In early 2021, a potential client reached out to Catherine Hooper of iSPY Home Design with an unconventional ask: renovating a vintage RV. The client’s mother had driven the dated van from Nashville to her daughter’s home in Oakland a few months prior. It was there, in her daughter’s backyard, that she parked the retro (but sadly, falling apart) RV.
While a crumbling van might otherwise be a massive inconvenience—especially one parked haphazardly in your backyard—its presence actually provided a welcome escape from the main home as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on. The client decided that the RV would become a multi-functional backyard refuge, meant for overnight guests, working-from-home, and entertaining. “Business spot by day, happy hour destination by night,” as she and her husband describe it. “I was impressed with their gusto and happily took the project on,” says Hooper.
Unlike many camper renovations, Hooper wanted to steer clear of the modern minimalist aesthetic that characterized most of the RV’s she’d seen in her design research. “I just felt that these clients wanted something different, more funky and eclectic,” she says. The resulting pitch? A 1960s-inspired retro bungalow. Luckily, the clients loved the idea.
While the couple, with the help of a handy friend, got to work on renovating the Love Shack RV, as it was aptly named, Hooper began sourcing the decor. “I wanted everything, down to the copy of Secrets of the Vietnam War I snagged, to represent the Counterculture Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s,” she says of her especially poignant decor choices, most of which were purchased locally from antique stores and Facebook Marketplace.
“In a way, the whole theme of this little RV felt a lot like the world we’re living in now, with a whole generation rising up to raise awareness for and fight back against the deep inequities and structural oppression permeating our society, economy, and politics,” Hooper muses. “A travel back in time, but also a reminder of the generations before us who laid the groundwork for the social movements of today.” Tour the RV below.
Hooper relied on a mix of teals, golds, and deep reds to construct a colorful tapestry that’s truly reflective of the decade. Floral wallpaper and the copper ceiling tiles complement the rich hues. A dark teal velvet curtain serves two purposes: to separate the driving area from the living space while also enclosing the bathroom, which was previously without a door.
“As each piece was added, from the multicolor shag rug to the velvet mustard yellow swivel armchair to the classic Banker’s lamp, we could see the space come alive.,” Hooper says. She paid attention to practical concerns, too: “Some shelves over the lounge area windows and in the corner added much-needed storage for books and knick-knacks, and the antiqued copper switch plates and socket covers really made the space feel finished,” she explains. “I also sourced bamboo blinds from Etsy in the lounge to add texture and softer cotton curtains in the bedroom to make the space feel bigger.” Wallpaper: Tempaper, Silhouette. Curtains: Target. Switch Tiles: American Tin. Paint: Behr, Wine Not. Plates: Wallplates.com.
Though the retro RV was primarily intended to be an additional workspace for Hooper’s clients, the existing bedroom proved to be the perfect space to also host out-of-state guests. To create a sense of flow, Hooper translated the teal influence from the wallpaper in the living area to a two-tone teal palette in the bedroom, using a light shade on the walls and a slightly more pigmented one for the room’s built-ins. Wall Paint: Tidewater, Behr. Built-in Paint: Undine, Behr.
Hooper opted for a cheery monochrome look, coating the entire space in Behr’s “Little Sun Dress.”
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