Here’s how and why the Alexander family took this long forgotten 1961 Bluebird Senator caravan and converted it to an open plan, calming, nature-inspired Scandi style Peak District Airbnb retreat.
In May 2017 we moved into two old farm cottages, joined together on a hill top overlooking stunning views of the Peak District, close to Ashbourne. Me, my husband, two children, two dogs and now two holiday properties which we list on Airbnb, a barn and a caravan. After renovating the barn at the end of 2017 and into 2018, we put it on Airbnb in February, the bookings and five star reviews came in quickly, so we started work on the caravan.
It was a 1961 Bluebird Senator, which most people said needed ripping down. But we couldn’t help but feel there was potential there, and that recycling was both more responsible and creative.
We debated keeping the caravan’s existing interior and going down the vintage restoration route. But on closer inspection with our joiner we decided we needed to rip back to check for damp and that the only real way we could make the interior cladding look good again was to replace it. This meant we had to lose the interior inbuilt furniture completely.
Remarkably the caravan structure was completely damp and rot free. They don’t build them like they used to! However, some of the furniture was tired and rotten and it would have been very hard to replace.
Ripping out the old interior was a great opportunity to replace the old insulation with new, we then reclad with plywood and painted. We then had an amazing blank canvas to work from.
A large tree had to be removed as it was hanging over the caravan, we brought tree surgeons in for advice.
Getting the flooring right was a top priority. We wanted something robust enough to cope with muddy Peak District walking boots, doggy visitors, who we welcome too, but also stylish, warm and nature inspired and super easy to clean.
We chose Harvey Maria after using their Church Pine premium wood style vinyl planks in a home office restoration.
We used a mix of Sussex Oak planks to create a warm looking, but easy to clean space, and coloured and patterned tiles to create kitchen and bathroom zones within the space. We decided to go more open plan than an average caravan, we didn’t want to spoil the incredible views of the Peak District with lots of doors and we wanted to create a fluid and easy glamping experience for our guests.
The planks are incredibly robust, more so than wood, and are so easy to clean. They are tough and very hard to dent, unlike wood, they also won’t need to be sanded down over time, so perfect for an Airbnb property with lots of guests and changeovers.
But they look just like wood, incredibly so!
The kitchen uses Dee Hardwicke squares, Harvey Maria have a lovely range of colours for each design, so we went for Pear Tree Green to match the setting outdoors.
The bathroom uses Little Bricks in Apple Green within the Sussex Oak frame used throughout the rest of the caravan. We wanted the bathroom to be comfortable and bigger than your average static caravan bathroom. Ripping the entire interior out to reclad and board the walls, which were dry and rot free, but poorly insulated, meant we were also free to redesign the room proportions and create a larger and warmer bathroom space. The bathroom tiles help to add to this feeling of space.
Let the outside in
Making the most of nature outside was a big priority and caravan windows have always made the most of views. The caravan was already sited perfectly to admire the sun rising and setting across Dovedale. Our joiner designed the biggest window possible to replace the damaged and rotting three frame window. So many people have commented it looks like a painting.
Heating and Plumbing
We decided to install central heating, to fire up the hot water for the power shower and the radiator. An additional panel heater can give a blast of hot air in the kitchen and bathroom and also blow cool air when the heating is off. It was important to make it toasty. Luckily the caravan was already plumbed, so there is a proper flushing toilet, full sized basin and generous shower cubicle for a caravan.
Our joiner designed the beds, a double and two couches that convert to beds for children at night. He fitted a small kitchen, made tongue and groove doors and repurposed second hand pine units to make a run of storage.
We sanded and painted Norwegian Rosemaling designs on an old drop leaf table and reupholstered a bar stool.
We shopped local for the finishing touches buying the pieces in a local artist and makers’ gallery in Ashbourne. Much of the nick nacks, crockery and the wooden games were found at Alstonefield car boot sale, a beautiful local village with a lovely community feel.
We used old drawers we found in a shed and an old wine crate to make shelves. Ikea provided cheap and cheerful soft furnishings which finish off the Scandi style.
While at Camp Bestival we made a dream catcher and salvaged what we think is the caravan’s original number plate to form the letters WOW on the wall.
We also asked my husband’s Mother to paint Norwegian Rosemaling designs on the door and table – inspired by designs sent over by her brother’s wife who lives there – to bring an authentic burst of Scandinavian style.
We explored lots of options and themes but eventually found the perfect colours after laying the floor. The Dee Hardwicke Green tiles with a cream background seemed to work so well inside we carried the colours onto the outside too.
Mayfield Hideaway Caravan is listed on Airbnb and available to book all year round, alongside Mayfield Hideaway Barn which also sleeps 2-4. It is 4 miles from picturesque Dovedale with its famous stepping stones and 10 miles from Alton Towers theme park.