One crafty beauty therapist has turned lockdown dreams into stunning reality after completing an epic project while the rest of us watched Netflix and baked banana bread.
Annabelle Tripp, 28, managed to completely transform a knackered old minibus into a cosy, sustainable sunflower-themed campervan during lockdown.
She found a lot of her materials in some unlikely places only using stores like Wickes when she absolutely had to.
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The project cost Annabelle about £20,000.
The savvy DIYer shared her journey, telling money-saving communityLatestDeals.co.uk: "I’ve always enjoyed camping and always hoped to get a camper van one day but just thought it would end up being something that I always said ‘one day’ to but would probably never get around to.
"However, during the summer of 2020, my circumstances changed in my personal life and after seeing a couple that had done a van conversion on social media I decided to make the most of my situation and that life was too short and to take the opportunity while I had it.
"It’s very easy to get into the mindset that you should always save for a house deposit and to get a mortgage, which is, of course, important but you’ve also got to live life and make the most of it!
"I thought this would be a great project to keep me busy, give me something to focus on and something to be proud of.”
After doing a bit of research on social media, Annabelle decided to start hunting for the perfect van to give an epic makeover.
She describes what she was looking for: "I knew from the start that I wanted to make it as homely and liveable as possible so I looked for a Long Wheel Base van so that I’d have the space to include everything I wanted including a fixed double bed, seating area, kitchen and shower room.
"I eventually found the van which was actually a minibus when I bought it.
"This had its pros and cons - it already had windows which meant I didn’t have to install any (which to me was quite a daunting task).
“However, it also meant removing all the seats and tracks that were bolted into the floor, which throughout the whole conversion process was probably the worst job.”
Annabelle set up an Instagram account to document her journey with the beauty therapist admitting that she enjoyed ‘winging it’.
She said: "I decided to set up an Instagram account at @creating_sunflowervan so that my friends and family could follow the journey as they were all interested in seeing what I was doing.
"To be honest I had quite a relaxed and ‘wing it’ approach to the whole build.
“I didn’t properly sit and plan it all out because I’ve never done anything like this before.
"I felt it would be impossible to think about every detail so I just decided to face each stage as it came.”
She used her friends and family expertise to save her money.
"My dad helped a lot with the build.
“Although he has no professional experience with this sort of thing, he’s always been good at DIY and enjoyed getting involved and helping.
"My boyfriend also helped a lot throughout particularly with the electrics, and more importantly was always so supportive and encouraging particularly on days that I felt a bit overwhelmed with the project and worried that I’d taken on too much of a task and that I couldn’t do it!
"Over the year that it took to complete it I did have a few moments of doubt but it was always so worth it when another stage was complete and my vision was coming together.
"Being a beauty therapist, my job definitely doesn’t involve any skills needed for the build and I had no prior experience other than your average house decorating but I have learnt so much along the way and I’m so proud of what I have achieved.
"On reflection, I would probably have done some jobs in a different order as I ended up having to undo and redo some parts to accommodate other things but generally the process made sense to me!
"I’d hoped to spend approx. £20k on the project including the van itself. I ended up spending just over that in total.”
Annabelle wanted to make sure that she sourced her materials sustainably looking high and low for recyclable wood and insulation.
"I tried to be conscious of the environment so I used reclaimed wood where possible. The ceiling is made from reclaimed boards and the kitchen worktop, and the tabletop and seat tops are made from reclaimed scaffold boards from a local reclamation yard.
"I used three types of insulation but the main one is made from recycled plastic bottles. The pillows are also made from recycled plastic bottles! And I have refillable bottles in the van for all my products to reduce single-use plastic.
"The other wood including batons and ply was just from Wickes. The wood came to £650 and all the insulation was £480.
"The biggest cost was the electrics which came to £4,300 but an important part to make it liveable, this was using Victron Energy products.
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“The Domestic mini compressor fridge cost £489, the Thetford two ring gas hob cost £199 and the Maxxair Fan cost £299.
“I also used Frenchic paint which I got from my local stockist.
“The other costs were lots of little things that added up.
"For anyone planning to do the same thing, I’d recommend deciding what you definitely do want to include before buying the van so you know what sort of size van to get.
"It depends how you prefer to work, some people like to plan it all down to the last screw but some people, like me, prefer to just go with the flow. So, work in whichever way works for you and just remember no matter how long it takes it will be so worth it in the end!
"It took a lot longer than I expected, it was a lot more challenging than I expected and I needed a lot more help than I expected but I am so so proud of it.”
Tom Church, co-founder ofLatestDeals.co.uksaid: “Looking at the before and after pictures, it’s hard to believe this is the same van.
“Annabelle has truly poured her heart and soul into making this former minivan a homely, gorgeous and warm campervan.
“I especially love all the efforts she’s gone to to make sure the campervan is as eco-conscious as possible.
“I’m sure she will enjoy this wonderful project for many years to come!”
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