Mapping it out

Fight Vanagon wallpaper with old maps

I don't know that wallpaper is the appropriate term actually, but I'm going to use it. On every wooden surface inside a Vanagon there is wallpaper. Except it's rubberized wallpaper. And in our case, it was 35+, dirty, cracked, peeling, warped, bubbled, shrunken, and often missing. However, it wasn't missing enough. Vast swaths of this horrid stuff remained, usually where it was impossible to get to.

Since we got the van I've been waging war on it. I've spent many an idle moment while helping Brandon with some van project picking at recalcitrant scraps of ancient plastic wallpaper. It never came off neatly, or easily. When we decided to redo the interior, I got serious about beating it. The problem was two-fold, though. I couldn't just eradicate it and move on, I had to do something about the surface underneath. Somehow, the back of this stuff was still sticky, and left a layer of goo behind. Any sticky exposed surface in that vehicle will immediately get covered in a layer of dog hair and dirt.

Getting this crap off was impossible. I tried putty knives. I tried razor blades. I tried cursing. And complaining. The complaining got me advice from my dad, 'use a heat gun.' Given the sieve-like state of my brain, that advice took a long time to stick. When I finally tried it, I started winning the war.

Once the wallpaper was gone, there was a lot of exposed wood. Much of it I decided to paint, like the walls, inside cabinets, etc. I used the Nuvo Cabinet Paint I got from Giani since I had plenty to go around. I only did one coat inside the cabinets because they're going to be so full of stuff you'll never see inside them. I used 3 - 4 coats everywhere else. This stuff is seriously magical and I recommend it for any cabinet project.

I did want Humboldt to have a boho vibe, even if it is ironically ruled by a heavily practical man, so white on every surface felt a little too sterile. (White, funnily enough, is not in any way practical.) At any rate, I decided that since we're all about exploring in the van, maps were a perfect solution to the hell of ancient wallpaper. I began scouring our stashes and looking for them in thrift shops. I found a heap of them (including some in an old 1962 atlas) and broke out the Modge Podge.

The entire eastern seaboard is above our downstairs bed. We have a map of my home state New Mexico, and neighboring Utah as well. Above the sliding door and kitchen and on the refrigerator door are maps from all around the world out of the vintage atlas, and above the seats is the piece de resistance, a giant map of Colorado.

Getting this beastly thing into our lives was a true reflection of how ridiculous I am. I found it, in a giant frame, at our local Habitat For Humanity ReStore (one of my favorite retail outlets). It was MUCH too big to go home with me in my little Miata, so I tried taking it out of the frame in 30+ MPH winds. It had been mounted on foam core, so even out of the frame it was enormous and not flexible. I took it back in, re-donated the frame, and asked them to hold it for me so I could get a different car. I raced home, grabbed the Jeep, and slid in the door just as they were locking it for the day. Safely stowed in the Jeep, I drove sedately home with my treasure, smug as a bug for scoring such a great treasure at $12.99. Premature smugness as it turned out.

We couldn't get it in the van. It wouldn't bend to fit the curvature of the roof. To make it worse, I'd given it a coating of Modge Podge so it had almost no flexibility. After much struggle to get it removed from the foam core (including Brandon sandwiching himself between the layers) it was finally free. Then I had to glue it to the headliner itself and wait for it to dry again. Finally, FINALLY, after days and days, we installed it.

The next day, we found the same map, neatly folded and ready to go home in my pocket, for $12 at REI. Hrrrrumph.

#vanagondecor #vanagonremodel #vanagoninterior #westy #volkswagenvanagon

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