A van by any other name would look as bad... wouldn't it?
The van has always been a little rough. However, in terms of creature comforts like convenience, ease of operation, and reliability, it is light years ahead of where it once was. But there's a reason it's called Humboldt The Humble. Inside and out, it was not the prettiest ride on the block. Rough paint, old upholstery, sun-faded curtains, dirty handles, and dingy trim... the list is lengthy and we've already shared how we improved a lot of those things.
Part of the reason we like the van so much is because it is truly humble. It's honest. It's capable. It gets no style points. Camping isn't clean. Neither is any trek into the dusty desert. Especially not when you have hairy dogs who like to roll in dirt and other unsavory things. We were always kinda fine with the shabbiness, content with the old, and liked not having to be too fussed about how Humboldt looked.
The problem is, we like projects. And we're improvers. I've always had a secret longing to remodel the interior of the van, and cover up 35+ years of ick that isn't ours. But would we be careful with a new interior, and preserve it? (SPOILER ALERT: Uh, no, no we won't.)
Another question was one of funds. How much do you really want to sink into something that is inherently dirty? It's all the rage right now... to over-decorate campsites/RVs/Vanagons, complete with fairy lights, disco balls, and piles of designer pillows.
Making camping Pinterest Pretty is re-damn-diculous, actually. Think about it. At the end of the day, when you've traveled to your hard-won campsite, the last thing you want to do is unravel yards of inevitably tangled twinkle lights, unroll scatter rugs, and use grandma's silver at a formal table set for six. Even less practical is tearing it all down before you go to bed and setting it back up again for breakfast, then tearing it down to break camp. And where do you store it?! Type Vanagon remodel into Google and you'll mostly get millions of ideas that are useful only for the interiors of glossy magazines. I really struggled to justify doing anything that wasn't function to improve Humboldt. (I feel like Mr. Function Over Form Brandon is winning when I say stuff like that... sigh.)
The problem was that the more we worked to improve Humboldt, inspired by our own ideas from our two-week trip last year, the more I wanted to spruce him up a little bit. The problem with chicing up shabby is one improvement always leads to a million more. That new coat of paint on the tray makes the metal trim next to it look like junk. Replacement trim around one cabinet shows just how dingy the other trim actually is. Project creep personified.
In the end, we decided to just go for it. I mean, we like living in it. We're proud of it. We want to really make it our own. The new cabinets needed painted, so why not paint them all? It just spread out from there, and we were actually OK with it. Now that it's done, we're more than OK, we're proud as peacocks.
We fixed everything we could reasonably reach (and some stuff we couldn't) - upholstery, curtains, carpet, flooring, trim, paint, wallpaper, painted trim and vinyl, etc. We'll be posting more about how we accomplished some of these projects (some of them we've already revealed) in the coming weeks.
Ready for the reveal of the two biggest pieces? It's amazing what paint and fabric can do for upholstery and cabinets. We've got before and after (mostly these as they're much nicer to look at) pics out the wazoo. (These aren't final pics, but they're pretty close.)
The best part, despite going from humble to handsome, Humboldt's name can stay the same. We were still budget-minded, still made sure all the projects were DIY, and re-used as many original parts as we possibly could. Turns out humble can just mean unpretentious, and not dilapidated.