My husband and I both love camping but it seemed like the more children we had over the years the less camping we would do! (It probably had something to do with the stress of packing diapers, tent poles, coolers, matches and everything in between.) A few years ago our family started reaching a new magical stage in life when we had no one in diapers, everyone was sleeping through the night for the most part, and the little ones weren’t crawling all over the place getting into everything! (Although I really do miss those days sometimes .) My husband and I started talking about how we would love to own some sort of a pop up trailer so that we could take our children on smaller family vacations to start building lasting family memories while our children were still young and in the nest!
Redesign On A Dime… Pop Up Trailer Makeover for Under $200
We started looking around around to buy a pop up tent trailer to take our family of 7 camping. We knew a pop up tent trailer would be perfect for our family because they are easy to store, could be pulled by our vehicle, are not incredibly expensive to keep up, and we knew that a night or two of good clean “mountain air” would be good for our souls with our hectic lifestyle here in the valley. We looked long and hard for the perfect fit, but knew that a new or newer tent trailer was definitely out of our budget. After lots of searching we finally found a tent trailer that was within our price range and could sleep all the members of our family. The only problem was that it screamed the 1990s. It was complete with forest green and floral curtains (I seriously think I had a dress made out of the same fabric that I wore in 1991), cream-colored linoleum, peeling wallpaper, and nappy seat cushions! We ended up driving away with the tent trailer because it met all of our criteria (it had good bones), the price was right, and I secretly knew that with a little bit of love on the inside it would be perfect!
A few days after getting our trailer home my husband called me from work. He said he’d been looking at pop up tent trailer renovations on Pinterest (I hope he’s not mad at me that I’m putting it out on the internet that he was looking at Pinterest!) He said he saw a bunch of really cute pop-up tent trailers that have been given makeovers for not a lot of money and that if I wanted to, I could get my creative juices going and get to work on our trailer. I couldn’t hardly wait to get to work on this shabby little pop up.
Over the next few days I looked at color schemes, flooring, wallpaper, and also set a budget of $200. I knew it would be tight, but I also knew that whatever changes I did to the trailer would look better than it did when it was purchased.
Here are the changes we made to our trailer and how we did them!
Color: I looked at a lot of different color schemes and had a lot of fun ideas. (Like navy, yellow and white, but knew the better choice was going with more earthy colors, which would be best for a tent trailer heading into the great outdoors with a family of seven). I absolutely love the gray and orange together. The gray is a perfect base color and the orange is a fun little pop that adds excitement and a little character.
Curtains: I knew the first thing that had to go in this tent trailer were the ugly curtains. I started with taking the curtains off the track they run on (just like you would to wash them). I made sure to un-stitch and pull off all of the plastic hanging pieces that came with the original curtains. I then measured the old curtains and wrote down the dimensions so I would be sure to buy enough fabric. I headed over to a discount fabric store and after lots of thought and planning I ended up choosing this gray upholstery fabric. I chose a darker heavier fabric because we planned to use the bedding areas as changing rooms and also for the most privacy at night if we are camping close to other people. After purchasing the fabric (from a discount fabric store) I laid the old curtains on top of the new fabric so I would have a good pattern. I made sure to cut about an inch and a half extra fabric around each side so that I had enough edge for a good hem. Once I had a hemmed around the entire curtain panel, I used a hot glue gun to secure the plastic hanging pieces to the top of the panels. I then pressed the curtain panels with a warm iron and was ready to get outside to hang my new curtains up!
I also made little tie-backs to keep the curtains open during the day. I did this by cutting small strips of fabric, sewed them together inside out to make a tube, then flipped the tube right side out, finished off the raw edge, and added Velcro. Easy as that!
I did end up also making a new little hanging valance that goes over the curtain track and kind of keeps things hidden. This is definitely a little more tricky and I wish I had a picture of how I did it. The ruffled curtain basically hangs from a crocheted-type long strip that was sewn to the original curtains. I trimmed away all of the original green fabric leaving their crocheted strip intact. I then made a very very very long ruffle out of the fabric and then sewed the crocheted strip to the back of it. You’ll have to look and see on your trailer how the original valance is hung or if that would be even something you’d want to deal with. I love mine but it was definitely the thing that took me the longest amount of time.
