primer coat to dry outside for about an hour. Once it is no longer tacky to the touch, I am ready to apply my second coat of paint. The second coat should be in the final color. In this case, I’m using a pure white or “Super White” low VOC latex paint in satin finish from Valspar. The “Super White” paint color from most brands or paint lines is comparable to the popular “Designer White” from Benjamin Moore. For shabby chic furniture, off-white shades can look nice, too. However, for bright shabby chic or shabby beach painted furniture, I can’t go wrong with a crisp, pure white.

Seaside walkI know I need to let each coat of paint dry before I add the next one. This little table needed one coat of primer and two coats of top coat, plus a few touch ups. Once I’ve applied the final coat of “Super White,” I need to let it dry for another hour. So, I’m off to have lunch and take a walk along the Palos Verdes cliffs overlooking the beach. It never hurts to get a little added inspiration in the middle of a project!

Scuff the edges

When I return to project central, I check to make sure the top coat or final coat is dry enough so that I can begin scuffing up my edges to recreate that “shabby” look. According to Rachel Ashwell and other shabby chic mavens, it is best to scuff up the edges that would most likely get bumped into and organically scuffed during the natural life of a piece of furniture. I’m looking for the most exposed edges along the table top and table legs.

To get that “chippy paint” look I usually use a heavy duty sand paper (about #200 or so) attached to a sanding block. Sometimes I’ll use another rough tool like a patch of metal screen from a screen door or a metal file. I work my way around the entire table, using a relatively light touch with my sandpaper. I don’t want to overdo it!

Shabby chic or shabby beach coffee tableI’ve read that many people who re-sell shabby chic furniture will paint or spray a clear coat of varnish over their refinished shabby chic pieces, especially the edges or corners that have been artfully chipped or scuffed, to lock in the chippy look. I opt to skip this step.

My view is, it’s supposed to look gently battered, so a few additional scuffs that happen along the way will just add to the look. Or, maybe I’m just lazy.

At any rate, I’m ready to move the table inside and see how it looks in its new home. I move some things around, add accessories, and feel proud of myself that I completed this entire project in one day. And, I’m pretty happy with the finished look of this little coffee table, which looks quaint in my tiny beach apartment by the sea!

Shabby beach details

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, or if you have a few shabby chic or furniture refinishing tips of your own to contribute, please feel free to add your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!

Seaside & Sage

Cabana stripes, beiges and blues

Cabana stripes, beiges, and blues echo the colors of the sea

I have a passion for home design. I also happen to live by the seaside in a California community filled with beach homes–from cottages to condos, and Cape Cods to bungalows, Spanish Revival homes to Santa Barbara haciendas, scattered among the early craftsman- and ranch-style homes. It is all prime real estate, sold by a local cadre of property experts who readily share their insights on the latest trends in home design and the preferences of buyers seeking some version of a coastal chic vibe. Home interiors here run the gamut from beach cottage or shabby beach, to plantation style and British colonial, with a bit of shabby chic and California casual mixed in. And, somehow, it all works!

Sea glass and sun-bleached wood accents

Sea glass and sun-bleached wood accents

I’m certified in home staging and interior redesign, but even without those credentials, I’d still be trolling the local antique shops and flea markets to source “shabby beach” or “shabby chic” furniture and accessories for friends and clients. My idea of a perfect weekend is visiting a few “open house” showings to get a sneak peek of the architecture and design of interior spaces along the California coast. I love to see how people–other home stagers and interior designers, and creative homeowners as well–rock their own personal beach style, and reinterpret the quintessential coastal lifestyle. I gather a lot of ideas and inspiration along the way…many of which find their way into my own home and the homes I design with friends and clients.

Seaside decor

Ocean-themed decor can add a coastal vibe

The great thing about beach style is that you don’t have to live by the beach to pull it off! If crisp white linens, weathered woods, and the bluish-green hues of the sea are what you want for your interior space, it can work just about anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you live in a Chicago apartment, a Brooklyn boxcar flat, or a mid-century duplex closer to the mountains than the sea. You can even create a hybrid-seaside style by using richer hues or earth tones mixed with some subtle coastal or nautical accents. There are plenty of retailers and design companies that have picked up on the coastal-beach trend, and are offering a range of beach-themed home decor, furnishings and accessories at affordable prices. In this blog I share with you some of the sage advice, ideas, inspirations, tips, tricks, DIY projects, shops and bargains I’ve uncovered that will help you curate your own version of seaside style and create the beach home of your dreams.