Seat covers: for the seat covers I decided I wanted something cute and bright so at the discount fabric store I picked out this darling orange checkered pattern. As far as recovering the seat covers I did not remove any of the nasty upholstery before I recovered them. I decided it would be best to leave it on to help keep a good form and to eliminate more work for me. There are a billion different YouTube videos and tutorials on how to recover cushions so I’m not going to go into great detail.
For the back cushions I basically use my existing cushions as a pattern, cut out around the cushion, leaving around 3 or so inches so that I would be sure to have enough fabric for my seams. I sewed the fabric together leaving the bottom open and then I sewed Velcro to the bottom edge using that to secure it closed.
To recover the part of the cushions that you actually sit on, I laid those cushions on top of the fabric, trimmed about 5 inches out around the cushion and then used an industrial-sized staple gun and stapled the fabric to the bottom board of the cushion. Like I said before there are plenty of tutorials online where you will see this done. Just make sure you start on one end and continue to pull your fabric tight as you are stapling.
Floors: another improvement we made in the trailer were the floors. I was so grateful to find his peel-and-stick faux wood flooring at our local hardware store. It was definitely in my budget and the perfect touch to finish the trailer off right. It was so easy to install that I completed it in one evening with a little bit of help from my supportive husband! It has done fairly well over the last few years with the temperature changes and for the most part we’ve been very happy with it. If I were to do it again I would for sure begin to lay the flooring in an area where you walk the most and then move and finish your flooring off in the area you will use the least in the trailer. That way you’re smaller and more difficult cuts will be in an area that you won’t see as much.
Walls/Door: the wallpaper in our trailer was more than disgusting. It had been peeled off and stripped away and definitely needed to be replaced. I decided it would be fun to do something with a little bit of pattern and spunk. I looked high and low for wallpaper or wallpaper border that I could use but could not find anything in my price range. I ended up finding this cute contact paper that you would use to cover the shelves or drawers in a home. I have been surprised at how well this has stayed up over the last few years. I hung it just like you would wallpaper except that I didn’t have to deal with any sticky wallpaper glue and will be able to easily replace it if for some reason in the future I want to change it. The other reason I loved it was it because it cost me less than $20 for the two rolls. After I finished hanging it on the walls of the trailer I decided that the inside of the door needed a little bit of happiness so I hung the contact paper in the door panels as well. I absolutely love the way it turned out. Just keep in mind while you’re doing this project that it would be good to have a sharp exacto knife, a sharp pair of scissors, and some sort of flat something you can use to rub out any air bubbles like a library card or a credit card.
Beds: as far as the beds were concerned there wasn’t a lot that needed to happen. The only thing I didn’t want to be doing was laying directly on top of somebody else’s mattress. (if you know what I mean!) I decided an easy and simple solution for this problem was to buy two king size sheets from good old Walmart. The only difference between standard king size mattresses and king mattresses in a tent trailer is that they is that they are just not quite as deep as a standard size mattress. You’ll just have a little bit extra fabric underneath the mattress which is not a big deal to me at all. Putting sheets on the mattresses was a simple and easy transformation for the beds. My favorite part about adding the sheets is that they are washable and a few times a summer I take them off and throw them in my washing machine.
Table: the original table was worn out and a little disgusting. I decided it would be fun to do something to improve the look of the table. When I was at the fabric store buying things for curtains I found a piece of this washable vinyl that I knew would be perfect. I recovered the table just like I did the seat cushions. Just put the table on top of the fabric, cut the fabric around the table leaving a few extra inches, and then I used my staple gun to secure the fabric underneath the table.
Fill the Trailer: the last step we took before leaving on our first camping adventure was to fill the trailer with all the different things we would need on a campout. I wanted the trailer filled with everything but our clothes and food so took a quick trip to Costco, the dollar store, and to a local yard sale to fill the trailer up with paper supplies, dishes, pots and pans, cleaning products, dish cloths, first aid supplies, etc. For the most part these things stay in the trailer year-round so that every time we head off into the mountains all we have to do is pack our necessities and we are out the door.
Buying our tent trailer was truly one of the best decisions we ever made. We have had lots of fun family adventures in this cute little old thing that we wouldn’t trade for anything. The time and $200 we spent to make the trailer cute, cozy and comfortable have been totally worth the memories we have made. Family game nights, laughing until the middle of the night, cozy afternoon coloring/reading/nap times, watching movies, and just getting away from our busy lives and getting out into the great outdoors with our family top the list of my favorite things to do while hanging out in this happy little trailer. Excuse me now as I go and plan my next family camp out!